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The Benefits of Peanuts Are Good For You

    Abdulaziz Sobh
    By Abdulaziz Sobh

    Categories: Health

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    Whether they are crushed in butter, eaten directly from the shell or sprinkled on a salad, peanuts are a popular snack. According to a recent survey of 2,000 adults conducted by the market research firm Mintel, 64 percent said they had eaten peanuts in the past three months. That's more than those who said they had eaten almonds, cashews, pistachios or mixed nuts.

    But an ounce of dry roasted peanuts has 166 calories and 14 grams of fat, which makes some people, even some health professionals, include them in the food category "sometimes."

    A recent survey of approximately 760 dieticians, general practitioners (GPs) and nurse practitioners in New Zealand, for example, revealed that they were more likely to recommend that their patients eat tree nuts such as almonds, cashews, pistachios and peanuts; and most of the GPs and nurse practitioners rated the peanuts as "slightly less healthy" than tree nuts.

    Such beliefs are wrong, says Vasanti Malik, Ph.D., research scientist at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

    "Peanuts are really healthy," says Malik. "They are certainly high in calories and fat, but fat is good fat."

    Great health benefits?
    Peanuts are technically leguminous, but they are grouped in the nuts category because they have a similar nutritional profile, says Ellen Klosz, a nutritionist at Consumer Reports. "They are a convenient source of protein and come with the added benefit of healthy nutrients, such as antioxidants, iron, magnesium, and fiber."

    Most fats in peanuts are heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which can help lower "bad" LDL cholesterol. And numerous observational studies have found that eating peanuts is associated with many benefits, especially for the heart.

    A Harvard study in 2017 on more than 210,000 people, for example, found that those who ate two or more servings of peanut per week had a 13 percent reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease compared to those who did not.

    Several studies have also found that peanuts can be good for your waistline. A 2017 study published in the European Journal of Nutrition, for example, found that people who ate most nuts, including peanuts, gained less weight and had a 5% lower risk of being overweight or obese during the study period five years compared to those who did not eat them.

    "Yes, they have a lot of calories," says Malik, "but since they are also rich in protein and fiber, you can feel satisfied without overeating."

    None of these studies shows that peanuts directly reduce the risks of disease and weight gain, so designing a study of this type is almost impossible, but the growing body of evidence seems to suggest a benefit.

    How peanuts are compared to other nuts
    "Having an ounce of nuts several times a week is a healthy movement," says Klosz. (They are around 28 dry roasted peanuts). Each type of nut has its own health benefits, so it is good to eat a variety of types.

    Peanuts have almost the same amount of calories as almonds, cashews, and walnuts, but they win when it comes to proteins (with 7 grams per ounce, they have almost twice as much as nuts, for example), and they are surpassed only by almonds in terms of fiber (2.4 grams vs. 3 grams per ounce).

    Nuts are rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, but peanuts are noted for their arginine content. This amino acid (a protein building block) helps improve blood flow by relaxing constricted blood vessels.

    In addition, peanuts require less water and are easier to grow than tree nuts, which makes them less demanding on the environment and their wallet. "Nuts can be expensive," says Malik, "but peanuts are actually cheaper than many other nuts."

    At Costco, for example, peanuts cost around 20 cents per ounce. The almonds at Costco cost 31 cents per ounce; nuts, 37 cents; pistachios, 39 cents; and cashew nuts, 57 cents.

    How do you eat them?
    Salty vs. without salt, bleached without sautéing, without husk without peel, a handful of nuts vs. a spoonful of peanut butter: Does this make a big nutritional difference? Maybe.

    The antioxidants and beneficial phytochemicals concentrate more on the thin skin and peanut paper, so eating them with their skins intact may be better for your health. "The skins contain many polyphenols," says Malik. "We know that polyphenols are anti-inflammatory and are excellent for health too."

    According to Harvard Medical School, it is best to consume them raw or dry roasted instead of bleached, which removes the skins.

    Also, be careful with the added sugars. "Picking up a package of peanuts when you're on the move may be convenient," says Klosz, "but some of the sweeter versions can put you above your daily allotment of added sugar if you're not careful."

    A 1-ounce serving of Planters Sweet 'N Crunchy Peanuts, for example, has 13 grams (about 3 teaspoons) of sugars, that's about half the maximum daily amount of added sugars for women, a third of the maximum amount for men, and 6.5 times the amount in Planters' dry roasted flat version.

    Also, do not assume that all sweet versions have similar amounts of sugars. Planters Sweet 'N Crunchy peanuts have more than three times the sugars of the Honey Roasted version.

    When it comes to sodium, Malik says that eating lightly salted peanuts is fine for most people, especially if it makes you choose a less healthy snack, such as potato chips. But if you have certain health conditions, such as high blood pressure, opt for the low sodium or no salt versions.

    And although Malik is not aware of any study that has analyzed the consumption of peanuts without a shell in front of shells, it is logical to think that eating them out of the shell could help curb the appetite because thawing them slows you down, says Malik.

    What's with peanut butter?
    A 2-tablespoon serving contains about 14 percent of your daily need for magnesium, which could help with glucose metabolism, help develop bone density in older women and reduce the risk of diabetes and stroke.

    In the Harvard study of 2017, researchers found no cardiac benefits associated with the intake of peanut butter. But that does not necessarily mean it's bad for your health, say the study's authors.

    "It could be the way that peanut butter is consumed," says Malik, who was one of the authors of the study, "with white bread and jam with high sugar content." Malik also says that additional ingredients are added to peanut butter, for example, salt and sweeteners such as honey and sugar may be responsible for nullifying their health effects.

    How to eat them healthy
    Mix them in the meals. Peanuts and peanut butter can puncture the taste and texture of a variety of dishes. You can cut them and sprinkle them on salads, French fries, sandwiches, and cereal bowls; or beat the peanut butter in a sauce, smoothie, soup or sauce.

    Make smart exchanges. Malik and his colleagues at Harvard have discovered that replacing a daily serving of red meat with nuts can yield great benefits. "We saw a great benefit for the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease," says Malik. Instead of eating a sandwich with processed meat, he says, try spreading peanut butter on whole wheat bread.

    Do the same with the sandwiches. They are crispy and salty and give you a satisfaction similar to what you would get from an unhealthy snack without the nutritional traps. "We have seen that if you replace French fries with nuts," says Malik, "there is a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes."

    Roast them yourself. When looking for some sweetness without extra sugar, Harvard Medical School recommends sprinkling peanuts with a little turmeric, cinnamon or cocoa powder, then toast in your oven at 350 ° F for 15 to 20 minutes.

    Comparison store Read nutrition labels to avoid varieties with many added sugars, preservatives and salt and compare brands and flavors. Avoid peanut butter with hydrogenated oils, which can increase the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and stroke by raising "bad" levels of LDL cholesterol, increasing inflammation, and promoting insulin resistance. Do not think you are doing your health a favor butte rosing "reduced-fat" peanut butter. You do not get a great calorie saving and you are reducing heart-healthy fats.