Peanuts are a wonderful and highly nutritious food, and contrary to popular belief, they do not cause weight gain. In fact, a 2007 study found that people who ate nuts, including peanuts, at least twice a week were much less likely to gain weight than those who almost never ate nuts.
The peanut is not actually a nut; it is a legume along with its cousins beans and peas, all belonging to the Leguminosae family. Legumes are edible seeds enclosed in pods. Peanuts grow underground, unlike "tree nuts" such as walnuts, almonds and pistachios. They start out as an above ground flower that, due to its heavy weight, bends towards the ground. The flower eventually burrows underground, which is where the peanut actually matures.
Scientists at the University of Florida found that peanuts rival fruits in their levels of antioxidants. The Florida researchers identified high concentrations of polyphenols, particularly p-coumaric acid in peanuts. Roasting can increase the level of polyphenols, boosting overall antioxidant content by as much as twenty-two percent. Peanuts are an excellent source of beta-sitosterol, known to have anti-cancer properties. They are also a good source of monounsaturated fat and resveratrol, both associated with helping to fight heart disease.
A study in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition showed that regular consumption of peanuts improved diet quality by increasing nutrients associated with the prevention of cardiovascular disease. Another study found that eating peanuts five times a week reduced the risk of a heart attack, helped reduce inflammation in the body and boosted the health of blood vessels around the heart.
type 2 diabetes
Study subjects who ate half a serving of peanut butter or a full serving of peanuts five or more times a week had up to a twenty-seven percent reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
One study found that people who regularly ate nuts were much less likely to gain weight than those who did not, and a USDA survey found that peanut eaters were better able to meet their needs for Vitamin A and E, folate, calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron and fiber. The participants in the survey had lower BMIs (Body Mass Index - a measurement used to determine obesity) than non-peanut eaters.
A study found that female subjects who frequently consumed peanuts and peanut products had reduced risk for colorectal cancer.
Tips for Using Peanuts
- Peanuts are available shelled or unshelled, raw or roasted, as oil, as peanut butter, and as an ingredient in various food products.
- Opt for the healthier plain or dry-roasted varieties of peanuts, over the more greasy and salty types.
- To make your own peanut butter, simply grind the peanuts in a food processor until you achieve the desired consistency.
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- Kris-Etherton PM, Hu FB,Ros E,Sabaté J. The Role of Tree nuts and peanuts in the Prevention of Coronary heart Disease: Multiple Potential Mechanisms. Jounal of nutrition, Supplement: 2007 nuts and health Symposium.
- Jiang R et al. Nut and peanut butter consumption and risk of type 2 daibetes in women. JAMA. 2002;288:2554-2560.
- Kris-Etherton et al. Improved diet quality with peanut consumption. JADA. 2004;23(6):660-8.
- Yeh CC, You SL, Chen CJ, Sung FC. Peanut consumption and reduced risk of colorectal cancer in women: a prospective study in Taiwan. World J Gastroenterol. 2006 Jan 14;12(2):222-7.