By: Suzi Beber, Honouris Causa
Tasty and nutritious seed and nut butters can be made from almonds, cashews, hemp hearts, chia and more. Your dog will love them as much as you do!
Once upon a time, there was only peanut butter. Nowadays, you can choose from a range of delicious and nutritious seed and nut butters – and share these delectables with your dog as well as your human family! This article covers some healthy seed and nut butter choices for your canine friend, along with some tasty recipes to try.
Interestingly enough, peanuts are not really nuts at all. They belong to the legume family and are related to beans, lentils, and even soy. Peanuts are rich in protein and a variety of other nutrients, including biotin, copper, vitamin E, folate, manganese, niacin, magnesium, phosphorus and thiamin. They contain valuable plant compounds too, including a polyphenol called p-coumaric acid, and resveratrol, which supports heart health and is often part of a cancer-fighting diet.
Almonds are packed full of nutrients. They contain the entire vitamin E family, tocopherols and tocotrienols. Alpha-tocopherol is one of the keys to healthy skin and coat. Almonds are also an excellent source of B vitamins, bioflavonoids, copper, magnesium (which supports the nervous system), manganese, zinc and even Omega 3. Almond butter is heart-healthy too.
I cannot pass a bowl of buttery cashews, and in moderation, your dogs can enjoy them too, either whole or in the form of cashew butter. The cashew tree is native to the coastal areas of Brazil, and way back in the 16th century, Portuguese explorers introduced the trees to India and Africa. Cashews’ heart-healthy monounsaturated fat content is like that found in olive oil, and because of their high level of oleic acid, they keep longer than other nuts. Cashews are another nut that contain lots of antioxidants, along with copper, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus and zinc.
You can buy cashew butter or make your own by grinding the nuts in a food processer or blender, along with a bit of coconut oil or other oil of your choice.
Hemp heart butter
Hemp has a really interesting history. In 1606, a French botanist named Louise Hebert planted the very first hemp crop in North America. As early as 1801, hemp seed was given to Canadian farmers free of charge, by the Lieutenant Governor of the province of Upper Canada, on behalf of the King of England.
Hemp is one of the most powerfully nutritious foods we can share with our canine companions. It is packed with essential fatty acids, including Omega 3 (alpha lenolenic acid), Omega 6 (linolenic acid and gamma linolenic acid), and Omega 9 (oleic acid). Hemp is rich in vitamins C and E, as well as chlorophyll, and also has an excellent amino acid profile. Hemp supports heart health and healthy joints too.
Hemp heart butter is a breeze to make, especially with a Magic Bullet or food processor. Take 1 cup of hemp hearts and a drizzle of hemp oil or other healthy oil of your choice, and whirl away. A teaspoon a day is a healthy topper for your dog’s meal.
Pumpkin seed butter
Pumpkin is one of the world’s healthiest foods, going all the way back to the Aztec culture of 1300 AD to 1500 AD. Pumpkin seeds are mini-powerhouses of nutrition. They are a valuable source of calcium, copper, vitamin E, fiber, folic acid, iron, magnesium, manganese, phenolic antioxidants, phosphorus, and phytonutrients like lignans, and zinc. Pumpkin seeds have anti-microbial, anti-fungal and anti-viral properties. Herbalists believe that pumpkin seeds can be helpful when trying to get rid of tapeworms and other intestinal parasites. Pumpkin seeds carry an amino acid called cucurbitin, which is known to paralyze and eliminate worms from the digestive tract. Studies have shown that pumpkin seed extract and pumpkin seed oil improve insulin regulation in diabetic animals, and support kidney function, the prostate, and even reduce oxidative stress.
As with other butters, you can buy pumpkin seed butter or make your own in a blender or food processor.
Chia seed butter
“Chia” means “strength” and its seeds are considered one of the world’s healthiest foods. Chia is a member of the mint family (Salvia Hispanica), and has a long history, going all the way back to 3500 BC. In Aztec and Mayan times, chia seeds were part of the warriors’ diet, for the relief of joint pain and skin conditions.
