You’re well aware of peanut and almond butter, but is there such thing as walnut butter?
As a matter of fact, there is.
With the exception of homemade recipes using a Vitamix blender, you don’t have many options for where to buy walnut butter. Artisana Organics sells it on Amazon and at some Whole Foods locations.
Other brands, like Wilderness Poets and Futters, are ones you most likely will not encounter in-store.
Trader Joe’s doesn’t make it. Walmart has them listed as online-only availability. We have never encountered it for sale at a regular grocery store like Kroger.
Despite the challenges in finding it, the advantages may be worth the extra hassle.
10 health benefits of walnut butter
Not all are proven, but studies suggests these may exist:
1. Protein content that rivals hazelnut butter
Those with peanut allergies often turn to hazelnut as a substitute. The most famous is Nutella, but that’s not a high bar to beat, being that the ingredients list sugar, palm oil, and then hazelnuts. The brand Justin’s isn’t good for you, either.
If you look at the brand Dastony hazelnut butter, it’s made using only one ingredient; organic raw hazelnuts. That clocks in at 5g of protein per 2 tablespoon serving, which is 160 calories.
Its equal counterpart could be Gopal’s raw walnut butter which is also made using one ingredient. It has 6g of protein for 183 calories.
On a per calorie basis, that’s only a hair more protein than hazelnuts, so why would you choose it? Because of what those other calories are coming from…
2. Rich source of omega 3
Nearly 14% of the fat content in walnuts comes from alpha linoleic acid (ALA), which is an omega 3 fatty acid. That’s the elusive fat in our modern diet that we need a lot more of. (1)
Whether you’re talking the common peanut and almond butters, or those made from more exotic nuts like hazelnuts, pecans, and pistachios, all contain virtually zero omega 3.
When we say virtually zero we’re not kidding. If you look at the nutrition facts for 100g of almonds in the USDA National Nutrient Database, you will see there’s 0.003g per 49.93g of fat. Only 0.00006% of the fat in almonds is omega 3! (2)
Research suggests that the ALA form of omega 3 offers anti-inflammatory benefits and might help heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, asthma, and dry eyes. (3)
3. Among the highest antioxidant nuts
Based on ORAC value testing, raw walnuts are the 2nd highest antioxidant nut, at least among those common and readily available.
The only one that beats them are pecans, however those have 40% less protein and no omega 3.
Here’s a table showing you how the different types of nuts compare for antioxidants (ORAC values) and other nutritional values.
|ORAC||Calories||Fat||Protein||Carbs||Fiber||% Fat||% Carbs||% Protein|
Don’t freak out about the calories, because the above reference 100g measurements. That’s over 3x the amount of a given nut you will find in a 2 tbsp serving of butter.
Walnut butter is good for you compared to almond butter, which has 67% less antioxidant activity. Peanut butter is 75% lower. Cashew butter is almost the worst source, with an 85% lower ORAC value. That’s based on using equal weights in a given recipe of each type.
If you really want that extra umph of antioxidants, you can buy pecan butter. Though athletes, bodybuilders, and everyone else who simply wants more protein will be better off sticking with walnut.
4. May reduce risk of prostate and breast cancer
The Department of Nutrition at UC Davis conducted a study where mice with prostate cancer were split into 3 different diet groups:
- High fat diet with 20% of calories coming from whole walnuts
- High fat diet with 20% of calories from soybean oil
- Low fat diet with 8% of calories from soybean oil
Their prostates, livers, and blood parameters were measured after 9, 18, and 24 weeks.
Only the mice getting the walnuts experienced a reduction in tumor weight and the rate at which they were growing.
Levels of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) were lower in the walnut group, which the scientists suspect may be the reason for the slower cancer growth seen. IGF-1 promotes tumor growth for not just prostate, but also colorectal and breast cancer. (4) (5)
In another study using breast cancer in mice, it was reported:
“…the walnut-containing diet reduced the number of mammary gland tumors by ~60% in a transgenic mouse model.”
They theorized it might have been the omega 3, tocopherols, ß-sitosterol, and pedunculagin in the nuts which lead to those results. (6)
5. May improve erectile dysfunction
Prostate isn’t the only potential benefit of walnut butter for men. It turns out that this food is a rich source of the amino acid L-arginine.
Our bodies convert L-arginine to nitric oxide, which is a compound that causes blood vessels to dilate. This can boost blood flow to all muscles, as well as the penis.
In a double-blind and controlled trial out of Tel Aviv, men with erectile dysfunction (ED) were given either 5 grams per day of L-arginine supplements or a placebo. This regimen continued for 2 weeks. The results were:
- 9 out of 29 men (31%) getting L-arginine reported “significant” improvement in sexual function
- 2 out of 17 men (12%) getting placebo reported the same
The 9 men in the L-arginine group who had improvement were said to have low urinary levels of nitrogen oxide to begin with. That suggests this benefit – if it exists – may only be for men who have ED caused by low nitrogen oxide levels. (7)
English walnuts are 2.3% L-arginine by weight (2.3g per 100g). No one sells black walnut butter but if you want higher amounts of this amino acid, then consider buying black walnuts which contain over 50% more by weight than the English variety.
Aside from the potent amount of antioxidants that can help combat oxidative stress and damage in the body, the L-arginine in walnut butter might be offering other anti-aging benefits, too.
In addition to its role in our body’s synthesis of nitric oxide, L-arginine serves as a precursor for making:
Healthy levels of these may reduce risk of vascular and heart disease, improve immune system performance, and help maintain muscle mass and support new muscle growth.
