Eating Peanuts Has Benefits For General Health, Managing Diabetes And Heart Health

Peanuts, some cracked on a white background.
Consuming peanuts helps manage diabetes and improve heart health. Copyright: cokemomo / 123RF
  • Peanut consumption appears to lower risk factors affecting cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
  • Peanuts are a great energy source because of their high fat content.

Peanuts (Arachis hypogaea L.) are one of those nuts we should eat perhaps in small amounts everyday. You might ask why? Well for a start they are not nuts but actually belong to the legume family which includes pulses, soya beans and lentils. They do however appear to be similar to walnuts and other nuts with the range of benefits they bring on consumption. We also eat them as a snack almost as if they were true nuts.

Peanuts are also a good source of edible oil and the range of products using peanuts is ever expanding.

Different Peanuts Are Used For Snacks And Peanut Butters

You probably did not know this but whilst all peanuts come from one species which is genetically similar to its ancestors of 10,000 years ago, a few varieties are used for either snacks or peanut butter.

Virginia

The Virginia peanut is probably the best variety known and the one that is found in most snack bags and packs. They have the largest kernels and generally the best flavour. You will not find them in peanut butter. the variety is grown in the US states of Virginia and the Carolinas but they have also passed into neighbouring areas such as Texas and New Mexico.

Runner

The peanut butter’s variety. These now make up 80% of all peanuts grown in the USA and to a large extent Europe now. The kernels are smaller than Virginia but highly uniform in size and excellent for further processing. They also produce a highly uniform flavour on roasting.

Spanish

The Spanish variety has a red skin and is smaller but ideal for snack packs. They have a higher oil content which means they are good for roasting. Mostly grown in Texas and Oklahoma. This is a variety used in confectionary as well as peanut butter. Also popular with European producers in Spain and Eastern Europe including Turkey

Valencia

 These have three or more kernels per shell. It has a sweet flavour and is most popular in all-natural peanut butters. These peanuts are also used as boiled peanuts. They are only 1% of total US production. 

Energy And Nutrition Of Peanuts

Peanuts are powerhouses of nutrition and energy. The kernel contains lipid (50%), protein (25%) and carbohydrate (16%).

They contain plenty of mono- and unsaturated fats which are needed for the building of cell membranes and other components as well as being fantastic sources of metabolic energy.

Peanuts are also low in carbohydrates but full of proteins. That’s highly valuable for anyone adopting a keto-style diet. They also appear to be a good nutritious alternative to meat products which means they now appear in vegan/vegetarian foods.

What else? They are good sources of many vitamins such as vitamin E, B vitamins like thiamine (B1), of B3 and B9.

The mineral content is interesting – a source of phosphorous and magnesium and of copper too. Copper is a mineral at the heart of many systems for dealing with infection because various enzymes are used to generate free radicals which are used to destroy bacteria and viruses.

Squirrel eating peanuts
Image by oldiefan c/o Pixabay.

Peanuts contain phenolic acids, resveratrol which is also found in red wine and red grapes, the amino acid arginine, flavonoids and phytosterols. These all have important parts to play in maintaining immunity and helping our bodies cope with free radical damage to our cells.

Some of the processing we do is also beneficial as it makes the components in peanuts more readily accessible or modifies them which improves their properties. Don’t be put off if the peanut is roasted or gently fried as this helps in digestability.

The Antioxidant Content Of Peanuts

Peanut kernels are a very good source of antioxidants and phytosterols.

The antioxidant activity of various preparations made from peanuts has been analysed. These include protein concentrates, protein isolates and defatted flours. The linoleate peroxidation method (Me + Mb, Fe2+-EDTA (1:1), beef homogenates) has been used in this analysis (Rhee et al., 1977).

The total phenolic acid content is around 63.3mg/100g in the whole nut and rises to 175.5mg/100g in peanut flour (Dabrowski & Sosulski, 1984).

