Peanuts – Not Just for Kids

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The little kid in all of us still loves peanut butter. And now there’s great news – a growing body of research is showing just how good peanuts are for adults, too. Peanuts pack a lot of nutrition into a tiny package. They are a good source of inexpensive protein, with 7 grams in a one-ounce serving. There are also 2 grams of fiber and almost one quar-ter of the RDA for vitamin E in each ounce, plus magnesium, potassium, copper, vitamin E and folic acid – and many other vitamins and minerals!

A Healthy Handful
Fear of fat keeps many people from making peanuts part of their diet, but many studies are showing that the monounsaturated fat in peanuts is a healthy choice – especially since it comes with so much else that’s good for you.

• Heart health – Several studies have shown that including peanuts in the diet can help reduce the risk for heart disease by lowering both cholesterol and triglyceride levels. There are several things in peanuts that promote a healthy cardiovascular system – monounsaturated fat, vitamin E, folate, and other biologically active substances that may help prevent blood clots from forming or keep cholesterol from being absorbed.
• Cancer prevention – Peanuts contain beta-sitosterol, a substance which may protect against colon, prostate and breast cancer.
• Weight control – Even though peanuts are high in fat, recent studies have shown that people who snacked on peanuts and peanut butter naturally adjusted their caloric intake to compensate. The overall quality of their diet was better, too, because they ate less artery-clogging saturated fat. Other research has shown that people who followed a Mediterranean-style diet in which peanuts and peanut butter provided part of the fat were able to take off as much weight as people on a low-fat diet. Even better, they found the diet so satisfying that they were able to keep most of the weight off when the study was over.

Don’t Forget Peanut Butter!
It’s a myth that peanut butter contains artery-clogging trans fatty acids – a recent study has shown it has the same type of fat as peanuts. So if you like peanut butter, purchase the regular variety instead of the reduced-fat variety, which has just as many calories, but more sugar and less of the healthful monounsaturated fats.

Beyond Cookies and Jelly
The flavor of peanuts is so well loved that it can be used to make other nutritious foods taste better. Stir a little peanut butter into some broth for a sauce to top vegetables, or add grated apples to peanut butter sandwiches. Chopped peanuts can be stirred into coleslaw or sprinkled over a casserole. Mashed sweet potatoes or carrots can be blended with peanut butter for a dynamite sandwich filling.

Peanut Info
• Americans love peanuts – we eat about 6.5 pounds per person each year, about half of it as peanut butter.
• Never seen a peanut tree? That’s because peanuts are not nuts, but legumes (beans). They are also called ground nuts because they grow under the ground.
• Learn more about peanuts by checking out these websites:
www.peanutsusa.com
www.peanut-institute.org
Peanut Butter Spread
Great on sandwiches or sliced apples!
1 package silken tofu
6 tablespoons peanut butter
Place tofu and peanut butter into blender or food processor and whirl until smooth. Stop to scrape down sides as needed. You can add mashed or grated fruits and vegetables if you like. Bananas, applesauce, frozen juice concentrate, shredded carrots, raisins or other dried fruit are all good. (Source: http://www.soyfoods.com/SimplySoy/)
By Cheryl Sullivan, MA, RD.

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