Health Benefits of Peanuts

Surprisingly, peanuts are not actually in the nut family. They are classified as legumes along with foods like green peas, soybeans, and lentils. The peanut plant likely originated in South America in Brazil or Peru. Scientists have found 3,500-year-old pottery in the shape of peanuts, as well as decorated with peanuts, in South America.

Peanuts grow below ground as the fruit of the peanut plant. In the early 1800s, Americans started growing peanuts as a commercial crop. On average, Americans eat more than 6 pounds of peanuts per year. Today, 50% of the peanuts eaten in the United States are consumed in the form of peanut butter.

Health Benefits

Many people believe the peanut is not as nutritionally valuable as true nuts like almonds, walnuts, or cashews. But actually, peanuts have many of the same health benefits as the more expensive nuts and should not be overlooked as a nutritious food.

Heart Health

Much attention has been paid to walnuts and almonds as “heart-healthy” foods, given their high content of unsaturated fats. But research suggests that peanuts are every bit as good for heart health as more expensive nuts.

Peanuts help prevent heart disease by lowering cholesterol levels. They can also stop small blood clots from forming and reduce your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

Weight Loss

Foods with a lot of protein can help you feel full with fewer calories. And among nuts, peanuts are second only to almonds when it comes to protein count. Studies have shown that people who include a moderate amount of peanuts in their diet will not gain weight from peanuts. In fact, peanuts could help them lose weight.

Longer Life Span

Eating peanuts might help you live longer too. A large-scale study found that people who regularly ate any kind of nuts (including peanuts) were less likely to die of any cause than were people who rarely ate nuts.

Because the study was observational, it cannot prove that peanuts were exactly what caused the lower death rates, but they are definitely associated with them.

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Lower Diabetes Risk

Peanuts are a low-glycemic food, which means that eating them won’t cause a spike in your blood sugar levels. Studies have shown that eating peanuts can lower the risk of type 2 diabetes in women.

Reduce Inflammation

Peanuts are a good source of fiber, which helps reduce inflammation throughout your body as well as aids your digestive system.

Cancer Prevention

Research has demonstrated that for older people, eating peanut butter may help lower the risk of developing a certain type of stomach cancer called gastric non cardia adenocarcinoma.

Nutrition

Peanuts are rich in protein, fat, and fiber. While peanuts may have a large amount of fat, most of the fats they contain are known as “good fats.” These kinds of fats actually help lower your cholesterol levels.

Peanuts are also an excellent source of:

Nutrients per Serving

A ¼ cup serving of raw peanuts contains:

  • Calories: 207
  • Protein: 9 grams
  • Fat: 18 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 6 grams
  • Protein: 9 grams
  • Fiber: 3 grams
  • Sugar: 1 gram

Things to Watch Out For

While peanuts are healthy foods, not everyone can enjoy them. An allergy to peanuts is the most common food allergy in the United States, causing the majority of all food-allergy-related deaths.

A mild peanut allergy shows symptoms like itchy hives, nausea, or swelling of the face. However, a severe peanut allergy can cause a life-threatening reaction known as anaphylaxis. Symptoms of anaphylaxis include trouble breathing; a change in alertness; nausea; vomiting; seizure; chest pain; swelling of the tongue, face, or lips; extreme drowsiness; and feeling dizzy, confused, or light-headed.

It’s important to talk to a doctor if you experience any uncomfortable feelings while eating peanuts.

How to Use Peanuts

Peanuts can be eaten raw, blanched, roasted, boiled, fried, powdered, or made into peanut butter. Eating them with their thin, papery skin is most nutritionally beneficial, as the skin contains the many antioxidants and phytochemicals. Adding more peanuts to your diet is easy enough to do, whether with peanuts or peanut butter.

Here are some ways to use peanuts in a variety of dishes:

● Bake peanuts into cookies or pies. 

● Make a peanut butter and banana sandwich.

● Add peanut butter to hummus.

● Top your yogurt with peanuts.

● Toss peanuts in a salad.

● Add peanuts to your stir fry or noodles dish.

● Mix peanuts into a trail mix.

● Dip spring rolls into Thai peanut sauce.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on November 14, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: “Nut and peanut butter consumption and the risk of esophageal and gastric cancer subtypes.”

ESHA Research, Inc., Salem, Oregon.

Harvard Health: “Fight inflammation with food.”

Harvard Health: “Peanuts linked to same heart, longevity benefits as more pricey nuts.”

Harvard School of Public Health: “Peanuts and peanut butter can be healthy.”

JAMA: “Nut and peanut butter consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes in women.”

JAMA Internal Medicine: “Prospective Evaluation of the Association of Nut/Peanut Consumption With Total and Cause-Specific Mortality.”

Linus Pauling Institute: “Nuts.”

Michigan Today: “Let them eat legumes.”

National Peanut Board: “Diabetes and Peanuts.”

National Peanut Board: “History of Peanuts and Peanut Butter.”

Northwestern Medicine: “Exploring Food Allergy Origins and Treatments.”

University of Rochester Medical Center: “In a Nutshell: Understanding Peanut Allergies.”

© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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