The components found in peanut flour include trans-p-coumaric acid, syringic acid, trans-ferulic acid, trans-caffeic acid and p-hydroxybenzoic acids. The component in the highest amount was trans-p-coumaric acid present at 146.4mg/100g flour.

Heart Health And Cardiovascular Disease  

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) along with diabetes are still one of the main causes of poor health globally. Diabetes in particular is a rising issue for developing societies. A study reported in the Journal Of Nutrition and supported by The Peanut Institute (USA) highlights the benefits of eating a large portion of peanuts in reducing certain risk factors. Blood lipid profiles are positively influenced and the functioning of blood vessels improved.

Heart puzzle. Symbol for atherosclerosis in the community.
Photo by PIRO4D, c/o Pixabay.

The study was small-scale. It was a randomized, controlled, intervention trial with 15 healthy but overweight or obese men. The subjects consumed two different shakes which were chocolate-flavoured and dairy-based. One contained 3-oz of ground peanuts per serve and the other had no peanuts. Each shake was consumed one week apart in a randomized order. They both had similar amounts of total fat and saturated fat, calories, protein and carbohydrates.

Lipids, lipoproteins including HDL and LDL cholesterol, glucose, and insulin were analysed in blood samples taken before and after consumption of the shake. The timings for the blood samples after consumption were 30, 60, 12, and 240 minutes generating a profile. Blood flow was also measured as an assessment of the integrity and functioning of blood vessels.

The study demonstrated that a reasonably large or chronic consumption of peanuts appeared to help improve blood flow. The researchers also noticed the rise in blood lipids which normally happens after consuming a meal was significantly lower than usual. It is reckoned that eating a portion of peanuts as part of a high-fat meal would help improve blood lipid levels as well as blood vessel functioning. The benefits in the long term are reducing cardiovascular disease and managing diabetes.

Weight Loss

Peanuts are often incorporated into a diet where high levels of protein and fibre are needed but not carbs. A good addition to foods where a healthy weight needs to be maintained. They also seem to have satiety benefits which means they help keep us feeling full for longer. A snack which stops us eating more unhealthy snacks in many ways!

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Image by lloorraa from Pixabay

Charging Up Our Immunity

Peanuts are nutrient-dense which is vital in the fight for maintaining our immunity at the highest order. Not only does it help with managing blood pressure and keeping cholesterol levels at an acceptable level, it also provides many nutrients which all our immune cells will benefit from.

Rolling back The Years

Aging is a consequence of living. One of the bioactives called resveratrol actually helps in reducing the affects of cell aging. It is effectively as anti-aging compound as well as having many other benefits.

Reference On Peanuts

Access to the paper in the Journal Of Nutrition from the The Peanut Institute. (Accessed 24th May, 2017).

Dabrowski, K. J., & Sosulski, F. W. (1984). Composition of free and hydrolyzable phenolic acids in defatted flours of ten oilseeds. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry32(1), pp. 128-130 (Article).

Rhee, K. S., Ziprin, Y. A., & Rhee, K. C. (1979). Water‐soluble antioxidant activity of oilseed protein derivatives in model lipid peroxidation systems of meat. Journal of Food Science44(4), pp. 1132-1135 (Article). 

Postscript: If you want to know more about the nutritional benefits of nuts check out this short review. We have also been looking at why walnuts are healthy for you too.

Disclaimer: The information provided here is intended to provide free education about certain medical conditions and certain possible treatment. It is not a substitute for examination, diagnosis, treatment, and medical care provided by a licensed and qualified health professional. If you believe you, your child or someone you know suffers from the conditions described herein, please see your health care provider immediately. Do not attempt to treat yourself, your child, or anyone else without proper medical supervision. You acknowledge and agree that FoodWrite Ltd is liable for any loss or damage which may be incurred by you as a result of the information provided here, or as a result of any reliance placed by you on the completeness, accuracy or existence of any information provided herein.

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