Would you like a nut and seed butter that gives you the most bang for your buck, nutritionally speaking? Like humans, different nuts and seeds have their strengths and weaknesses. For example, hemp seeds are superior in most aspects but fall short of calcium and iron, which can be complemented by sesame seeds. On my endeavour to create a better nut/seed butter, I first gathered the nutritional information on various nuts and seeds, which is summarised in the table and text below.
- Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) – a fat soluble antioxidant that protects lipid membranes and low-density lipoproteins (LDLs) from oxidative damage. One ounce (28 grams) almonds provides 7.3 mg (37% of the RDI) of vitamin E!
- Calcium – among nuts, calcium is found highest in almonds, and works together with phosphorous to build strong bones.
- Riboflavin (vitamin B2) – involved in metabolism of fats, protein, and carbohydrates into glucose. One ounce (28 grams) almonds provides 0.3 mg (17% RDI) of riboflavin.
- Other minerals – calcium, potassium.
- Other vitamins – choline.
- Mono-unsaturated fatty acids (oleic, palmitoleic) – raise HDL and lower LDL.
- Protein – one of the higher protein nuts, one ounce (28 grams) almonds provides about 6 g protein.
- Considered as the only nut that is alkalising.
- Considered as the king of nuts, in Ayurveda it is said to builds ojas and is a nutritive rasayana.
- Selenium – an antioxidant mineral that is part of glutathione peroxidase, is required for production of the thyroid hormone thyroxine and plays in role in proper thyroid function and immune function. Just one Brazil nut provides more than 100% of the RDI for selenium.
- Methionine – Brazil nuts are anomalously high in methionine, which together with lysine, are usually limiting in nuts and seeds.
- Other minerals – magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, copper.
- Omega 3 alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) – walnut is the only tree nut that is an excellent source of ALA, which supports brain health indirectly via modest conversion to eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Its visual resemblance to the wrinkled exterior of the human cortex might speak as a testament to its brain power. One ounce (28 grams) walnuts contains about 2.5 g of ALA, more than 100% of the RDI.
- Other minerals – manganese.
- Other vitamins – folate.
- Saturated medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) – the long-held belief that saturated fatty acids cause diseases is being challenged. MCFAs are less likely than animal fats to be stored in adipose tissue and in fact, may promote fat metabolism. Lauric acid (C12), which is also found in human breast milk, is one type of MCFA found in coconut. In the body, lauric acid is converted to monolaurin, which may support the immune system. Other MCFAs in coconut are capric and capyrilic acids (C6, C8 and C10), which have antimicrobial properties.
- The post-digestive effect or vipaka of coconut is cooling, and helps to counter the heatiness of nuts in this blend.
- Complete protein – if almonds are the king of nuts, then hemp is the king of seeds. Hemp is an excellent source of plant-based complete protein, 8.8 grams per ounce (28 grams), about the same as beef by weight! The protein fraction of hemp seeds consists of two main types of globular proteins: edestin (60%-80%) and albumin (20-40%). These are protein structures are easily digestible and also low-allergenic.
- Omega 3 alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) – one ounce (28 grams) of hemp seeds contains 2.3 g of ALA.
- Niacin (vitamin B3) – contributes to normal nervous and psychological function. It has a positive impact on memory and lessens the risk of depression. One ounce (28 grams) hemp seeds provide 2.6 mg (14% of RDI) of niacin.
- Phosphorous – along with calcium, phosphorous helps to build bones, teeth and hair. It is also required for proper muscle and nerve function. One ounce (28 grams) of hemp seeds provide 405 mg (41 percent DV) of phosphorous.
- Zinc – cofactor for many proteins and enzymes (zinc-finger proteins, more than 10% proteins encoded by the human genome), DNA and protein synthesis, DNA repair, supports the immune and nervous system, increases ability to concentrate. One ounce (28 grams) of hemp seeds provide 5 mg (34 percent DV) of phosphorous.
- Magnesium – the “anti-stress” mineral, magnesium relaxes nerves and muscles, regulates heart rhythm and maintain healthy bones. It is required to produce several neurotransmitters and has a calming effect. One ounce (28 grams) of hemp seeds provide 300 mg (75 percent DV) of phosphorous.
- Manganese – a cofactor for many metabolic enzymes. One ounce (28 grams) of hemp seeds provide 2.8 mg (140 percent DV) of manganese.
- Other minerals – iron.
- Other vitamins – thiamine (vitamin B1), pyridoxine (vitamin B6), vitamin E.
- Calcium – sesame has the highest calcium content among common nuts and seeds. It provides 270 mg calcium per ounce (28 grams), which is comparable to amount in one serving of regular cow’s milk (300 mg per 250 mL). The RDI of calcium for a regular person is 700 mg.
- Iron – besides calcium, sesame tops the list for having the highest iron content among common nuts and seeds.
- Copper – required in collagen synthesis for healthy skin and connective tissue and necessary to help assimilate iron and other minerals.
- Other minerals – zinc.
- Other vitamins – thiamine (vitamin B1), niacin (vitamin B3), pyridoxine (vitamin B6), folate.
- Lignans – sesamin and sesamolin are two major lignans (a phytochemical) in sesame oil and are known for their antioxidant properties. It has been shown have hypotensive and hypolipidemic effects.
