Food for Thought: Five Tasty Alternatives to Peanut Butter


Many patients have food allergies, especially to nuts. These nut-free choices can help them enjoy safe alternatives without compromising on taste!

In the United States, approximately 1 to 2% (or more) of the population has a peanut allergy—about 3 million people—a percentage that continues to rise. For instance, in the past 2 decades, the prevalence of peanut allergies has more than quadrupled, up from 0.4% of the US population in 1997 to 1.4% in 2008 to more than 2% in 2010.1

Peanut allergies are more prevalent among children younger than 3 years old, and the risk of developing a peanut allergy increases to 7% for a sibling of a child with a peanut allergy. While there has been minimal evidence to explain peanut allergies, new research in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that avoiding peanuts at an early age may be partly to blame.2

Peanuts are actually legumes that are grown for their seeds. Although they aren’t technically nuts, they are often categorized with other tree nuts like almonds and walnuts. Peanuts and peanut butter boost your metabolism and have fiber, protein, magnesium, iron and vitamin B6. While there are many benefits to peanut butter, there are also some concerns.

A downfall of peanut butter is that it contains an imbalanced Omega 6 to Omega 3 ratio, with more Omega 6 than 3. Also, peanuts grow on the ground and get very moist, causing the development of mycotoxins or mold. The mold can grow a fungus called aflatoxin that can affect the health of the gut. Aflatoxin can actually compete with probiotics in your gut and thus damage digestive health. This is especially true for peanut butters that aren’t organic. The presence of mold may be a reason why so many children have inflammatory immune reactions to peanuts.

How can we best help our patients with food allergies?

For patients with food allergies, it can be frustrating to find alternatives in grocery stores. However, with many new no-nut butters showing up on the market, there are ways to get around the allergy and still enjoy the texture and taste that peanut butter provides.

If parents have not yet sought out an allergist, recommend getting allergy tested to ensure that parents are aware of any other potential allergies. Having a plan to prevent anaphylactic reaction should including having Epi-pens at home and at school and letting the school know about the child’s allergy.

Here are 5 alternatives to peanut butter:

  • Sunflower butter. This butter is made from sunflower seeds and is a great source of magnesium and vitamin E. As an added bonus, it contains less sugar and saturated fat than some popular peanut butter brands.

Brand of Choice: Trader Joe's Sunflower Seed Butter. Other sunflower butters that are worth getting are Wild Friend's flavored sunflower seed butters.

  • Coconut butter. This heart-healthy nut supports the immune system, boosts metabolism, and can even help prevent bacterial infection. There’s not too much protein in a serving of coconut butter and the saturated fat content is high.

Brand of Choice: Artisana Pure Organic Raw Coconut Butter or Nutiva Organic Coconut Manna

  • Soy butter. Though a better source of omega-3s than peanut butter, soy nuts are also a better source of omega-6s than omega-3 fatty acids. Soy nuts offer a hefty dose of protein and all essential amino acids. Plus the isoflavones in soy products may help prevent heart disease and cancer.

Brand of Choice: Wowbutter is a brand that is a soy-based butter that touts it is "made in a 100% peanut, nut, gluten, dairy, and egg free facility." It also has omega 3, is non-GMO and is a complete protein source.

  • Pea butter. Made from peas, this spread is naturally “peanutty” tasting and packed with vegetarian nutrition: protein, fiber, iron and magnesium. It is a great choice for kids with nut allergies.

Brand of Choice: Sneaky Chef’s No-Nut Butter is made from golden peas, a variety of garden peas. This is a soy, seed and nut-free spread.

  • Other nut butters. Some people are only allergic to peanuts or almonds. Getting an allergy test will reveal this information. Almond, cashew or walnut butters are available in many retail stores like Whole Foods or online.

Brand of Choice: Barney Butter Almond Butter


  • Gruchalla R. Preventing Peanut allergy through early consumption ready for prime time? N Engl J Med. 2015; 372:875-877.
  • Mustafa, S. Peanut Allergy.

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