Peanuts are chock-full of heart-healthy unsaturated fats

Peanuts are Forbidden? Don’t Be Nuts!

A peanut butter sandwich was once a staple in sack lunches – whether it was for a child attending school or for an adult heading out to work for the day. Peanut butter has traditionally been an inexpensive food, and a little goes a long way. One serving is 2 tbsp – about 32 g. So a 1 kg jar of peanut butter contains more than 30 servings. That makes a lot of sandwiches!

A lot of more glamorous and expensive foods exist these days, many of them developed as a peanut butter substitute at the peak of the allergy craze. Between the broader options and concerns over peanut allergies, peanut butter sandwiches are not nearly as common as they used to be. But please don’t get the idea that you should give up on peanuts altogether!

Peanut: Humble but Heart-Healthy!
The humble peanut offers the same health benefits as more expensive tree nuts
(Image: sponchia/Pixabay/CC0)

The Vilification of the Humble Peanut

But the poor peanut has been a dietary pariah for decades now. First, doctors told heart patients to stop eating peanut because of concerns over the saturated fats it contains. But later, it was absolutely vilified because of the severity of some people’s peanut allergies. Schools banned any food containing peanut, parents of small children were told to withhold peanuts until age 3 or 4, and doctors even advised pregnant and nursing women to avoid eating anything containing peanut for fear it would promote the allergy in their babies.

These days, research shows peanut avoidance may actually have contributed to an increase in peanut allergies. It also shows that there is no scientific basis for the belief that someone with a peanut allergy can be triggered just by smelling or being in the same room with peanuts. All of the extreme measures schools took for a while are probably unnecessary too, and we are seeing a more relaxed approach that focuses on better hygiene rather than on complete banning of peanut products. This all falls in line with the decision to rescind recommendations of peanut avoidance for pregnant and nursing women, as well as for infants and toddlers.

 

Avoiding peanuts? You may not have to! | #hearthealth #allergies
Peanuts are no longer the evil we once considered them to be!
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(Image from a public domain photo by ddouk/Pixabay

 

Peanuts and Heart Health

When I was in my teens my father had a heart attack. During diet counselling afterwards, the doctor and the dietitian both expressed concern about the fact that Dad loved to eat peanuts. He was told this food was too fatty, and that he could no longer eat roasted nuts for a snack. I remember it being a pretty big deal for him, as this was one of the few foods he really looked forward to as a treat.

The good news is that health experts today aren’t telling people to stop eating peanuts anymore.

Whereas the lowly peanut was to be avoided a few decades ago, new research suggests that a peanut possesses a lot of the same health benefits as more expensive tree nuts like almond, pecan, or walnut. The heart-healthy monounsaturated fats in peanuts help to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol without causing weight gain, and may also help lower high blood pressure. A diet rich in monounsaturated fats may also prevent type II diabetes and help you fight belly fat. Peanuts also contain linoleic acid, an omega-6 essential fatty acid that our bodies need.

So I’m snacking on a handful of peanuts as I write this, and I am definitely going to continue enjoying my peanut butter! Next time I write about peanuts and peanut butter, I’ll talk more about the other nutrients and about how these groundnuts are actually more similar to legumes like Lima beans than they are like tree nuts.

 

Featured image credit: Peanuts by forwimuwi73/Pixabay (CC0 1.0)

 

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21 thoughts on “Peanuts are Forbidden? Don’t Be Nuts!”

  1. I actually lose weight when I eat peanut butter. I do not like peanuts…I know, odd. Anyhow I love peanut butter and think it is very healthy. I had to give it up for two years because I thought I developed an allergy to it. However found out that my allergy is to many different trees but it can also be triggered by peanuts and other nuts. So I can eat it again but have to take an allergy pill or be miserable. I ate my first sandwich yesterday and was in peanut heaven!

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    1. Do you eat the commercial peanut butter that contains additional ingredients, Kim? Or do you prefer peanut butter that is just the ground nuts? I’m wondering if using one or the other would make a difference, in terms of triggering your other allergies.

      I’m glad you can now eat peanut butter again! I know what it’s like to have to abstain from a favourite food because of health issues. For years, I had to avoid grapefruit – which I absolutely adore! It was a real treat when my situation changed, and I was allowed to eat it again.

