When it comes to eating healthy, the mainstream still gets it wrong.
They’ll tell you to trade in your favorite foods for sugar-free, fat-free, chemical-ladened Franken-snacks. But that’s a terrible idea for anyone who cares about their heart health and wants to fight cardiovascular disease.
The best advice is to eat foods in as close to their natural state as possible. Fresh fruits, vegetables, healthy fats- such as coconut oil – whole grains, and lean meats are filled with heart healthy nutrients. Nuts are also a great addition to a healthy diet when it comes to stopping cardiovascular disease.
So, when you’re at the ballpark this summer reach for a bag of peanuts.
Nuts and your heart: Eating nuts for heart health
Believe it or not, scientific evidence shows that those tasty ballpark snacks can put you on the fast track to better heart health.
In a new study, Spanish scientists divided healthy participants into three groups. One ate a 32-gram serving of peanut butter daily, another ate a 25-gram serving of roasted peanuts daily, and the final group ate a placebo for six months. All groups had their cardiovascular health tracked during the trial.
The heart health benefits were surprising!
Eating peanuts slowed cardiovascular disease
Both the peanut and peanut butter groups experienced improvements to their cardiovascular health, including a boost in health markers linked to reducing blood clots and improving blood flow.
Why are peanuts so good for the heart?
Peanuts and peanut butter are so good for your heart because they contain compounds – called polyphenols – that fight inflammation, which can lead to cardiovascular disease.1
“The bottom line, finding is that peanuts can play an important role in promoting heart health by preventing atherosclerosis, reducing inflammation and improving vascular health,” says Dr. Samara Sterling, a nutrition scientist and research director for The Peanut Institute.2
Sound scientific evidence or peanut industry promotion?
Now, I’m always skeptical of research that’s done by an industry group, and The Peanut Institute is without question a peanut industry group. However, this isn’t the first time research found peanuts to be good for your heart.
Public health studies and independent research studies have borne out more good results for peanut consumption when it comes to fighting cardiovascular disease.
More health benefits from peanut consumption
A 2021 study of nearly 75,000 folks aged 45 to 74 showed that peanut consumption can help you fight stroke, heart disease, and death from cardiovascular events.3
The researchers concluded that “Higher peanut consumption was associated with reduced risks of total stroke, ischemic stroke, and cardiovascular disease among men and women.”
And there’s more to celebrate about peanuts, according to that study’s lead researcher, Isabella Parilli-Moser. “In addition to helping lower the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, the consumption of nuts and peanuts has been linked to a lower risk of diabetes, especially due to the protective effect of the polyphenols found in these foods.”
Eating peanuts beats other, pricier nuts
Harvard Men’s Health Watch reported back in 2015 that eating peanuts– which are far cheaper than tree nuts– is just as beneficial, if not more beneficial to your cardiovascular health.4
An international team of researchers followed more than 200,000 people world-wide and found that those with higher nut consumption lived longer. In fact, they were far less likely to die from cardiovascular disease than those who had lower nut consumption.
More science: Peanuts and heart health
Harvard led two additional scientific studies that included positive results on eating peanuts, the Nurses’ Health Study II and the Harvard Professionals Follow-up Study.
“This confirms what we found a few years ago — and our results were greeted with intense skepticism,” says Dr. Meir Stampfer, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “Botanically, peanuts are not nuts, but nutritionally they are very similar to tree nuts, and other studies have shown their benefits.”
So, if peanuts aren’t nuts, what are they?
Peanuts are legumes. They’re more closely related to soybeans or lentils than they are to pecans. Despite being legumes, they contain more protein than almost any other nut, offering 25 grams of protein per every 100-gram serving. By the way, 100 grams is a little more than half a cup.
Peanuts are also rich in vitamin B and vitamin E as well as several essential minerals such as magnesium and phosphorous. Plus, peanuts are high in dietary fiber.
Of course, even with all these amazing health benefits, there’s still resistance to eating peanuts. Peanuts may be filled with essential nutrients shown in randomized clinical trial to improve heart health, but many folks are still concerned about their high fat content and high cholesterol and weight gain.
Do peanuts raise cholesterol?
Even though peanuts are a high fat food, they contain a healthy fat called monounsaturated fat as well as numerous heart healthy nutrients that, scientific evidence shows, help prevent cholesterol absorption in the body. These compounds include:
- phenolic acids
In fact, the latest heart health studies suggest that increasing your peanut consumption is a good idea if you want to lower cholesterol.
Heart healthy nutrients in peanuts lower cholesterol
According to a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Cardiology, eating a diet rich in plant-based protein and fats, including nuts, peanuts, and peanut butter, was found to lower cholesterol. In addition, participants lived longer than the others who ate diets with animal-based protein and fats, such as lamb, pork, or chicken.5
Additional research into the health benefits of peanuts found that this was especially true for people suffering with conditions that put them at greater risk of cardiovascular disease, such as type-2 diabetes.
In a study published in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition, health professionals found that, for people with diabetes, the heart health benefits of eating peanuts and tree nuts were profound. The scientific evidence suggested that a daily intake of peanuts and tree nuts significantly reduced total cholesterol and triglycerides in people with type-2 diabetes.6
And when it comes to weight gain, scientific evidence suggests that increasing your dietary intake of peanuts can be a big help to your waistline.
Help you lose weight
Even though peanuts are high in calories, they can help you maintain a healthy weight.
A study published in 2019 found that increasing nut consumption, including eating peanuts, can help reduce weight gain. The scientists concluded that replacing unhealthy snack foods with nuts is a healthy dietary pattern that will prevent cardiovascular risk factors such as obesity.
Is peanut oil good or bad for you?
Peanut products such as peanut oil are also good choices to reduce coronary heart disease risk, stroke risk and high blood pressure. That’s because, like peanuts, peanut oil is high in heart healthy antioxidants and good monounsaturated fat.
Peanut oil can also be used for frying because it has a high smoke point, the temperature at which the oil starts to burn. For peanut oil the smoke point is 444.92 F.
BOOST your cardiovascular health for “peanuts” a day!
Whether you choose to increase your peanut consumption by eating peanuts or peanut butter, either one is a downright bargain for a healthy source of protein, fats, vitamins, and fiber.
As I mentioned earlier, one of the great things about peanuts – and peanut butter – is the price. A serving of peanuts comes with a 15-cent price tag on average. And a serving of peanut butter will only set you back 19 cents.
If you’re anything like me, you’re probably on your way right now to the pantry to grab a handful of roasted peanuts—a favorite of mine. Or you can add a spoonful of peanut butter to your oatmeal or smoothie, spread it on a cracker or piece of toast, or just eat it on its own.
What’s a healthy serving of nuts?
If you’re eating whole peanuts by the handful, the experts report that an ounce a day of nuts — roughly a quarter cup or a small handful — is generally a heart healthy portion. One thing to remember, like all healthy foods, peanuts and peanut butter can become unhealthy if prepared incorrectly.
One word of caution: When buying peanut products be sure to purchase a natural variety with NO added hydrogenated oils or refined sugars. Even better, look for dry-roasted peanuts that use only sea salt for seasoning.