Nut Butter FAQs

Nut Butter FAQs

Why does the oil separate on top of some of your products?

Oil separation occurs naturally in our non-stabilized nut butters soon after the products are made because we do not put any ingredients in the products to keep the oil from separating from the nut solids. As a result, these products require stirring prior to use.

Please do not drain off the natural oil on top or you will end up with a nut butter that is dry, hard and difficult to spread.

If you don't want to have to stir your nut butter, we offer MaraNatha No Stir Peanut and Almond Butters, which are ready to use immediately after opening-no stirring required!

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Why do you use palm oil in your No Stir Peanut Butter and No Stir Almond Butter?

We add a small amount of natural palm oil to help keep the nut oil from separating from the solid part of the nut. Adding the palm oil results in nut butter that does not need to be stirred and spreads more easily.

Palm oil is not hydrogenated, contains zero trans fats and is lower in saturated fat than butter. It's a vegetable oil and is cholesterol free. The palm oil we use is extracted from the palm fruit, using mechanical (not chemical) means.

Your can read about hydrogenation and trans fats - and why neither are present in our products - further along in this FAQ.

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How is your palm oil extracted? Is any chemical processing used?

No. Palm oil used in MaraNatha No Stir nut butters is extracted from the fruit or pulp of the palm tree and purified using natural means.

First, the oil is pressed from the fruit using an expeller press. The expeller press crushes the fruit, releasing the oil. Next, the oil undergoes clarification, filtering the oil to remove particles. The oil is 'dried' by cooling to remove water through evaporation. Centrifugation is then used to further separate water content in the fruit from the oil.

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Why did you create No Stir Peanut Butter and No Stir Almond Butter?

We created our No Stir nut butters as a response to consumer demand from people who want nut butter that is not hydrogenated, is lightly sweetened and does not have to be stirred. 

For those people who prefer fewer ingredients or unsweetened nut butters and don't mind stirring, we also make single ingredient natural and organic nut butters.

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Why do you add sugar to your No Stir Peanut Butter and No Stir Almond Butters?

A small amount of evaporated cane juice sugar enhances the rich roasted flavor of the nuts, providing a taste experience many consumers prefer.

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 How should I store MaraNatha products?

For optimum flavor and ease of use, follow these simple steps: Stir and Refrigerate. Our No-Stir products don't require stirring prior to refrigeration.

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Do I really need to refrigerate MaraNatha nut butters?

It's generally best to refrigerate our nut butters. Because they do not contain any preservatives or stabilizers, they can become rancid if left out of refrigeration for an extended period of time and/or exposed to warm temperatures. Unless you have purchased one of our No Stir items, remember to stir your nut butter before you put it in the fridge. Otherwise you'll have a bit of a challenge on your hands.

If you don't have access to refrigeration and can keep your nut butter in a cool, dark place, you may find that refrigeration is not required, as long as you use the contents of the jar within a reasonable amount of time. If you choose to do this, check the aroma of the nut butter regularly to ensure it is not becoming rancid. If in doubt, dispose of the product. Note that our non-stabilized nut butters may need regular stirring when not refrigerated.

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How do I read the date code on your jars?

U.S.date codes are usually listed as day, month, year, (DDMMMYY). For example,  09FEB11 is February 9, 2011.  Canadian date codes are usually listed as year, month, day, YYMMDD 11MA09 is May 9, 2011.

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Do your products ever last beyond the code date?

We guarantee the quality of our products up to the code date, assuming they have been stored correctly. If the product has already been opened, refrigeration will often keep the product usable for a longer period of time than the code date on the jar (depending upon the temperature and performance of your fridge, of course). If the product has not been opened but has been stored in a cool, dark place, then it may still be usable. The best way to tell is to open it up and carefully evaluate its smell for any rancidity. If in doubt, dispose of the product.

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What is the best way to stir your products?

We recommend a simple wooden spatula, or any kitchen tool with a strong handle and broad surface area. For the ultimate in stirring ease, we highly recommend the Zyliss brand peanut butter silicone spreader. Its super strength plastic handle and spatula make it possible to blend a jar of MaraNatha in 2 or 3 full stirs. We love this tool and find it to be well worth the $8.95 suggested retail price.

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 What is the difference between your "natural" and "organic" nut butters?

For our products, these terms are used as follows:

  • Organic is a USDA regulated term. For a complete, consumer-friendly explanation, visit the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In a nutshell, it means the product is grown and produced without pesticides or harmful chemicals. Our organic products are made with organic ingredients, which are listed on our labels. Our labels also bear the seal of a third party certification agency as well as the USDA's organic seal.
  • Natural does not have a regulated or standard meaning, even in the natural foods industry. The term has been used in ways that can confuse even the savviest of consumers. At MaraNatha, we have used the term natural for over 20 years to mean that our products are made without preservatives, stabilizers, additives, artificial colors or flavors. To clarify, we do not include salt in this list (see next question).

