Both almond butter and peanut butter can be excellent choices for weight gain when consumed in moderation as part of a healthy, balanced diet. The key differences between almond butter and peanut butter that impact weight gain potential include calorie and nutrient density, effect on cholesterol, and how they are processed.
Calorie and Nutrient Density
Almond butter and peanut butter have similar calorie densities, with about 100 calories per tablespoon. However, almond butter contains more monounsaturated fats, while peanut butter contains more polyunsaturated fats. Here is a nutrient comparison of 1 tablespoon of almond butter versus peanut butter:
|Nutrient||Almond Butter (1 tbsp)||Peanut Butter (1 tbsp)|
|Total Fat||9 g||8 g|
|Saturated Fat||1 g||2 g|
|Monounsaturated Fat||6 g||3 g|
|Polyunsaturated Fat||1.5 g||4 g|
|Protein||4 g||5 g|
|Carbohydrates||3 g||3 g|
|Fiber||1 g||1 g|
|Calcium||50 mg||20 mg|
|Iron||1 mg||0.5 mg|
|Magnesium||76 mg||48 mg|
|Phosphorus||139 mg||107 mg|
|Potassium||200 mg||208 mg|
|Zinc||0.8 mg||0.9 mg|
As you can see, almond butter contains more monounsaturated fats, calcium, iron and magnesium compared to peanut butter. However, peanut butter contains more polyunsaturated fats, protein, phosphorus and zinc. Both provide a similar number of calories and quantity of fiber per serving.
The monounsaturated fats in almond butter may provide some advantages for weight gain. Research shows that monounsaturated fats can help reduce appetite and promote fat burning when eaten in moderation as part of a balanced diet (1).
Peanut butter’s higher polyunsaturated fat content isn’t necessarily better or worse for weight gain. Polyunsaturated fats provide essential fatty acids and have anti-inflammatory effects, but don’t suppress appetite and fat burning as well as monounsaturated fats (2).
Getting adequate protein is important for building muscle mass when gaining weight. Peanut butter provides 2 extra grams of protein per serving compared to almond butter, giving it a slight edge.
Both almond butter and peanut butter provide important vitamins and minerals. Almond butter contains more calcium and iron, while peanut butter provides more zinc and B vitamins. Overall the differences aren’t major in terms of supporting weight gain.
In summary, almond butter may have a slight edge for weight gain due to its higher monounsaturated fat content. But peanut butter also provides benefits from its polyunsaturated fats and higher protein amount. Both can fit well into a high calorie diet.
Effect on Cholesterol
Almond butter may have a more favorable impact on cholesterol levels compared to peanut butter.
Almonds contain plant sterols, a compound that hinders the absorption of cholesterol in the gut. In one study, eating 1.5 ounces of almonds daily for 6 weeks reduced LDL “bad” cholesterol by 5.3-12.4% in adults with elevated cholesterol levels (3).
Peanuts contain much lower amounts of plant sterols. Multiple studies demonstrate that eating peanuts and peanut butter has no effect on LDL cholesterol (4).
High cholesterol can negatively impact weight gain and health. The effect of almond butter on cholesterol gives it another advantage for weight gain purposes.
How almond butter and peanut butter are processed can impact their nutritional value and weight gain potential.
Almond Butter Processing
Almond butter is made by roasting and blanching almonds to remove their skin, then grinding the nuts into butter. Minimal processing helps preserve the nutritional integrity of the almonds.
However, some commercial brands process their almond butter more extensively through added heat and oxidation. This degrades the delicate monounsaturated fats and reduces vitamin E content (5).
To maximize nutrition, choose almond butter that contains only raw almonds as the ingredient. Oils or sugar should not be added.
Peanut Butter Processing
Peanut butter undergoes more extensive processing to increase shelf life and prevent oil separation. Methods include hydrogenation, which creates trans fats, and addition of palm oil or sugar.
As with almond butter, opt for natural peanut butter containing just peanuts and salt. This minimizes negative effects on weight gain.
Weight Gain Potential
Both almond butter and peanut butter can support weight gain goals when consumed in moderation within a calorie surplus. Here is how the two stack up for weight gain potential:
|Almond Butter||Peanut Butter|
The high amounts of healthy fats, protein, and nutrients in both make them a smart choice for weight gain. Pay attention to processing methods and ingredients to maximize nutritional quality.
