Long considered to be too high in fat to be good for us, peanuts should be added to a properly-balanced diet, according to a Purdue University researcher.
Dr. Richard Mattes, MPH, PhD, RD and Professor of Foods and Nutrition at Purdue, says the fat-laden nuts, which are actually legumes, may keep your cardiologist at bay.
"This study is one of a number published over the past five years that tell a consistent story," Mattes said. "Nut consumption is associated with reduced cholesterol, reduced triglycerides, increased magnesium, folate, vitamin E and little influence on body weight. The findings have been so consistent, the FDA has recently allowed a health claim for nuts. So, these data will be viewed as confirming earlier observations."
Mattes, and doctoral student Corinna Alper, performed a study funded with a grant from the U.S. Agency for International/National Development. Their research was published in the April 2003 issue of the Journal of American College of Nutrition.
The findings prove regular peanut consumption helps reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease without weight gain.
Even with fat contents in the 12-gram range and beyond, Mattes said the majority of the fat in nuts is the heart-healthy unsaturated kind.
"Knowledge of the influence of fat on health has expanded recently and we now believe that total fat is not the problem, rather it is saturated fat," he said. "Unsaturated fats, the type that predominate in nuts, are actually quite heart healthy. This will be a difficult message to convey to consumers, but it is important because it should relieve a good deal of needless anxiety about including some healthful, high fat foods in the diet."
Kaiser Permanente dietitian Peggy Green, RD, agrees.
"Many foods receive a ‘bad image’ - carbohydrates, such as bread, potatoes, pasta, rice; red meats like beef and pork, even carrots have been given a bad image," Green said. "Don’t think of foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ A variety of foods provide balanced nutrition.
"Peanuts can be part of a healthy diet. They are a good source of monounsaturated fat, considered to be a healthy fat. They are also a good source of other vitamins and minerals. "
Green said while the nuts are a good source of minerals and healthy fat it can be easy to overdo it.
One ounce of nuts (around 30 peanuts or a little less than a quarter cup) contain about 15 grams of total fat and 170 calories.
Mattes said the line between too many and too few peanuts has yet to be drawn. No work has been done to answer the question.