By Florencia Tagliavini, The NutraMilk Nutritionist
Blanched almonds have had their brown skin removed, therefore the color of the butter made with these almonds is different than the standard almond butter. The texture is a bit smoother, the taste is slightly different but just as delicious.
Why make butter from blanched almonds?
Many people are concerned about the anti-nutrient content of almonds and their possible negative effects on the body. Phytic acid is the anti-nutrient that has obtained a poor reputation and is specifically known for inhibiting absorption of iron, zinc, and, calcium as well as magnesium and copper. The good news is that it's hardly present in blanched almonds as it primarily resides in the skin of the almond. If you are concerned about phytic acid, you have the option of choosing blanched almond butter instead of whole unblanched almond butter.
Nutritionally, butter made from whole unblanched almonds versus blanched almonds is similar as you can see from the comparison chart below.
The calorie and protein content is practically the same. The vitamin and mineral content vary slightly. With whole almonds, you meet 1% more of the daily value (DV)* of calcium, iron, and copper compared to 1 ounce of blanched almonds. Both iron and calcium are nutrients of concern. The differences are slight, but if you are getting enough of these vitamins from other food sources then it won't make much of a difference, if you are struggling to meet the recommended daily amount, then even small amounts count. There is a slightly greater difference with the vitamin E, B2, and manganese content between blanched and unblanched almonds, but it's not significant since they both are great sources of these nutrients.
The biggest difference is the carbohydrate and fiber content. Since the skins are mostly fiber which is a type of carbohydrate, the content in blanched almond butter is lower. One ounce of whole almonds provide 3.6 g of fiber while blanched almonds provide 2.8 g.
What else makes up the fibrous skin of almonds?
The almond's skin contains powerful antioxidants such as Catechin and Epicatechin. These are polyphenols that protect your cells from toxic oxidative stress. Flavonoids, a family of beneficial nutrients, live in the skin of almonds as well, they have antimicrobial properties and play a role in fighting disease.
Phytic acid, the anti-nutrient that has gotten such a bad wrap is also mostly concentrated in the skin. Most people don't know that it also has antioxidant activity that is beneficial for our body. For more information about phytic acid, take a look at the following article: "To Soak or Not to Soak - What's the Deal with Phytic Acid".
Buy or blanch yourself?
You can buy slivered blanched almonds or you can blanch them yourself which is more cost effective and it's quite easy. Basically, you place whole shelled almonds into boiling water for exactly one minute, drain and rinse with cold water then dry the nuts with paper towel. At this point, the skins will be slightly shriveled and will easily come off. Then you just let them dry and they are ready to use.
Both almond butters made from blanched and unblanched almonds are very nutrient dense, offering a good source of fiber, heart-healthy fats, protein, riboflavin, niacin and especially vitamin E. Just one serving provides 24% DV* of vitamin E. This is an antioxidant that helps protect cells from damage and promotes healthy skin and hair.
The benefit of consuming blanched almond butter is that it contains no phytic acid and may be easier to digest. The downside is that you will be missing out on the beneficial polyphenols, but of course, you may get these from other sources. It's one of those give and take situations. Depending on your needs this may be a better option for you, especially if you have a sensitive gut. Give it a try, you may like it more than the traditional almond butter!
*%DV: Percent Daily Value (DV) references how much a certain nutrient contributes in one serving of food in relation to the daily requirement.