For some time now, it has been touted as an unhealthy food, certainly not something to include in a heart-healthy weight loss program. But now researchers are finding that it has some properties that stave off an amazing number of ailments from cancer to unwanted pounds. It’s the perennial kids’ favorite: peanut butter.
Peanuts and peanut butter are high in a number of nutrients, most notably niacin (B3). Niacin has been proven to help delay the onset of cognitive degeneration in people over 65, including Alzheimer’s. The study from the Chicago Health and Aging Project showed that those who got 22 mg of niacin per day were 70% less likely to develop the disease than those taking in just over half that amount, and the decline in brain function was also lower for those consuming higher niacin. Just ¼ cup of peanuts adds up to about ¼ of the RDA for niacin.
Women can benefit from a reduced risk of gallstones by consuming peanuts and peanut butter, also. A twenty-year study by the Nurses’ Health Study indicated that women who eat as little as a handful of nuts or two tablespoons of peanut butter per week were 25% less likely to develop gallstones.
Many women might be reluctant to add even this small amount to their diet, however, citing the fact that nuts and peanut butter are full of fat and so may contribute to weight gain and cardiovascular issues. However, a study spanning over two years found that participants who ate nut products twice a week or more were over 30% less likely to gain weight than their counterparts.
As for heart health, peanut butter can actually be a boon there, as well. One study showed decreased risk of heart-related illness by consuming a diet rich in peanut products, as much as 21%. Through a review of the literature, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, the findings suggested that those who ate nuts or nut products at least four times a week were 37% less likely to have coronary heart disease than those who seldom or never had nuts. Even more interestingly, every serving beyond four was associated with 8% more reduced risk on average. Another study, by the Iowa Women’s Health Study, indicated a decreased death rate from cardiovascular issues between 10-20% based upon the number of servings eaten.
Why peanuts? They are among the highest plants in antioxidant content, more even than some fruits such as strawberries and blackberries, and antioxidants are thought to be connected to heart health. Current studies have also discovered peanuts to be high in resveratrol. The Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry is just one publication to publish studies that illustrate the positive aspects of this flavanoid. This is the stuff found in red grapes and wine that seems to improve blood flow and might account for Europeans’ lower levels of cardiovascular issues even though their levels of fat consumption tend to be higher than that of people in the U.S.
Finally, peanut butter can help prevent cancer. That magic number of consuming peanuts just twice a week showed a 58% lowered risk of colon cancer in women and a 27% lowered risk in men according to World’s Healthiest Foods.
Peanuts and peanut butter obviously don’t deserve the negative reputation they’ve had. These studies indicate it only takes two servings a week to significantly affect major issues in the body. So take a pbj for lunch, try some of a piece of wheat toast, crush some peanuts to put on top of sliced peaches or bananas, and know that you are doing something good for your health.
“Peanuts” 2009 World’s Healthiest Foods