Health Benefits Of Peanuts:
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Your Heart Will Go Nuts for Peanuts
Peanuts are rich in monounsaturated fats, the type of fat that is emphasized in the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet. Studies of diets with a special emphasis on peanuts have shown that this little legume is a big ally for a healthy heart. In one such randomized, double-blind, cross-over study involving 22 subjects, a high monounsaturated diet that emphasized peanuts and peanut butter decreased cardiovascular disease risk by an estimated 21% compared to the average American diet.
In addition to their monounsaturated fat content, peanuts feature an array of other nutrients that, in numerous studies, have been shown to promote heart health. Peanuts are good sources of protein and manganese. In addition, peanuts provide resveratrol, the phenolic antioxidant also found in red grapes and red wine that is thought to be responsible for the French paradox: the fact that in France, people consume a diet that is not low in fat, but have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease compared to the U.S. With all of the important nutrients provided by nuts like peanuts, it is no wonder that numerous research studies, including the Nurses' Health Study that involved over 86,000 women, have found that frequent nut consumption is related to reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.
Peanuts Rival Fruit as a Source of AntioxidantsNot only do peanuts contain oleic acid, the healthful fat found in olive oil, but new research shows these tasty legumes are also as rich in antioxidants as many fruits.
While unable to boast an antioxidant content that can compare with the fruits highest in antioxidants, such as pomegranate, roasted peanuts do rival the antioxidant content of blackberries and strawberries, and are far richer in antioxidants than apples, carrots or beets. Research conducted by a team of University of Florida scientists, published in the journal Food Chemistry, shows that peanuts contain high concentrations of antioxidant polyphenols, primarily a compound called p-coumaric acid, and that roasting can increase peanuts' p-coumaric acid levels, boosting their overall antioxidant content by as much as 22%.
Peanuts' Antioxidants Key to their Heart-Health Benefits
Nuts' high antioxidant content helps explain results seen in the Iowa Women's Health Study in which risk of death from cardiovascular and coronary heart diseases showed strong and consistent reductions with increasing nut/peanut butter consumption. Total death rates decreased 11% and 19% for nut/peanut butter intake once per week and 1-4 times per week, respectively. When evidence from all four studies was combined, subjects consuming nuts at least 4 times a week showed a 37% reduced risk of coronary heart disease compared to those who never or seldom ate nuts. Each additional serving of nuts per week was associated with an average 8.3% reduced risk of coronary heart disease.
Practical Tip: To lower your risk of cardiovascular and coronary heart disease, enjoy a handful of peanuts or other nuts, or a tablespoon of nut butter, at least 4 times a week.
Peanuts are an excellent source of biotin. They are also a very good source of copper as well as a good source of manganese, niacin, molybdenum vitamin E, phosphorus, vitamin B1 and protein.
Potentially Reduced Risk of Stroke Based on Preliminary Animal StudiesResveratrol is a flavonoid first studied in red grapes and red wine, but now also found to be present in peanuts. In animal studies on resveratrol itself (the purified nutrient given in intravenous form, not the food form), this phytonutrient has been determined to improve blood flow in the brain by as much as 30%, thus greatly reducing the risk of stroke, according to the results of a laboratory animal study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
Lead researcher Kwok Tung Lu hypothesized that resveratrol exerted this very beneficial effect by stimulating the production and/or release of nitric oxide (NO), a molecule made in the lining of blood vessels (the endothelium) that signals the surrounding muscle to relax, dilating the blood vessel and increasing blood flow. In the animals that received resveratrol, the concentration of nitric oxide (NO) in the affected part of the brain was 25% higher than that seen not only in the ischemia-only group, but even in the control animals.
The jury is still out on peanuts however, since they contain far less resveratrol than the amounts used in the above study, and also less than the amount provided by red wine. An ounce of red wine can provide as much as 1,000 micrograms of resveratrol, and it almost always provides over 75 micrograms. The same ounce of peanut butter can only provide about 50 micrograms of resveratrol. Still, routine consumption of peanuts or peanut butter might turn out to be significant in terms of the resveratrol provided by this food.
Eating Nuts Lowers Risk of Weight Gain
Although nuts are known to provide a variety of cardio-protective benefits, many avoid them for fear of weight gain. A prospective study published in the journal Obesity shows such fears are groundless. In fact, people who eat nuts at least twice a week are much less likely to gain weight than those who almost never eat nuts.
The 28-month study involving 8,865 adult men and women in Spain, found that participants who ate nuts at least two times per week were 31% less likely to gain weight than were participants who never or almost never ate nuts.
And, among the study participants who gained weight, those who never or almost never ate nuts gained more (an average of 424 g more) than those who ate nuts at least twice weekly.