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Why do some of your products have salt but others don't?

We consider the judicious use of natural sea salt to be a highly personal flavor preference. Likewise, the choice to not use it is also highly personal, and often related to health concerns or specific eating plans that limit the use of salt. The majority of our products are made without salt including all of our Cashew and Macadamia products. Our Almond, Peanut and Sesame Tahini products are offered both with and without salt.

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What is the difference between your "raw" and "roasted" products?

The terms raw and roasted do not have regulated definitions or meanings. At MaraNatha we have followed industry definitions from the time we began making nut butters, more than 20 years ago.

  • Raw nut butter products are not subjected to treatment or heat prior to the grinding process. These items are often preferred by people who are looking for minimally processed food that is "as close to Nature" as possible.
  • Roasted nut butters are baked or heated to produce a desired flavor and/or color prior to grinding. Some manufacturers use oil in the roasting process. At MaraNatha, we do not use oil. Instead, we carefully dry roast the nuts to produce a deep toasty flavor.

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At what temperature are your raw nut butters produced?

During the grinding process for all of our products (and for most any commercially made nut butter), heat is generated by the friction of the nuts inside the grinder. We do not specifically monitor this temperature, but we know it is higher than the threshold set by anyone following a strict raw eating plan that calls for only heating foods at very low temperatures.

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Can I eat your raw products as part of a raw foods diet?

It depends on how you define raw. The term raw is not regulated and we do not wish to mislead any consumer following a strict raw eating plan.

With over 20 years of producing nut butters, our professional suggestion for any strict raw food eater is this: Purchase a high quality food mill or food processor and conduct your own grinding trials to monitor the temperature of the finished product. With a smaller batch you may be able to better control the friction and heat produced during the grinding. We wish you every success in this process as this was how our business began over 20 years ago.

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What is the new requirement for almond pasteurization, and does it affect all almonds?

Effective September 1, 2007, almonds produced in California and sold in the United States, Canada and Mexico are required to be pasteurized prior to sale. This effectively covers all almonds grown in the U.S., because the entire U.S. almond crop is grown in California.

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Why has the almond pasteurization law been enacted?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture moved to implement the new rule after salmonella outbreaks in 2001 and 2004 were traced back to raw almonds. While salmonella contamination in almonds is not common, the industry approved pursuing mandatory pasteurization as a result of concern for public safety.

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How will pasteurization of your Almond Butters be achieved?

Under the new law, almonds may be treated using a number of methods, including High Temperature Short Time (HTST) Steam Pasteurization and chemical pasteurization with propylene oxide (PPO). Use of chemical pasteurization is not allowed under NOP (National Organic Program) rules, so all organic almonds will be steam pasteurized.

In addition to our organic almonds, we will be using steam pasteurization for the almonds used in our natural almond butters.

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How does pasteurization affect MaraNatha's Raw Almond Butters?

The pasteurization method used for our almonds employs moisture from steam to kill surface bacteria that might reside on the almond skin. This extremely rapid process requires less than one minute and does not heat the internal almond meat. The Almond Board of California has conducted extensive testing on the impact that this quick treatment has on the nutritional value of the almonds and has determined that the raw almond characteristics remain unchanged. This finding has also been confirmed by independent laboratory analyses of pasteurized and unpasteurized almonds, which showed no degradation of the nutritional value of almonds after treatment.

It should be noted that raw is not a regulated term and we do not wish to mislead consumers who are following a strict raw-eating plan. At MaraNatha we make our raw almond butter using the almond industry's definition for raw, which calls for the use of almonds that are not roasted prior to grinding. More information on this subject can be found earlier in this FAQ.

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Are MaraNatha Nut Butters gluten free?

Yes, they are free of gluten-containing ingredients and are produced in a facility that does not process gluten-containing ingredients.

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What is Aflatoxin? And are the peanuts you use in your peanut butter free from Aflatoxin?

Aflatoxin is a naturally occurring mycotoxin produced by two types of mold: Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus. Aspergillus flavus is common and widespread in nature. Aflatoxin can contaminate virtually any grain, fruit or vegetable that has been stored in conditions permitting the growth of mold. Peanuts seem to be especially vulnerable.

The mold occurs in soil, decaying vegetation, hay, and grains undergoing microbiological deterioration and invades all types of organic substrates whenever and wherever the conditions are favorable for its growth. Favorable conditions include high moisture content and high temperature. At least 13 different types of aflatoxin are produced in nature with aflatoxin B1 considered the most toxic. While the presence of Aspergillus flavus does not always indicate harmful levels of aflatoxin, it does mean that the potential for aflatoxin production is present.