The uses in the body for this protein are so diverse, that the Dean of Faculty for the Pharmacy & Biotechnology Department at German University in Cairo claimed this in his published research (8):
“The demonstrated anti-aging benefits of l-arginine show greater potential than any pharmaceutical or nutraceutical agent ever previously discovered.”
7. Healthier sperm correlate with consumption
Possible something for men’s health.
In another study, this one done by UCLA, there were 117 healthy men (21 to 35 years old) who were randomly divided into two groups:
- 59 men ate 75g of whole shelled walnuts per day
- 58 men did not eat them or any other tree nuts
Both groups were monitored for 12 weeks. Only the men eating walnuts daily had improved sperm quality, which included measurements of the sperms’ vitality, motility, and morphology. More studies will be needed to confirm this and if it’s happening, it may be a fertility superfood! (9)
8. Weight loss
Given that all nuts are calorically dense due to their high fat content, one would think they would be awful for when you’re dieting and trying to lose weight.
Ironically, most research suggests the opposite.
In numerous studies involving the consumption of nuts, lower body weight has been observed when compared to other diets, even when the other diets were of the exact same calorie count (and some even higher). A meta-analysis in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reviewed 31 different clinical trials and on average, there was an additional 1.4 lbs and 1/2 inch lost on the diets containing nuts or extra nuts. (10)
Scientists aren’t exactly sure why, but the most compelling evidence is that not all of the calories from nuts are being absorbed.
For example in a study specific to almonds, they confirmed that not all of the lipids (fats) were being absorbed in the intestinal tract. This was based on examination of the poop (fun job for them, huh?). In other words, not all the calories were counting. (11)
Another reason walnuts might help with weight loss is because they have a higher satiety versus some other foods.
In a randomized and double-blinded clinical trial where breakfasts were given with and without walnuts, the latter group felt more full and satisfied after eating. (12)
Why is this happening? A more recent double-blind study published in 2017 by a Harvest scientist found that walnuts are activating a region of the brain involved with appetite control, known as the insula. (13)
9. Brain health and performance
They’ve been called the ultimate brain superfood but why is that?
The list of reasons is long!
The omega 3, vitamin E, folate, melatonin, and antioxidants are all believed to support healthy brain function in various ways. (14)
In a cognitive performance study using Michigan college students, it was found that the group eating them experienced a significant increase in verbal reasoning by 11.2%. (15)
Using an Alzheimer’s disease model in mice, scientists out at New York state research institute found that there was a significant improvement in memory and learning skills when compared to those who weren’t fed the nuts. This led them to report:
“These findings suggest that dietary supplementation with walnuts may have a beneficial effect in reducing the risk, delaying the onset, or slowing the progression of, or preventing AD [Alzheimer’s disease].”
That was the last sentence of their abstract, as the results were that compelling. (16)
10. May reduce risk of type 2 diabetes
With only 3% of the calories coming from carbohydrates (sugars), these nuts are good for you if you’re diabetic and want a food that won’t spike your blood sugar. However the same can be said about unsweetened peanut butter, cashew butter, plus other nuts and seeds. Yet the walnut might offer an additional advantage when it comes to preventing the development of type 2 diabetes.
As published in The Journal of Nutrition, a large study followed 138,000 women over the course of 10 years. Out of those, 5,930 developed type 2 diabetes. For the women who ate walnuts regularly – which was defined as at least 8 ounces per month – there was a 24% lower risk for developing the disease.
That’s even after the statisticians adjusted for differences in body weight, fish consumption (since that’s another omega 3 source) and exercise habits. Those, as well as other factors, were accounted for. Even after that, the reduced risk was still observed in the data. (17)
Just like the whole nut, walnut butter tastes fairly mild, with a bit of tanginess and sharpness coming from the natural tannins. This same class of polyphenol compounds is what’s responsible for giving wine its bitterness, astringency, and complexity all in one flavor.
Walnuts offers the similar characteristics of wine, while their polyunsaturated fat on the tongue nicely offsets the drying feeling that tannins will have on their own.
Because the nut has a mild flavor, it works well as a palette for introducing other ingredients.
Futters makes maple walnut butter that you can get on Amazon.
Paleo diet fans may be interested in walnut butter with coconut oil. The brand Crazy Go Nuts makes it but unfortunately, they add sugar. You will have to learn how to make walnut butter in a blender to avoid that.
The recipe is as simple as combining the shelled nuts along with a little water so they can liquefy. Not just any blender will do though. You will need something very powerful, like a Vitamix. Those are never cheap, but this certified refurbished model on Amazon is a way to save money.
Is walnut butter good?
With around 180 calories and 5 grams of protein per 2 tbsp serving, both roasted and raw walnut butters offer nutrition facts that are comparable to almond and peanut butter, yet you’re getting up to 200% more antioxidants.
While not proven, there is research suggesting that eating walnuts (and potentially butter made from them) might offer advantages for men’s health, cancer risk, type 2 diabetes, cardiac disease, and more. Side effects are equal if not less than similar nut butters, since allergy risk is lower with walnuts vs. peanuts.
If you want one with a better protein profile (more BCAAs) then consider Artisana Organics walnut cashew butter. It’s non-GMO, organic, dairy free, gluten free, and vegan. It’s made using just those two nuts, with no added sugar, oil, salt, preservatives, or other ingredients. You can get it on Amazon.
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.