Peanuts Rise to Superfood Status

When it comes to the peanut, it’s true that big things come in small packages. The peanut is a nutrient-rich powerhouse. In fact, based on a mountain of research, this mighty legume deserves superfood status. 

Numerous studies have found that the consumption of small amounts of peanuts or peanut butter has been associated with a reduced risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes. In fact in just the past year alone, new research has shown that those who regularly consumed peanuts had a lower risk for four kinds of cancer – breast, colorectal, esophageal and pancreatic cancers [1-4].

“Studies conducted in the United States and around the world reveal that eating peanuts regularly helps prevent disease, improves life expectancy and delivers positive effects throughout the body,” says Samara Sterling, Ph.D., director of research for The Peanut Institute. “Peanuts qualify as a superfood because they’re nutrient-dense, delivering superior health benefits in a very small serving. When you compare peanuts to kale, it’s a stark difference in terms of the amount you need to consume to reap the food’s benefits. For example, one serving of peanuts contains six times as much protein as a serving of raw kale and eight times as much niacin.” 

A serving of peanuts is one ounce or approximately 35 peanuts. According to Dr. Sterling, the recommended daily serving is a handful of peanuts or 2 tablespoons of peanut butter.

Peanuts as a Superfood

Peanuts are a superfood that comes in many forms such as peanut butter, peanut oil and peanut flour. In the United States, peanuts and peanut butter are perennial favorites and account for 67 percent of all nuts eaten.

That’s good news because peanuts pack a super punch. 

A one-ounce serving of peanuts, which is about a handful, is close to 170 calories and contains:

  • 7 grams of protein – An important macronutrient that helps you feel full and can contribute to lower blood sugar. 
  • 19 vitamins and minerals, many of which fight heart disease – The heart-healthy vitamins and minerals delivered by peanuts include vitamin E, folic acid, niacin, magnesium, vitamin B6, zinc, copper and potassium. Peanuts are also a good source of magnesium, copper, vitamin E and biotin and an excellent source of niacin, manganese and molybdenum. 
  • Bioactive compounds – Polyphenols, phytosterols and antioxidants are plant substances that offer health benefits beyond vitamins and minerals. They’ve been shown to help reduce cardiovascular disease and cancer risk, lower inflammation and cholesterol and improve blood flow. 
  • Healthy fats – The monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats in peanuts, like those in olive oil and avocados, help decrease “bad” LDL cholesterol and increase “good” HDL cholesterol. 
  • Fiber – Studies have shown that diets high in fiber can contribute to lower levels of LDL cholesterol. Plus, high-fiber diets are associated with a reduced risk of heart disease.

Protective Power of Peanuts

Recent studies have shown that consumption of peanuts or peanut butter helps decrease the risk of chronic diseases.

Reduced Risk of Cancer  Results from the Netherlands Cohort Study published in 2018 found that eating peanuts daily was associated with a decreased risk of a hard-to-treat type of breast cancer in postmenopausal women [3]. Another Netherlands Cohort Study published in 2018 found that men who consumed a teaspoon or more of peanut butter a day had a lower risk of pancreatic cancer [2].

Reduced Risk of Heart Disease – A study published in the Current Atherosclerosis Reports in 2018found those who consumed peanuts regularly had a reduced risk of dying from cardiovascular disease [5]. A 2017 study that examined more than 200,000 participants showed that regular peanut consumption was associated with a 15% reduced risk of coronary heart disease [6].

Reduced Risk of Diabetes – A 2016 study from Harvard University showed that substituting a serving of animal protein for a serving of plant protein like peanuts and peanut butter significantly reduced risk of type 2 diabetes [7]. Another landmark study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association had previously shown that peanut butter consumption reduced type 2 diabetes risk by 21% in women [8]. 

Reduced Risk of Alzheimer’s – Peanuts have high levels of niacin and are a good source of vitamin E, two nutrients that have long been known to protect against Alzheimer’s disease and age-related cognitive decline. One study showed that, in almost 4,000 people 65 years or older, niacin from food slowed the rate of cognitive decline [9].  Another study highlighted that vitamin E intake could delay functional decline in patients with Alzheimer’s disease [10]. 

Miracle Cure for Malnutrition

There are more than 50 million children in the world who suffer from malnutrition. Peanuts have been helping to fight childhood malnutrition all across the world since 2005 in the form of ready-to-use therapeutic foods (RUTFs). The RUTF product is a peanut paste that also contains skimmed milk powder, vitamins and minerals. This combination is blended together in just the right proportions to help malnourished children recover in weeks. 

As malnutrition continues to affect millions of children, peanut-based RUTFs continue to be one of the most effective ways to treat it.

New Research on Peanut Allergies

Research indicates that the early introduction of peanuts in children can safely prevent peanut allergies later in life. The LEAP Study (Learning Early About Peanut Allergy) showed that children exposed to peanut foods between 4-11 months of age had an 86% percent reduced risk of a peanut allergy at the end of five years  [11].

“It was Hippocrates, the father of medicine, who famously said, ‘Let food be thy medicine and medicine thy food.’ I am excited that as a society we are in a place where we are realizing that eating a tasty snack like peanuts is not just a way to stop hunger pangs; this superfood can deliver powerful benefits to our bodies that help to maintain and restore health,” says Dr. Sterling.

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Based in Albany, Ga., The Peanut Institute is a non-profit organization supporting nutrition research and developing educational programs to encourage healthful lifestyles that include peanuts and peanut products. The Peanut Institute pursues its mission through research programs, educational initiatives and the promotion of healthful lifestyles to consumers of all ages. As an independent forum, The Peanut Institute is uniquely positioned to work with all segments of the food industry, the research community, academia, consumer organizations and governmental institutions.

Author Profile

The Editorial Team at Lake Oconee Health is made up of skilled health and wellness writers and experts, led by Daniel Casciato who has over 25 years of experience in healthcare writing. Since 1998, we have produced compelling and informative content for numerous publications, establishing ourselves as a trusted resource for health and wellness information. We aim to provide our readers with valuable insights and guidance to help them lead healthier and happier lives.