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Healthy Living

5 Reasons to Love Peanuts

By Sheryl Kraft

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Known to most as a nut, a peanut is really a legume—packed with lots of health benefits.

With all the ongoing debate about healthy school lunches, I can't help but think back to my childhood. My nose still stings when I remember that pungent aroma (awful to me, but perhaps inviting to others) and the heaps of steaming, mass-produced slop (unappealing to me, but perhaps scrumptious to others) that appeared daily in the cafeteria. "You're so picky," my friends chided me, as I bypassed the lines and made a beeline for our table, lunch box in tow. "You're so boring," my friends joked as they watched me unwrap yet another peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Peanuts and I parted ways for a few years when I was in my 30s, struggling to lose the 40 pounds I put on with each pregnancy. Back then, I thought of anything that contained calories and fat as the enemy. But once I finally lost the weight and started feeding my two boys peanut butter, I couldn't resist the occasional finger-in-the-jar swipe. It brought me a certain comfort I hadn't had in years (and the weight didn't come back to haunt me).

Since then, we're friends again, the peanut and I. How did I tackle the high-fat content and calories? Moderation, of course. That's easy to do, since it doesn't take a lot to satisfy; peanuts' fat and fiber content makes them very filling. And their fat—mostly of the monosaturated kind—is heart-healthy fat (not a reason to eat a LOT of it; just a reason to feel OK about eating it at all).

I say it's a good thing peanuts are back in my life, because there are so many health benefits associated with eating them:

  • Protein and fiber. Peanuts improve satiety and help maintain weight loss. Several studies have found that eating small amounts of nuts helps dieters lose weight; when nuts were allowed in their eating plans, they did not feel deprived.
  • Nutrients. Peanuts are abundant in the vitamins niacin, folate, pantothenic acid, thiamin, riboflavin, choline, Vitamin B6 and Vitamin E and rich in minerals like magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, zinc, iron, copper, manganese and selenium.
  • Disease control. Studies have found eating peanuts five times a week decreased heart disease and reduced the risk of diabetes, gallbladder disease and colorectal cancer. Peanuts and peanut butter are included on the DASH diet eating plan, which helps lower blood pressure.
  • Antiaging. Peanuts have been found to contain the potent antiaging molecule resveratrol, the same phytochemical found in red wine and grapes. Studies have shown that resveratrol can fight the proliferation of fat cells and improve the uptake of sugar from the blood. The resveratrol in peanuts is found in the seed itself and the skin.
  • Cholesterol. When postmenopausal women with high cholesterol were fed a low-fat diet that included healthy fats from peanuts, their cholesterol improved. The phytosterols that peanuts contain have been shown to reduce cholesterol.

Another interesting tidbit: The health benefits are not limited to just the peanut itself. Peanut oil and fat-free peanut flour have been shown, in hamster studies, to significantly lower cholesterol and have heart-protective effects.

This Matters: You don't need a lot to get these benefits. Just a daily handful or peanuts—or a tablespoon of peanut butter—will do it.
For more information on peanuts, click here.
For my most favorite recipe in the world that includes peanut butter, click here.

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Comments

Nuts are some of my favorite foods. I have to watch the salt content, though, I like them salty!

Yes, the salt content can get high. How about mixing unsalted w/salted; this way you can cut down on your salt consumption but still get part of that flavor?

Wow! So much interesting info. I had no idea peanuts could offer so many health benefits.

I love peanut butter. I ate it pretty much every day K-12 for lunch. Even now, I'll make a little PBJ ... just yesterday, in fact.

Thanks for making me feel better about it.

I love peanuts in the shell, but hate the dust that gets on my hands! Good to know they have healthy benefits!

I love peanuts in the shell, too. And even though you get that dust on your hands, it's good to know that the skins - often absent from the peanuts you get out of the shell - also contains valuable nutrients.

I love peanuts. Good to know about all the health benefits - including the fact that I don't have to avoid them to lose weight.

It's amazing how many people shun peanuts for this reason. But the important thing to remember is that they're not diet food, but can still be part of a healthy diet when eaten in moderation.

I knew about several of these health benefits, but not all of them. thanks. Sheryl, good to hear.

Glad I could shed some light on it for you, Kerry.

...have always loved peanut butter...and yes, in moderation. ON green apples! it is so filling on so delicious..

On green apples, on red apples, on bananas...I could go on and on.

Peanut butter is really filling, so it's good when you're on a diet. You just have to be really careful about the portion size.

Yes, I agree. You also have to watch the portion size - at least I do - because it's so good and can become quite addictive!

One of my fave peanut condiments is the peanut sauce for wraps and pasta. Yum!!!

Now you've got me thinking about finding a recipe for peanut sauce...please feel free to share if you happen to have your own!

I like peanuts and peanut butter, but have been hearing about phytic acid in some nuts, including peanuts (even though they are a legume!) with a recommendation to SOAK nuts, just as you would beans. Do you know anything about this? Maybe another post?

I never heard that, Kris. But of course, now I'm curious, so I will go check it out...

I am so glad to hear this. It's always a miracle to me when something I like turns out to be healthy.

Yes, a miracle indeed - so, go and enjoy your peanuts guilt-free!

I'm from the South where you pour a handful of salted peanuts down the neck of your GLASS bottle of ice cold Coke. Oh YEAH!

Hmmm...never heard of this, but I'd imagine it is a great taste sensation!

I, too, am a peanut addict and have loved peanuts and peanut butter since childhood. I often ate peanut butter and banana sandwiches, which were popular in the South (as was banana and mayo, but that's another subject). (Still often eat peanut butter on wheat toast or whole wheat muffin for breakfast and sometimes stir PB and banana into oatmeal.) I wasn’t a fan of jelly because it made the bread to soggy, but I ate peanut butter on everything – crackers, bread, even ice cream! I learned from my dad – he’d stir spoonfuls of it into his vanilla or chocolate ice cream. Now companies manufacture various peanut butter ice cream flavors, but back then everyone thought it was strange. And, from my dad’s dad, I learned a fabulous peanut butter spread that is similar to the spa one (but less healthy). It called for peanut butter, butter and honey – all blended together with a fork and then spread on hot toast (or biscuits, if we were lucky). My kids grew up on this and still love it. Do you think there’s a Peanut Butter Addicts Anonymous for us?

I was told NOT to eat peanuts because of having a bit of extra fungus in my system (somethign like that). I'm curious about your take on ALMOND BUTTER. that's been my peanut butter alternative. Maybe it could be the subject of another post?

Count me as a peanut fan too. Really any nut. We use peanut butter as a thickener in all sorts of sauces. My hubby even uses it in chili (based on Mexican mole, which also has nuts in it).

You've reminded my that it's time to make some satay sauce again. Great for dipping veggie rolls in or mixing with noodles.

great post. peanuts are one of the healthiest foods around, if consumed in moderation - something that's hard for a lot of people. I try to eat a handful of unsalted nuts a day.

For those of you who think peanut butter would be bad for your diet, try the Skippy or other brands "Natural" peanut butter. Since I'm not a hop out of bed and eat person, I can have it at work on an early break. It carrys me through the morning so that I'm not straved at lunch.

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