When making toast during your parents’ or grandparents’ generation, the extent of their decision was whether it should be white or wheat and Skippy or Jif.
Now it’s decisions like Justin’s almond vs. MaraNatha cashew butter. And that really is just the tip of the iceberg.
You have to decide if you want organic or raw, or perhaps both and an exotic flavor. Like this interesting cinnamon red maca almond butter on Amazon.
With so many choices, you already have decision paralysis. Worse yet, it’s only breakfast! Those dietary dilemmas will only compound as the day progresses.
While we can’t solve the rest of your day at this very moment, we can help you zero in on what is the best nut butter for health.
Is there such a thing as pistachio butter? As a matter of fact, there is and it’s delicious.
Though the drawback is cost. If you think almond is expensive, you will really get sticker shock with pistachio.
The difference is that with this one, you actually get what you pay for. Aside from the nutritional benefits like lower calories and higher protein, you will reap some not-so-obvious health benefits, too.
Part of the reason for the pseudo price gouging may be because of how hard it is to find.
The list of where to buy pistachio butter in the west side and south bay of Los Angeles is exactly two places. Or at least that’s all we have been able to find to date. Despite there being well over a million people in this enclave, we have only seen it for sale at two stores; Erewhon in Venice and Rainbow Acres on Washington Blvd.
However the jar you see pictured was actually purchased at Mother’s Market in Orange County.
Yes, even when you live in LA, you might find yourself driving 40 miles south just to pickup groceries. The Whole Foods tend to have a treacherous selection here. Whoever their buyer is for the LA market should definitely be fired, because their inventory elsewhere in the country is always better than what we see around here.
Down in the OC at Mother’s Market, the price of this Nutraw organic pistachio butter was almost $20… for a tiny 8 ounce jar!
To put that into perspective, Trader Joe’s sells their 16 oz. jar of almond butter for $8. For the same price, you can pick up a 10 oz. of Justin’s classic, vanilla, or maple flavored at Target. Neither are raw or organic. If you want both, you can find other brands in the neighborhood of $15 to $25 per pound.
If you buy Nutraw, you might be paying that same price for half the weight!
Is pistachio butter good for you, that good, where it’s worth such a premium?
Yes and you are about to find out why.
Nutrition facts compared
Since many brands add oils, salt, and other unnecessary ingredients, it’s impossible to make generalized statements about one nut butter always being better than another.
Though if you buy the best ones – those without added oils – then you can compare them on equal metrics.
Before grinding, here’s a look at how the nutritional data for each raw nut compares. The values are based on 100 grams (3.5 ounces) as that’s how the USDA National Nutrient Database reports it (1). While the weights of butters will vary based on moisture content, the ratio of protein grams to calories and so forth will remain the same.
|ORAC||Calories||Fat||Protein||Carbs||Fiber||% Fat||% Carbs||% Protein|
1. More antioxidants than almond and peanut
That column on the left of that table shows the ORAC value for each, which is the most thorough in vitro method for measuring antioxidant activity. Raw pistachios have:
- 70% more antioxidants than almonds
- 140% more than peanuts
But wait, it gets better. One big drawback is that almost all peanut butters use roasted nuts, because the raw can taste quite nasty. Makes sense, being that they’re technically a legume.
The best antioxidant in peanuts may be the high resveratrol content and unfortunately, that one easily degrades in heat. That’s why we recommend eating raw jungle peanuts instead.
Pecans are highest in antioxidants, but they’re also higher in calories and fat, with almost 60% less protein content.
The story is the same for hazelnuts and walnuts, except they’re 30% less protein than pistachios.
2. The lowest calorie choice, almost
Wonderful Pistachios is the near monopoly for this nut. They run those “Get Crackin” commercials.
Several years ago their campaign touted them as being “lowest calorie and “lowest fat” which really should have an asterisk (2).
For grams of fat, they are tied for being the lowest with cashew.
