A Dozen Little Peanut Facts

May 21, 2013 in Cooking & Baking Hints, Diabetes Management, Food Economics, Foodland Chronicles, General, Health Claims by Joyce Bunderson

Peanuts are wannabes; I think the little guys want to be nuts, because health-conscious consumers are sprinkling nuts (tree nuts like almonds, Brazil nuts, pecans, walnuts, macadamias, and cashews) on their cereal, stir fries, salads and yogurt. Look up, I remind the humble peanut; reach for the stars! Remember, nothing ventured, nothing gained. Peanuts have nothing to be ashamed of; they may be small, but are mighty in nutrients. Even though ‘nut’ is part of the peanut’s name, it is really a legume; the distinction is that peanuts grow in the ground – not on trees. There’re some really good reasons that you should consider the humble peanut, whether or not you’re one of those nut-sprinkling health-conscious consumers.

  1. The first is that the price is right; peanuts are much less expensive than tree nuts.
  2. Next, people are always looking for ‘easy;’ there’re not many foods that are as easy to use as peanuts or peanut butter.
  3. Sodium. You may think that salted oil-roasted peanuts would be a high salt choice, especially since you often find them in the section with crackers, chips and other salty snack foods. But one ounce of salted oil-roasted peanuts only has about 91 mg of sodium. If you want a little comparison, think of original Fritos and Ritz Crackers at 200 mg (more than double). Plus that, in an ounce of cheddar cheese to go with the crackers is another 180 mg sodium. Potato chips have about 150 mg of sodium, so peanuts have only about 60% as much as do potato chips.

Years ago I was in the habit of purchasing dry roasted peanuts, because I thought that dry roasting would have much less fat.  But because peanuts are the source of peanut oil (mostly monounsaturated – healthy oil and very little saturated fat) whether you roast them in oil, or not, it doesn’t make a huge difference. The fact is that the oil-roasted peanuts only have about 4 calories per ounce more than the dry roasted – not really enough to worry about. BUT the dry roasted peanuts have 230 mg per ounce of sodium (that’s over 2.6 times the sodium in the dry roasted.) Oil-roasted peanuts seem saltier than they are because the salt crystals are on the surface, but they’re a good choice even if you’re trying to cut back on salt.

  1. At 170 calories per ounce they are like tree nuts, high in calories. But don’t forget that if you just sprinkle them on your stir-fry, for example, they give you a big bang for your – buck (or calorie) – loaded with protein and fiber, very low in carbs, and a great source of vitamins and minerals.
  2. Peanuts (and tree nuts too) are a great food to include in your diet, if you have diabetes and especially if you are concerned about eating too many carbs. They raise blood sugar very slowly; and the fat, as stated above, is mostly monounsaturated.
  3. Heart health and peanuts go well together.
  4. Don’t forget about peanut butter. It’s easy to manage in the pantry and it’s really affordable. The classic peanut butter dip with apple slices, veggie slices, grapes, bananas, or on crackers is fast and healthy. I like the type of peanut butter that is nothing but peanuts and maybe a light sprinkling of salt. You have to stir it when you first use it, but then keep it in the fridge. It’s a little difficult to spread, if you keep it in the fridge, but I just put some on a small saucer and put it in the microwave for a few seconds. Voila, spreads easily! I like not having the other oils or sugar added (and many of them have high-fructose corn syrup added— a no-no). It’s so delicious and fast to toast a piece of my homemade, whole wheat bread and spread on some peanut butter. Sometimes I add no-sugar-added jam. It tastes gourmet to me. J If you really want to be a purist, you can blend peanuts in a strong blender or food processor; then you know exactly what’s in it.
  5. One of the best things about peanuts or peanut butter is that it really has satiety power. If I’m ravenous and still have to prepare dinner, a few peanuts will get my appetite under control. Or if you’re out shopping, and have a little sandwich bag of peanuts in your purse or pocket, you can protect your children, spouse and yourself from either buying some awful processed junk food snack or continuing to be uncomfortably hungry.
  6. The issues of satiety and peanut’s low glycemic index are probably at the foundation of why peanuts are considered a good choice for weight management. Years ago peanuts would have never made it to the list of good choices for weight management, but some things have changed – we’re no longer terrified of a little fat in our diet. In addition to the fact that peanuts help you to feel full longer; they don’t spike your blood sugar; there’s some evidence that we don’t absorb all the calories in peanuts or whole nuts; and lastly, they may actually raise resting metabolic rate – which just means that your body uses more calories while at rest. Super!
  7. If you portion the peanuts into sandwich bags, you won’t be tempted to eat too many. Watching TV next to an open 12-ounce can of peanuts is probably not a good idea (2040 calories). Mindless eating could put you way over the top of your intended calories for the day, even if you don’t absorb all the calories. But a half-ounce or an ounce is a great serving to get you through a hungry period in a healthy way – without a bunch of sugar or additives. Instead of cookies, put some peanuts into a sandwich bag.
  8. Peanuts are ideal for vegans, other vegetarians and even flexitarians. Cutting back on animal products is linked with reduced risk of many disease states.

Last, but not least, peanuts are Yummy! Channing Pollock said, “No man in the world has more courage than the man who can stop after eating one peanut.” I don’t know where he got his data, but I tend to believe it. It’s pretty great when something good for us tastes scrumptious. Good Health Can Be Yummy and that’s what Dr. Grandma always says.