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Mar 10, 2015

Peanuts: A Low-Cost Food with a High Impact on Health

The humble legume offers heart-health benefits on par with more expensive nuts.

Peanuts are an affordable option for individuals looking to boost heart health, according to a study that found all types of nuts—including peanuts—help reduce risk of death.

Published in JAMA Internal Medicine, this study sought to analyze the heart-health benefits of eating nuts among diverse, low-income populations. Individuals with low income and low levels of education are among those at greatest risk for heart disease, the No. 1 killer of Americans. However, most studies involving nut consumption have focused on white, higher-income populations. And few studies focus on the specific health benefits of peanuts, which are rich in nutrients yet inexpensive to buy.

Conducted by researchers from Vanderbilt University and Shanghai Cancer Institute, this study included low-income populations in the U.S., as well as men and women living in Shanghai, China. Together, these groups included more than 200,000 adults, all of whom provided information about their dietary habits at the start of the study and were followed for up to 12 years.

After analysis, researchers found that adults with the highest nut consumption had up to 40% lower risk of heart disease and 21% lower risk of death compared to those with the lowest levels of nut intake. Individuals eating peanuts only also had lower cardiovascular risk compared to adults consuming no or few nuts on a regular basis, suggesting that peanuts may offer similar heart-health benefits compared to other more expensive nuts like almonds and pistachios.

However, authors point out that due to its design, the study can’t say for certain whether peanuts are responsible for lower risk of death. Still, results are encouraging, as studies confirm that nutrient-rich nuts help boost heart health and suggest that peanuts may offer an affordable option for those looking to add more nuts to their diet. And as with most things, moderation is key. While nuts are a key component of a heart-healthy diet, they can be high in salt and calories, so it’s important to read food labels carefully and watch portion sizes.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What makes nuts heart-healthy?
  • Nuts are packed with heart-healthy fats, protein and disease-fighting vitamins and minerals. As such, regular consumption of nuts has been shown to prevent heart disease and diabetes.
  • What is a heart-healthy diet?

  • A heart-healthy diet is full of fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains and includes low-fat dairy, fish and nuts as part of a balanced diet. It’s important to limit intake of added sugars, salt (sodium) and bad fats (saturated and trans fats).

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