Butter Me Up
A few years ago, making a PB&J sandwich was simple. You'd go to the store for nut butter and find three choices: Jif, Skippy or Peter Pan peanut butter—all of which are delicious, but each of which has health drawbacks like added sugars and hydrogenated fats. These days, though, there are as many types of nut butters as there are flavors of jam, and each one claims to be healthier than the next. With so many different options, how do you know which to choose? DS decided to investigate.
Peanut butter is a tried-and-true favorite. The most common nut butter, it's also generally the least expensive. Like all nut butters, peanut butter is fairly high in fat (about 16 grams for a 2-tablespoon serving), but most of it is the “good kind," known as monounsaturated fat. According to Marie Elena Scioscia, a registered dietician and sports nutritionist who works for The Ailey School, this type of fat “is very heart protective and good for you." Plus, she adds, “fat is needed for energy and immunity," which means it'll help you get through those long rehearsals. Peanut butter also has more protein—8 grams per serving—than other nut butters.
You can find almond butter in most regular grocery stores, but it does tend to be more expensive—especially if you buy organic. Almond butter has slightly more calories and fat per serving than peanut butter, and only about half the protein. So what are the benefits? Almond butter is a good source of other important nutrients like calcium and magnesium, which Scioscia says are important for bone health. It's also dense in potassium and folate. “Folate is an important B vitamin that may be useful in keeping cells healthy and which promotes a healthy gut," Scioscia says. “Potassium is an electrolyte lost in sweat that's needed to prevent muscle cramps."
Cashew butter isn't super-mainstream, but that doesn't mean it's not worth seeking out. It's another great source of monounsaturated fats, magnesium and folate. With about as many calories as peanut butter and slightly more protein than almond butter, it can be a great alternative for those looking for a slightly different taste. (If you like the taste of plain cashews, you'll like the taste of cashew butter!) You just may have a harder time finding it.
Sunflower Seed Butter
Butters made from sunflower seeds have gotten more popular in recent years. Sunflower seed butter might have the strongest taste out of all these different options, so if you love sunflower seeds, this is the nut butter for you! It also packs a lot of nutrition: It has the lowest fat content of all the aforementioned nut butters, and it's second only to almond butter in terms of how much calcium it offers. Plus, it's a great source of magnesium (which affects your muscle response, bone metabolism and immune system) and folate, making it a good choice for active bodies.
Nutella and Artificially Flavored Nut Butters
Although we can't deny that Nutella is delicious, you may not want to dip into the jar on a daily basis. Randi Belhumeur, a registered dietician with Integrated Medical Weight Loss in Rhode Island, gives Nutella a “thumbs down in terms of a healthy choice. The first ingredient in Nutella is sugar. The second ingredient is palm oil, a saturated fat. And the
third is hazelnut." Scioscia also warns that Nutella contains soy and whey—things many people are allergic to. “I would say to use it very sparingly," she says.
The Bottom Line?
What's not in your nut butter may actually be more important than what is. When you're trying to decide, Belhumeur advises “comparing the labels. Try to buy something that's just ground nuts and oil, without added sugar." Scioscia says that natural nut butters without added salt would be the absolute best choice. “Salt can make our bodies excrete calcium, which is especially dangerous for dancers concerned about bone health."
Other than that, the type you choose really depends on your taste. So the next time you're in the nut butter aisle trying to figure out what to choose for your pre-dance-class snack, don't fret! Stick to a jar that contains only nuts and oil, and you really can't go wrong—just keep your serving sizes in check. Grab your favorite kind and get spreading. Better yet, try one of each!
Harper Watters is a ballet dancer for today's generation. A social media maestro and a charismatic performer, the Houston Ballet soloist is equally at home in front of the camera hosting his hit YouTube series, "The Pre Show"; interacting with fans on his crazy-popular Instagram account; or showing off his beautiful classical technique onstage. It's a multifaceted identity that's proven to be invaluable to his career—and it's taking him to places he never even dreamed of.
Getting corrections from our dance instructors is how we grow, and as students, it's important that we do our best to apply every correction right away. But sometimes—whether it's because we're in physical pain, or have a lot on our minds, or are just not paying attention—those corrections don't sink in. And from a teacher's standpoint, giving the same corrections time and time again gets old very fast. Here are 10 important corrections dance teachers are tired of giving. Take them to heart!
The dancers who take our breath away are the risk-takers, the ones who appear completely fearless onstage. "When you see somebody trying to travel more, go farther, push the limits of their physical abilities, that's always going to be inspiring," says Ballet BC dancer Alexis Fletcher.
But dance training can feel like it's in conflict with that idea. We spend thousands of hours in the studio trying to do steps perfectly, and that pursuit of perfection can make us anxious about taking risks. What if we fail? What if we fall?
Luckily, fearlessness is a mental skill that you can work on, just as you work on your technique. Here's how you can learn to push yourself past your limits.
When we think of a dancer who's broken barriers, American Ballet Theatre principal Misty Copeland tends to be the name that comes to mind. And though Copeland has been a crucial advocate for equality in the world of ballet, Raven Wilkinson—a mentor of Copeland's—is considered one of the original pioneers of the movement.
In 1955, Wilkinson became the first African American to dance with the renowned Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. Her fortitude in the face of bigotry and hate cemented her legacy. Now, with the release of the new children's book Trailblazer: The Story of Ballerina Raven Wilkinson, a new generation of dancers will be inspired by her tale of overcoming obstacles to achieve a dream.
The book details Wilkinson's life, from her experience as a young dancer training in Harlem, to her run-ins with the Ku Klux Klan while on tour with Ballet Russe, to her later ballet career in Europe. "There were times where my heart really hurt because of the situations I had to deal with," she says. "But I always had faith that I was made to be a dancer and that I was gonna dance."
Dance Spirit spoke with Wilkinson to discuss the new book and get her take on racial equality within the ballet world.
Postmodern pioneer Trisha Brown redefined how dance is seen and felt. A founding member of Judson Dance Theater, Brown frequently collaborated with other experimental artists like Yvonne Rainer, Merce Cunningham, Twyla Tharp, and Steve Paxton.
She embraced pedestrian movement, pairing everyday gesture with rhythm and fluidity. "It's liquid," says Wendy Perron, who danced with Brown in the '60s and '70s. "Like a river with many tributaries, water coming out of a faucet, or being on a raft and seeing the water move away in different directions." Brown also pushed beyond stages with choreography in fields, museums—even on the sides of buildings.
There's a common misconception that a dancer's body has to be thin. But the truth is that talent knows no body type, and the number on the scale never determines an artist's capabilities. Here are some extraordinary dancers fighting the stereotype of what a dancer "should" look like.