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As more and more people adopt a plant-based diet, there's a broader interest in the health benefits of peanuts. Peanuts are one of the more widely known and consumed legumes, and a long-time beloved snack for many. There's no denying that peanuts are enjoyable regardless of what form they come in, but are peanuts healthy?
The Health Benefits of Peanuts
In short, yes, peanuts are good for you, and here's why.
Peanuts do a lot for our bodies, beginning with the effect it has on cholesterol levels. Peanut and peanut oil health benefits begin with the high content of unsaturated fats found in both the whole peanut and the oil derived from this nut. Those unsaturated fats help to reduce your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels, which lowers your risk of developing cardiovascular and heart disease. It also lowers the risk of a stroke.
Similarly, lower cholesterol levels can affect the development of diabetes. For those who have not developed diabetes, the stronger heart health promoted by adding peanuts to your diet can actually work to prevent the onset of the disease. For those who already have diabetes, eating peanuts can help keep blood sugar levels in check. By reducing LDL cholesterol in the body, diabetic symptoms can be reduced.
Another one of the peanut oil health benefits that can be enjoyed is in the way it affects high blood pressure or hypertension. Peanuts contain omega-3 fatty acids, which work to lower blood pressure. By reducing blood pressure, you can reduce your risk of developing heart disease.
It's also believed that peanuts can help prevent certain types of cancer, particularly because they contain phytosterols. Phytosterols are chemical compounds that fight cancer and are especially effective against colon, prostate, and breast cancers. Additionally, some research indicates that one of the health benefits of peanuts is that they can affect the growth of cancer cells in women who have already been diagnosed with colorectal cancer.
If that's not enough to answer the question of are peanuts healthy, further research indicates that peanuts can help prevent skin cancer from developing. Both the high vitamin E content and unsaturated fats found in peanuts work to reduce the damage that UV rays can do to the skin. Inflammation is reduced and the immune system is strengthened, fortifying the body's ability to defend against sun damage.
Do Peanuts Help You Lose Weight?
When people ask are peanuts healthy, one of their major concerns is how it will affect weight loss or weight management. Well, the good news is that the properties found in peanuts actually help to reduce hunger and promote weight loss. The fiber, unsaturated fats, and protein that peanuts provide sustains the body and leaves you feeling fuller for longer periods. Because you're left feeling satisfied, you're less likely to snack uncontrollably or to overeat. To maximize this beneficial trait of peanuts, opt for boiled peanuts over roasted peanuts. The boiled peanuts have fewer calories.
Peanut Butter Health Benefits
Many of the same benefits enjoyed through the consumption of whole peanuts can also be derived from eating peanut butter. In addition to the peanut oil health benefits previously mentioned, peanut butter is a powerhouse of nutrients that includes 49mg of magnesium for better bone health. Additionally, peanut butter health benefits include 200mg of potassium, which is essential for maintaining muscle mass, and 0.17mg of vitamin B6 for promoting a stronger immune system.
Like eating regular peanuts, another one of the more popular peanut butter health benefits is in its ability to help people lose weight. Peanut butter contains monounsaturated fat, which can help reduce stomach fat in adults. In fact, studies indicate that monounsaturated fats are better for managing weight than carbohydrates and unsaturated fats.
The Downside to Peanut Products
When looking at the advantages of eating whole peanuts, there are options that can make peanuts unhealthy. For instance, salted peanuts should be avoided. When buying peanuts, peanut oil, or peanut butter, it's important to look at the nutritional facts for each product, because sodium levels can range from 40 mg to 250 mg. While the higher sodium content masks the natural flavor of the peanut, it also negatively impacts cardiovascular health.
Another thing to watch out for, especially in peanut butter, is the sugar content. Natural or organic brands have lower levels, around 1 to 2 grams per serving, but commercial brands can have twice that much sugar or more. Sugar content can affect flavor, but opting for a lower sugar content, or even an unsweetened brand, can help reduce blood sugar levels.
In the Netherlands Cohort Study, Dutch scientists found that eating just 10 grams of peanuts per day (12 peanuts) had vast benefits on the body. They found that there was a 17% lower risk of dying from any cause for people who ate this small quantity of peanuts each day. Additionally, they found that a 12 peanut daily intake reduced the risks of cancer by 21% and death by diabetes was reduced by a 30% margin. Fatal neurodegenerative diseases were also reduced by 47% from the daily 10 grams of peanuts. So, however you best enjoy peanuts, there's no denying that you're doing your body good by eating them regularly.