In honor of National Peanut Month, I thought I’d take a moment to celebrate this amazing, prepackaged, powerhouse, superfood…
Peanuts: roasted, smashed into butter, covered in chocolate, or boiled. What do you think of when you think of peanuts?
The all American PB&J sandwich was a staple and often times is what comes to mind when we think of peanuts and ultimately peanut butter…But this beloved little legume no longer need be just a distant memory of brown-bagged lunches….
However you like them, peanuts should still be a staple in our diet. And here’s why:
Good things come in small packages….
When it comes to peanut nutrition, most people think of protein and fat. Both are true, but there is so much more to a peanut than just that! For starters, it’s low in carbs and cholesterol free. It’s packed with niacin (AKA vitamin B3), vitamin E, selenium, magnesium, folate, arginine, and fiber.
The peanut is like it’s own self-sustaining nutrition factory, helping us absorb it’s nutrients.
- The natural fat in peanuts helps us better absorb the vitamin E it contains. Vitamin E is a fat soluble vitamin, so we must eat it with a fat to absorb it. Vitamin E also plays nicely with selenium, also found in peanuts- and these nutrients are best when taken in naturally from food sources, rather than obtained via supplements.
- Magnesium, is a mineral that is an assistant to over 300 enzymatic activities in our bodies. (If I were to talk about them it would remind you of your biochem days in college…think ATP energy and try not to shutter!)
- Niacin (Vitamin B3)- helps us with our cardiovascular health by regulating cholesterol levels and keeping the arteries from hardening.
- Arginine- an amino acid that helps in building protein and healing injuries. Our bodies can make arginine, but often we are deficient in it.
- Folate- a water soluble B vitamin, most well known for helping prevent DNA damage.
Peanuts are also an excellent source of phytosterols and it’s subcomponent, Beta-sitosterol-a naturally occurring substance that is similar to cholesterol- but ironically helps block cholesterol! It’s thought that the waxy- like substance of beta-sitosterol acts as a barrier so animal-cholesterol can’t be absorbed as easily. Researchers say it can block up to 50% of the animal cholesterol- therefore lowering total cholesterol and LDL levels.
Beta-sitosterol has also been shown to have anti-cancer properties, especially in the case of prostate and colon cancer. Beta-sitosterol appears to help reduce the growth of these cancer cells.
And this just blows me away: beta-sitosterol has been linked to longevity. Let that sink in- longevity, a longer life span! Researchers found just eating 1 ounce nuts (28 peanuts) a day for 5-6 days a week actually delayed death. That’s a pretty broad statement to make!
Where else can you find beta-sitosterol in good quantities? Plant oils, seeds, and other legumes.
So, next time you’re thinking of a healthy snack, why not reach for some peanuts. Try making a tasty trail mix incorporating peanuts and sunflower seeds. You can add in dried peas, craisins or other dried fruit, assorted nuts, mini dark chocolate morsels, or dried coconut. A nutty mix is perfect for on the go snacks, added in yogurt, mixed in applesauce, or as an extra crunch- added to salad!
Or..since the peanut is already naturally pre-packaged in it’s own shell, why not grab a few to take along your next journey (wherever that may be)?
And hey, maybe our moms knew what they were doing all those years when they packed us a PB&J sandwich everyday! We now just may have better health because of it!
Here are some links to some great recipes that incorporate peanuts:
Thai Crunch Salad by Once Apon a Chef. I have made version of this salad many times before, and it’s a favorite. I use Trader Joe’s Spicy Peanut Dressing- found in the refrigerated section.
Healthy Peanut Butter Granola by Joy Food Sunshine. The perfect granola topping for yogurt or as a snack.
Peanut Butter Apple Cookies by Paleo Eats and Treats. These make a perfect snack for kids and adults alike.
Thai Basil Bowl by Eat Your Vegetabowls. Yummy and I use Trader Joe’s Spicy Peanut Dressing for an easy meal.