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  2. I’m very glad that the fats in peanuts are no longer automatically frowned upon. Seems that common sense has come into play, which is a good thing. I also saw news recently about overcoming a peanut allergy by eating peanuts (with medical supervision) in ever-increasing quantities. Seems to be some promise there, too. I’ve very thankful we don’t have peanut butter issues in our immediate family. I do love an occasional peanut butter sandwich!

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    1. We are also fortunate to have no peanut issues in our household, though my niece has a peanut allergy. Yes, there is some promise in what’s called “oral immunotherapy” for peanut allergies. From what I’ve read, it seems most children who receive the treatment can safely resume eating peanuts. The approach still isn’t widely accepted, and I think that’s in part because the person has to keep eating peanuts regularly in order to ensure the continued safety. A similar approach that involves early exposure to peanuts for infants who show signs of a potential allergy has also shown good results. But again, it’s not yet clear how long the immunity will last if the child isn’t consistently exposed to peanuts.

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  3. I love peanuts and peanut butter, though I have moved onto almond butter these days. In both cases, I buy it in 1Kg tubs and it is made ONLY from the relevant nuts, no added salt, sugar or palm oil.I eat it by the spoonful, though i also enjoy “sludge” which is a spoonful of nut butter with 2 spoonfuls of flavoured protein powder, mixed with water, to form a thick dessert. Yum!

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    1. I haven’t yet tried commercially produced almond butter, though I suspect I will find it rather addictive when I do! I’ve eaten other alternative nut butters, including chick pea butter and a dark sesame butter from China.

      I love the all-natural peanut butter that I grind myself in the store. I do like the commercial stuff for some things, but the 100% peanut one is best in my opinion.

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  4. I have been a vegetarian for over twenty years. Nuts are an integral part of my diet. I love them nd am so glad that they are so good for you!

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    1. Both nuts and legumes are great resources for a vegetarian. A lot of folks mistakenly think that a vegetarian diet consists mainly of rather low-calorie, low-protein foods. The meat alternatives like nuts, seeds, legumes, eggs and tofu are significant too.

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    1. Yes, nuts are healthy! But a lot of people have been dissuaded from eating peanuts because the “experts” said they had too many calories or too much oil.

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  5. I eat ALL types of nuts but I am afraid to say that peanuts will NOT prevent diabetes. I come from a long line of PB eaters and all peanuts but I have diabetes and My dad came down with it when he was in his late 60`s .

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    1. Nobody said that peanuts prevent diabetes, Andria. The article says that a diet rich in monounsaturated fats MAY prevent it. If you want the exact details, you can lower your risk of type II diabetes 60% by eating a healthy diet with plenty of whole grains and fresh produce, in which you have replaced saturated and trans fats with healthier unsaturated fats (like peanut, olive, and sunflower oil.)

      That doesn’t mean that simply eating peanuts will magically prevent diabetes if you are at risk and your diet is full of saturated fats and unhealthy carbs. It doesn’t even mean that you’re 100% protected if you follow the healthy diet perfectly. And the fact that some people (like my father, you, and your father) who eat peanuts get diabetes, doesn’t mean that they can’t contribute both to its prevention and its management.

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  6. My older sister is allergic to peanuts. It doesn’t stop her from having peanutbutter in her home. As her kids love it.

    I love peanutbutter I would grab a jar and grana spoon when I was a kid. That was what I wanted as a snack. Not a candy bar. I was a weird kid. Lol. My teen son picked the same habit. He will have a jar of peanutbutter and mark it with his name.

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    1. Many people like to eat peanut butter from a spoon! I love it with blackstrap molasses, a habit I picked up from my father 🙂

      I’m glad your sister feels comfortable having peanut butter in her home for the rest of the family. There are a lot of people who are overly frightened – and sadly, even misinformed by their doctors – of things like having a reaction from just smelling the nuts. Scientific research shows that there must be actual physical contact with the nut or nut oil to trigger the allergy. But many people unfortunately get so anxious because of the severity of their reactions, that just knowing peanuts are in the room can make them feel physically ill.

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    1. I prefer the dry roast peanuts to commercially produced peanut butter. BUT if it’s peanut butter made just from ground nuts, I love it! And I also love to make peanut butter cookies 🙂

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