In 1965, the USDA set standards for acceptable levels of aflatoxin in peanuts. Every peanut sheller is required by the USDA to have every lot of peanuts tested by a government approved lab prior to shipping. Any that are found to be in excess of 15 parts per billion (ppb) are not allowed for sale through channels for human consumption.

Every load we receive comes with an aflatoxin certificate indicating the peanuts have been tested and passed by a USDA approved laboratory. In addition to these government mandated tests, we also perform random tests on peanuts we receive and on our finished nut butters.

In summary, although aflatoxin can be a serious health concern, with USDA and FDA mandated testing and our purchasing and handling procedures, we know that our products are virtually free of it.

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Are your Almond, Cashew and Macadamia Butters peanut-free?

These butters do not contain peanuts, but currently all of our products are produced in the same facility using shared equipment. We perform an exhaustive clean-out between production runs, but we can not guarantee that our products are 100% free from any trace of peanuts or the other nuts that share the equipment. If you or your child has an anaphylactic allergy response to peanuts or tree nuts, and you have any questions about whether or not it is appropriate to use our products, consult your doctor.

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Are MaraNatha Nut Butters Kosher?

Yes, they are certified Kosher by the Orthodox Union and bear the OU symbol.

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Why is there saturated fat in your nut butters? Isn't saturated fat bad?

All oils and fats contain some amount of saturated fat, even the healthy ones. For instance, extra virgin olive oil, well known as a heart-healthy oil, contains 2 grams per serving. Like olive oil, the oil content of nuts is primarily heart healthy monounsaturated fat, along with a smaller percentage of saturates and polyunsaturates.

The American Heart Association recommends limiting the amount of saturated fats you eat to less than 7 percent of total daily calories. That means, for example, if you consume about 2,000 calories a day, no more than 140 of them should come from saturated fats. That's about 16 grams of saturated fats a day.

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Why do I need fat in my diet?

Sometimes we forget that fat is not necessarily bad. Some fat in your diet is necessary for good health. Fats are required for many of the body's basic biochemical processes. Children and pregnant women especially require sufficient fat for healthy development of mind and body. Other benefits of fats:

  • Efficiently provide calories for energy
  • Required to support cell growth
  • Help protect the body's organs and keep the body warm
  • Help the body absorb some nutrients (including vitamins A, D, E, and K)
  • Needed for production of important hormones

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What is hydrogenation and how does it apply to peanut butters?

Hydrogenation is a chemical process that raises the melt point of liquid vegetable oils to make them solid at room temperature and improve their stability. This is achieved by chemically altering the oil-adding hydrogen atoms to oil molecules. It is typically a high heat process that employs a metal catalyst (usually nickel) to aid in the transformation.

Manufacturers use hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils to achieve a desired product texture and to extend the product's shelf life. This has a specific relevance for peanut butter. Many peanut butter manufacturers add partially hydrogenated oil to keep the liquid oil portion of peanut butter in suspension with the peanut solids - that's why the peanut butter can be used immediately upon opening, without stirring. Use of hydrogenated oil has a side benefit of providing longer shelf life, too.

MaraNatha products do not use and/or contain any hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils. Instead, for our No Stir nut butters we blend in a small amount of palm oil, a vegetable oil that is naturally solid at room temperature. The palm oil inhibits the No Stir nut butters from separating. You can read more about palm oil near the beginning of this FAQ.

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What are trans fats?

Trans fatty acids, or trans fats, are chiefly liquid oils that have been converted to solid oils though hydrogenation, a high heat chemical process. Trans fats are present in hardened vegetable oils and many margarines, commercial baked foods and fried foods.

Medical health experts recommend avoiding trans fats, which have an adverse effect on blood cholesterol levels. Eating trans fats raises bad (LDL) cholesterol levels and lowers good (HDL) cholesterol levels. The risk of developing heart disease and stroke also increases.

As a result of pressure from consumer groups, the Food & Drug Administration now requires that trans fats be disclosed on food labels. But because of FDA rounding rules, trans fat content below one half gram per serving is rounded down to zero grams in the Nutrition Facts - so a product can contain trans fats while showing a Trans Fat value of 0g. Careful reading of the ingredients will show that some peanut butters claiming No Trans Fat contain partially hydrogenated oil. The primary sources of trans fats are hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils, so if you want to avoid trans fats, check for these ingredients on food label ingredient lists.

MaraNatha products contain no hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils and are 100% trans fat free.

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