For calories, the USDA data actually has cashews beating them ever so slightly (553 vs. 557 calories for 100 grams). Though depending on the source and rounding, these two are basically tied for being the lowest.
The only other one that beats both are chestnuts. But that’s more like a starchy vegetable.
You can’t make chestnut butter due to its texture and even if you could, your kids would spit it out and you probably would as well. There’s a good reason why Christmas carols are about the only usage for them nowadays… their taste is awful according to most people.
For weight loss, avoid pine nuts, Brazil nuts, and hazelnuts. Given their high antioxidant content, pecans shouldn’t be avoided entirely, but making them into a butter for daily use is not the best idea.
3. Better BCAA profile
Here’s a look at the BCAA content of plain pistachios versus peanut, almond, and your other high protein options for making nut butter.
|Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA) Per 100 Grams|
|Leucine||1600 mg||1535 mg||1461 mg||1285 mg||1170 mg|
|Isoleucine||932 mg||833 mg||745 mg||731 mg||625 mg|
|Valine||1262 mg||993 mg||848 mg||1040 mg||753 mg|
Even though it’s not the highest protein nut overall (that’s peanuts) a good quality pistachio butter will beat every one of those competitors for each of the branched chain amino acid; leucine, isoleucine, valine.
If you’re a bodybuilder, that means you’re getting more of the specific amino acids you want most for muscle growth.
4. Might help with ED
To be clear, this is not a proven benefit. You can’t call it natural Viagra. But men out there – as well as their lovers – will at least be interested in hearing about this preliminary research.
“pistachio diet improves erectile function”
That’s a quote from a study of married men with ED, who ate this nut daily for 3 weeks (3). The chart shows the difference before and after for those 17 men who were studied.
5. Eye health
Beta-carotene (vitamin A) is what gives carrots their orange color.
Although they’re not essential like vitamin A, other carotenoids have been found to be immensely beneficial for supporting eye health.
In particular, lutein and zeaxanthin are the two carotenoids which will accumulate in your retina. When it comes to finding these in nuts, there’s a clear winner.
Pistachios have 1,205 mcg of lutein and zeaxanthin per 100 grams (the USDA reports the combined amount for these).
That’s over 1,000% more than the next highest, which are hazelnuts (filberts) at 92 mcg. Cashews, pecans, and walnuts are only 22, 17, and 9 mcg, respectively. That means pistachios have 10,000% more than walnuts!
Since it’s not officially an essential nutrient (at least not yet) there’s no RDA for these carotenoids. However 6 mg per day (that’s 6,000 mcg) has been recommended by scientists for reducing the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
Dietary intervention trials to study the long term benefits are on-going, but meanwhile, the advice offered in a 2017 study was this (4):
“In the meantime, prudent advice to increase consumption of lutein- and zeaxanthin-containing foods in the diet of those people at high risk of AMD or who already have AMD should be encouraged.”
6. Acrylamide and AGEs
What is acrylamide? A potential cancer-causing compound found in certain foods, particularly those which are carb-rich and fried, roasted, grilled or burnt.
Yeah, calories are actually not the worst thing about fries and brick oven pizzas. At least if you’re not fat.
With nuts, acrylamide tends to be their most prevalent type of Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs).
AGEs are a class of compounds which are reactive and often unstable (5). Aside from being a suspected cancer risk, they are believed to accelerate aging, including that of your skin.
Among those which have had their content measured, this green nut comes out leaps and bounds lower.