- In Ayurveda, sesame is considered one of the revered seeds. It builds ojas and is a nutritive rasayana. Sesame oil is a vital part of Ayurvedic treatment.
- Vitamin E – a lipid-soluble antioxidant. One ounce (28 grams) sunflower seeds provides 9.3 mg (47% of the RDI) of vitamin E, more than almonds and hemp seeds.
- Thiamine (vitamin B1) – required for nerve function and carbohydrate metabolism. One ounce (28 grams) sunflower seeds provide 0.4 mg (28% of RDI) of thiamine
- Pyridoxine (vitamin B6) – assists with assimilation and use of protein and fats, oxygen transport, and creation of amino acids and neurotransmitters such as serotonin. One ounce (28 grams) sunflower seeds provide 0.4 mg (19% of RDI) of pyridoxine.
- Folic acid (vitamin B9) – required for DNA synthesis, healthy nervous system and mood. One ounce (28 grams) sunflower seeds provide 64 mg (16% of RDI) of folate.
- Other minerals – copper.
- Other vitamins – niacin (vitamin B3), choline.
- Lysine – pumpkin seeds are particularly high in lysine, a limiting amino acid is most nuts and seeds.
- Potassium – regulate proper nerve and muscle function, fluid balance and blood pressure. One ounce (28 grams) pumpkin seeds provide 226 mg (6% of RDI) of potassium, slightly less than a small banana.
- Other minerals – iron, magnesium, phosphorous, zinc, manganese.
- Other vitamins – riboflavin (vitamin B2), choline.
- Anthelmintic – pumpkin seeds are known to be anti-parasitic. The anthelmintic activity comes from curcubitacin, which paralyses tapeworms.
- Omega 3 alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) – supports brain health. One ounce (28 grams) flaxseed contains about 6.4 mg of ALA, more than 100% of the RDI. Furthermore, flaxseed has a low n3:n6 ratio (3.9:1), making it non-inflammatory.
- Choline – a necessary building block for synthesis of phospholipids in cell membranes and the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which helps in concentration and memory. One ounce (28 grams) flaxseeds provide 22 mg (5% of RDI) of choline.
- Other minerals – calcium, magnesium, phosphorous (same as hemp seed), zinc (same as hemp seed), manganese (same as hemp seed).
- Other vitamins – thiamine (vitamin B1; same as sunflower seeds).
Cracking the Essential Formula
Based on the data above, seeds are much more nutritionally dense than nuts and have a better less inflammatory O3:O6 ratio. Of the seeds, hemp tops/nearly tops the list for protein, amino acids, most vitamins and minerals except calcium and copper, and provides a decent amount of omega 3. For full mineral spectrum, hemp can be complemented with Brazil nuts for selenium and sesame for calcium, iron and copper. Sunflower seed is also a good addition to the trio for vitamin E, pyridoxine (B6) and folate. Last but not least, flaxseed can help further supplement the all important ALA omega 3 that is often lacking in a vegan diet. In conclusion, the leading “fantastic five” nutrient-dense nuts and seeds for the ultimate essential butter to provide your daily nutrients are: hemp, sesame, sunflower seeds, Brazil nuts and flaxseeds. As the overall taste of seeds can be overwhelmingly bitter, a small percentage of coconut is added for sweetness and also provide antimicrobial and immune-boosting MCFAs.
How to use the Essential Nut and Seed Butter
- As a base for plant-based milk. Stir or blend 1 tablespoon per 1 cup water. This is more convenient than making plant milks the conventional way with a nut milk bag since you can make small batches or milk as you need and do not have to worry about it going bad, and less washing up too!
- As a plant milk base for chia puddings. With the Essential Milk from above, you can mix in chia seeds to make a chia pudding. Use 2 tablespoons chia seeds per 1 cup plant milk and let it sit overnight.
- As a topping for porridge or toast.
- As the base for salad dressings.
Please use activated (soaked and dried) nuts and seeds to reduce the levels of phytic acid and other anti-nutrients!
Essential Nut and Seed Butter
A formulated nutrient-dense nut and seed butter to give you a daily boost of essential vitamins, minerals, complete protein and fats. Made with hemp, sesame, sunflower and flax seeds, brazil nuts and coconut - these ingredients are selected to complement one another nutritionally.
- 160 g hemp seeds (40%)
- 88 g sesame seeds, activated (22%)
- 80 g sunflower seeds, activated (20%)
- 20 g brazil nuts, activated (5%)
- 12 g desiccated coconut, unsulphured (3%)
- 40 g flaxseeds, ground (10%)
Place all the ingredients except the flaxseeds in a blender. Place lid on and start blending from low to high. Use the tamper to push into the corners to move the nuts and seeds into the blades, and continue to blend, scraping the sides of the container with the tamper from time to time. Continue to blend on the higheset speed until all the nuts and seeds release their oils and form a butter consistency. This may take 5-10 minutes, depending on the power of your blender.
Once smooth, add in the ground flaxseeds and blend one more minute to combine. The flaxseeds is added last because it will cause the butter to clump slightly.
Transfer the butter into a clean mason jar. Store away from heat and light, preferably in the refrigerator, to maintain freshness.
Serving suggestion: as a instant base for plant-based milk, in smoothies, porridge or salad.