These seeds are a rich source of B vitamins, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, protein and zinc, and they are packed with antioxidants too. Chia contains alpha-linolenic acid, a plant-based form of Omega 3. They are gluten-free and a popular alternative to flax seed.
Chia supports the skin from the inside out, because its high level of Omega 3s helps fight chronic skin inflammation. It also supports the immune system, promoting healing and helping stabilize blood sugar levels. The seeds can be added when making other nut butters, such as almond, for extra flavor and nutrition.
Avoid artificial sweeteners
Beware of artificial sweeteners when purchasing commercial nut and seed butters! Since the fall of 2004, the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center has been warning that xylitol, a sweetener found in many sugar-free chewing gums, candies and other products, including toothpaste and throat lozenges, can cause potentially life-threatening problems in canines.
Dogs ingesting large amounts of product sweetened with xylitol may experience a sudden drop in blood sugar, resulting in depression, loss of coordination, seizures and liver failure. Signs can develop quite rapidly, often less than 30 minutes after ingestion.
When buying seed or nut butters, look for natural products and read labels carefully. Or better yet — get out your food processor or blender and whip some up at home!
1 cup almond butter*
2 cups unsweetened apple butter**
5 cups whole flour – e.g. spelt, hemp
1 heaping teaspoon Saigon cinnamon
½ teaspoon turmeric
Choose organic ingredients whenever possible. Cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper for easy clean-up. Combine all ingredients by hand or in your choice of mixer. Dough should pull away from the sides of the bowl.
Turn out dough onto a cutting board. Divide into small balls, then roll out into thick pencils and cut on a diagonal, to make small biscotti-like biscuits. You can also place the dough in the middle of the cookie sheet, roll out to the edges, and lightly score. Cookie cutters work well with this recipe too.
Place cookie sheet in cold oven. Turn on oven to 350°F, on the convection setting if available. When the oven reaches heat, turn down to 250°F for one hour; and for triple baking, sprinkle your biscuits with extra cinnamon and bake at 175°F for a final hour.
Allow to cool, and store in an open container or Ziploc bag.
Extra dough can be made and stored for future use.
*Any nut (e.g. unsalted cashews or hazelnuts) or seed butter (or combination) can be used for this recipe.
**If you want to make your own apple butter, simply core and quarter apples and put them in a large pot. Cover with filtered water. If you like, add a couple of cinnamon sticks. Bring to a boil. Then turn down to simmer, and cook until the apples are thick, with an almost caramelized texture. This recipe can also be done in a slow cooker. The cooking time is about two hours. Your kitchen will smell amazing. If you wish, pumpkin purée can be substituted for apple butter.
Almond Chia Crunch
1½ cups rolled whole oats
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ cup coconut flour
1½ tablespoons chia seeds
¼ cup coconut oil
1 cup almond butter (or other nut butter of your choice – e.g. cashew butter)
2 whole eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¼ cup carob chips (do not use chocolate)
Unsweetened coconut flakes
Choose organic ingredients if you can. Preheat oven to 350°F. Cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Combine all ingredients, except the carob chips. Make sure the ingredients are thoroughly blended, then fold in carob chips. (Remember that chocolate is toxic to dogs, so use carob only!)
Form small balls of dough, roll in unsweetened coconut flakes, and place on cookie sheet. A tablespoon scoop works like a charm. Bake for ten minutes, and cool completely before serving. Store in a Ziploc bag or airtight container, in the refrigerator or freezer. This delectable treat can be served raw too.
2 cups pumpkin seeds
Drizzle of first pressed olive oil or pumpkin seed oil
Chia seeds, hemp hearts or crushed almonds
Turn on your food processor and add pumpkin seeds to the chute along with a drizzle of oil. Pumpkin seed butter will form quickly, but if needed, add a little filtered water. Your butter should pull away from the sides of the bowl. Pumpkin seed butter can also be prepared in a blender.
Form small balls of pumpkin seed butter, 1/2 to 1 teaspoon in size. For extra pizzazz, roll balls in chia seeds, hemp hearts of crushed almonds, then freeze until use. Pumpkin Pops can be served with regular meals or given as a delicious and nutritious treat. They are great as pill pockets too.