To paint some perspective, here’s a rundown for the amount of total AGEs detected in related foods.
|Food||AGE Content (kU per 100g of food)|
|Pistachios, salted (Frito Lay)||380|
|Soybeans, roasted and salted (House of Bazzini)||1,670|
|Pumpkin seeds, raw, hulled (House of Bazzini)||1,853|
|Sunflower seeds, raw, hulled (House of Bazzini)||2,510|
|Sunflower seeds, roasted and salted (House of Bazzini)||4,693|
|Almonds, blanched slivered (Bazzini’s Nut Club)||5,473|
|Almonds, roasted (brand not specified)||6,650|
|Peanut butter, smooth (Skippy)||7,517|
|Walnuts, roasted (brand not specified)||7,887|
|Peanuts, cocktail (Planters)||8,333|
|Source: Uribarri J, et al. Advanced Glycation End Products in Foods and a Practical Guide to Their Reduction in the Diet. J Am Diet Assoc 2010 (6)|
Pistachios are the lowest acrylamide nut. Even when they’re roasted (Frito Lays) their total AGEs content (which includes acrylamide) is still exponentially lower than other raw nuts which were tested.
Yes, even raw food will contain AGEs. You can’t avoid these compounds, but your goal should be to reduce the highest sources of them.
Meats and dairy tend to be the worst overall dietary sources for AGEs. Among plant-based foods, the worst offenders will be refined oils, nuts, seeds, and cooked potatoes and grains.
Starchy potatoes are an outlier, as most fruits and veggies fare quite well. Even Del Monte tomato sauce – which has been pre-cooked – only measures as being 11.
Without even any added oil, bacon fried for 5 minutes clocks in at 91,577. Everyone already knows that food is bad for you though, albeit for different reasons.
One of the worst is actually perceived as being healthy… chicken! Even chicken breast made on a George Foreman grill measures out at 4,849.
Based on research, it appears pistachios are the healthiest nut when it comes to AGEs.
Measurements of them unprocessed have not been published, but you can bet that a raw pistachio butter would come in even lower than those roasted ones from Frito Lay.
On a related note, it’s important to point out that a bigger source of these potentially carcinogenic substances may be those protein bars that you’re frequently gobbing up.
Most use roasted nuts and then on top of that, they bake them so they’re crispy… that’s like creating AGEs on top of AGEs!
Instead of Kind and the other brands you can find at your local Walmart, consider the best vegan protein bars on the market. We eat one almost daily.
Everything so far has been about health, but what about flavor?
As mentioned, raw peanut butter can taste horrendous. That’s why even if you go to a health foods store, you’re unlikely to find raw peanuts for sale. Almost no one likes to eat them!
If you’ve never ate raw pistachios before, admittedly they are quite different than the crunchy, salty Wonderful (or similar) you’re accustomed to.
The flavor of raw is still quite tasty. The biggest difference is with the texture.
Without roasting, they’re very soft, even more so than almonds, walnuts, and hazelnuts. How to make pistachio butter creamy doesn’t require oil, due to this characteristic.
Because most of us associate them with savory snacks, the idea of them being sweet can seem out of place.
For that reason, even we were on the fence about the vanilla extract which was added to Nutraw. It turned out to be so subtle, you couldn’t even detect it. Price aside, our review of their product’s taste and texture is 5 stars.
It spreads on bread easily and as thin as you want. Quite unlike almond butter, which tends to be clumpy and go on thick, unless it has been ruined with added palm oil (as many brands have).
Ready to eat or homemade recipe?
Making it yourself is straightforward, because only two ingredients are needed; the raw kernels and a little water.
Combine and put into a blender for a couple minutes. That’s all there is to it.
The issue is that you need to make pistachio butter with a Vitamix or other high end blender. It almost certainly won’t work with a Magic Bullet or low to mid-range blender. Trust us, as we have done a lot of trial and error with those, breaking them in the process!
If you want to use a Vitamix, try this model.
If you want to buy the butter premade, that’s the easiest option. Though we would recommend buying it online, given the difficulty of finding them in-store and even if you can, at what price it might be.
- Nutraw 100% raw and organic – Same brand as in the photos. Note that the online price may vary from what we paid at a brick and mortar store. Check link for current pricing.
- The Pistachio Factory raw unsalted – This is conventional, not organic.
- Wilderness Poets raw and organic – Sold in bulk sizes!
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.