Recommended Intake for Weight Gain
To gain weight, you need to consume more calories than you burn each day. Here are some guidelines for how much almond or peanut butter to eat daily for weight gain:
- Women: 2-4 tablespoons per day as part of a 300-500 calorie surplus
- Men: 3-5 tablespoons per day as part of a 500-700 calorie surplus
Measure your exact calorie needs and aim for a 300-700 calorie surplus from your maintenance amount. Spread nut butter intake throughout the day for best use of calories.
Other Factors That Impact Weight Gain
While almond butter and peanut butter can support weight gain, there are other important factors to consider:
Overall Diet Quality
Focus on getting plenty of high-quality proteins, healthy fats and complex carbs from whole food sources. This provides your body with adequate nutrition to build muscle and fat mass.
Lift weights or do bodyweight exercises 3-5 times per week to build lean muscle tissue. Nutrition supports muscle growth, but strength training is the stimulus.
Sleep and Stress Levels
Get 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night and manage stress well. Sleep and stress hormones hugely impact your ability to gain weight and build muscle.
Eat most of your calories earlier in the day. Eating larger meals containing nut butters for breakfast and lunch takes advantage of your body’s metabolic rhythms.
Sample Meal Plan for Weight Gain
Here is a sample high-calorie meal plan incorporating almond or peanut butter to support weight gain:
- Oatmeal cooked with milk, topped with almond butter and banana
- Green smoothie with almond butter, protein powder, spinach and frozen banana
- Peanut butter and jam sandwich on whole wheat toast
- Burrito with scrambled eggs, black beans, avocado and peanut butter
- Turkey sandwich on whole grain bread with lettuce, tomato, avocado and almond butter
- Rice bowl with chicken, veggies, salsa, cheese and peanut sauce
- Vegetable and almond butter stir fry served over quinoa or rice
- Peanut noodle salad with chicken or tofu, vegetables and peanut sauce dressing
- Chicken baked in almond butter sauce with sweet potato and green beans
- Burger on whole wheat bun with avocado, bacon, cheese and peanut butter
- Stir fry with beef, broccoli, rice and almond butter sauce
- Peanut sauce vegetable curry served over rice
- Fresh or dried fruit with almond or peanut butter
- Whole grain crackers with nut butter
- Nut butter smoothie or protein shake
- Trail mix with nuts, seeds, coconut, dried fruit
- Greek yogurt topped with peanut butter and honey
Supplementing Other Calorie Sources
While nut butters are dense in calories and nutrition, you don’t want to get all your extra calories for weight gain from them alone. Balance out your diet with these calorie sources as well:
- Whole grains: Oats, quinoa, brown rice, whole wheat bread
- Starchy vegetables: Potatoes, sweet potatoes, winter squash, corn
- Healthy fats: Olive oil, coconut oil, avocados, nuts, seeds
- Lean protein: Chicken, turkey, seafood, eggs, yogurt, protein powder
- Dairy: Milk, cheese, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt
- Fruit: Bananas, mangos, grapes, apples, berries
- Dried fruit: Raisins, dates, figs, apricots
Getting calories from a variety of whole foods ensures you meet all your nutritional needs while gaining weight.
Weight Gain Precautions
While almond and peanut butter can be included as part of a healthy weight gain plan, there are some precautions to take for best results:
- Choose natural nut butters without added oils or sugars
- Measure serving sizes instead of eating straight from the jar
- Pair nut butters with fruits, vegetables and lean proteins
- Stay within your target calorie surplus
- Continue exercising while increasing caloric intake
Consuming excessive calories over your target surplus from nut butters high in fat and calories can lead to unhealthy weight gain. Moderation and smart portions are key.
The Bottom Line
Both almond butter and peanut butter can play a role in a healthy weight gain diet. Almond butter offers unique benefits for heart health from its monounsaturated fats and plant sterols. Peanut butter provides more protein for muscle building and polyunsaturated fats.
The best nut butter for you comes down to personal preference. Consume 2-5 tablespoons of either nut butter daily along with a variety of other whole foods to meet your calorie needs in a balanced way.
Focus on diet quality, strength training, sleep, and calorie timing as well as the type of nut butter you enjoy. This comprehensive approach helps ensure you gain weight in a sustainable, healthy manner.