The humble peanut is more than the main ingredient in a beloved sandwich spread. It’s also a good source of nutrients. Research shows that eating peanuts may help you stay well. But with peanut allergies on the rise, there are some safety concerns to consider.
Read on to learn if peanuts are good for you.
Peanuts are legumes
Peanuts are considered nuts, but they aren’t nuts in the truest sense of the word. They’re legumes. Legumes are plants that contain pods with edible seeds. Unlike nuts that grow on trees, peanuts and some other legumes grow underground.
Peanuts are the most popular nut in the United States. They account for 67 percent of all nut consumption.
Peanuts are high in monounsaturated fats
Much of the fat in peanuts is monounsaturated, the same type of healthy fat found in olive oil and avocados. Monounsaturated fats help lower “bad” cholesterol. This may reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Peanuts are a good source of antioxidants
Peanuts are a good source of polyphenol antioxidants. Research shows that peanuts have as many antioxidants as strawberries and other fruits. Antioxidants help fight cell-damaging free radicals in your body. Free radicals are linked to aging and many diseases like cancer, stroke, and heart disease.
Peanuts are a good source of vitamin E
Vitamin E is one of the antioxidants found in peanuts. There is evidence that vitamin E may prevent coronary artery disease and cancer. But study results are mixed. Vitamin E has been shown to lower your risk of developing age-related macular degeneration. It may also help reduce cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s patients.
Peanuts are a good source of folate
Folate is a B vitamin. It’s critical to have adequate folate in your body before pregnancy and during pregnancy to help prevent neural tube defects like spina bifida. Folate deficiency has also been linked to depression. Folate supplementation is being explored as a therapy to treat the condition.
Good source of protein
One ounce of peanuts contains over 7 grams of protein. Proteins are considered your body’s building blocks. They support every system in the body and help maintain:
- healthy bones
Good source of fiber
Just 1 ounce of peanuts provides over 2 grams of dietary fiber. Much of this is soluble fiber, which helps lower cholesterol and manage blood sugar. Peanuts also contain some insoluble fiber. This type of fiber helps bulk up your stool to keep your bowels moving. It can help ease constipation.
Fiber helps you feel fuller longer after eating, which may help you maintain a healthy weight.
Peanuts may decrease your cardiovascular mortality risk
Eating peanuts may help you live longer. One study found that people who ate peanuts had less risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. Since most study participants had low socioeconomic status, experts concluded that eating peanuts may be a cost-effective way to improve heart health.
Eat peanuts in moderation
Peanuts are not a low-calorie or low-fat food. One ounce of raw peanuts has around 161 calories and 14 grams of fat. Varieties that are honey roasted or covered in chocolate may make your taste buds happy, but they also have more calories and fat. To enjoy the health benefits of peanuts without sabotaging your waistline, eat them in moderation.
Raw peanuts are naturally salt-free. Roasted peanuts and flavored varieties may have added salt. Although salt is essential to your body, too much may increase your blood pressure. Avoid adding excess salt to your diet by eating unsalted peanuts.
Concerns over aflatoxins in peanuts
Aflatoxins are toxins caused by a mold that grows in peanuts and other legumes. Peanuts are exposed to the two fungi that produce aflatoxins through soil. Both organic and nonorganic peanuts may be exposed.
Despite concerns that aflatoxins may cause liver damage or liver cancer, the Food and Drug Administration states that peanut lovers in the United States have no need to worry. Commercially grown crops are routinely evaluated for aflatoxins. If levels are unsafe, the crops are destroyed.
While growing your own food is usually the healthiest option, that may not be the case with peanuts. Unless you know how to screen your harvest for aflatoxins, you may be putting your health at risk.
Is a hypoallergenic peanut on the horizon?
Peanuts are not good for the 1 percent of children and adults in the United States who are allergic to them. Peanut allergies happen when your immune system perceives the proteins in peanuts as bad.
Symptoms of a peanut allergy may include:
- runny nose
- hives and other skin irritations
- tingling around the mouth
- difficulty breathing
- throat tightening
- nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
Peanut allergy may also result in anaphylaxis, a life-threatening condition that may cause:
- throat swelling
- rapid pulse
- low blood pressure
- loss of consciousness
The good news is that a hypoallergenic peanut may soon be hitting store shelves. The non-GMO peanuts are soaked in an enzyme solution to significantly reduce two main allergens. The peanuts retain their nutrition and taste.
Studies have also recently uncovered that probiotics affect peanut reactions. A Journal of Allergy and Immunology study found that an oral form of the bacteria Lactobacillus rhamnosus, in conjunction with oral immunotherapy, can reduce peanut allergy symptoms.
Delicious ways to add peanuts to your diet
If you’re looking for creative ways to enjoy peanuts, try these ideas:
- make homemade peanut butter
- add chopped peanuts to yogurt, a green salad, or chicken salad
- add a handful of peanuts to your morning bowl of oatmeal
- make peanut milk
- add peanuts to smoothies
- make a parfait from yogurt, fresh berries, and chopped peanuts
Peanuts are good for you when eaten in moderation. Avoid them if you have a peanut allergy. All peanuts pack a nutritional punch to varying degrees, but raw and unsalted varieties are the healthiest option. Read product labels carefully. Some brands add ingredients that have no business being in peanuts, like corn syrup solids and gelatin.
Peanuts are less expensive than most tree nuts, such as almonds, cashews, and walnuts. They are also portable and easy to eat, which makes them a great on-the-go snack. Peanuts are satisfying and may make you less likely to reach for unhealthy snacks like potato chips.