By Rachael Derr, RD
Question: I hear that even with so much fat, peanuts and peanut butter can be a good addition to a healthy diet. What are the health benefits of peanuts and peanut butter?
Today is National Peanut Butter day! A good time to familiarize ourselves with this creamy condiment loved by nutrition fanatics. But what makes peanuts and peanut butter a healthy choice?
Peanuts are packed with plant-powered protein and mono-unsaturated fats! Unsaturated fats help to improve your blood cholesterol levels when they are consumed in place of saturated or trans fats.
Peanuts are good sources of:
Vitamin E: An antioxidant that protects the body from free radicals that can cause damage to our cells
Magnesium: A mineral that helps your body conduct normal nerve and muscle function
Folate: A type of B vitamin that aids in cell division and growth. This B vitamin is crucial during pregnancy and can help prevent spinal birth defects
Copper: An essential trace element that keeps blood vessels, nerves, bone and our immune system healthy. Copper also works with iron to assist in forming red blood cells.
Phosphorous: A mineral responsible for forming bones and teeth. Phosphorous is necessary to make proteins used in the growth, maintenance and repair of cells and tissues. Phosphorous is also used to make ATP, a source of energy for your body.
Fiber: A nutrient that helps with maintaining bowel health, lowering cholesterol, assists in blood sugar control, helps with satiety (the feeling of fullness) – which can in turn help with healthy weight loss
Peanuts are an excellent source of:
Niacin: A type of B vitamin, responsible for normal function of your skin, nerves and digestive system
Manganese: An essential mineral necessary for collagen production in your body. Manganese is an antioxidant that protects your body from free radicals and also helps with blood sugar control.
Not all peanut butter is created equal. Look for the natural brands of peanut butter. The ingredient list should state: peanuts and perhaps some salt. That’s it! Avoid the brands that add hydrogenated oils to the mix. This turns an otherwise healthy snack into one that contains traces of trans fats, which have a negative effect on heart health.
Ideas for incorporating peanuts & peanut butter into a healthy diet at home:
- The age old PB&J is a healthy lunch when spread onto whole grain bread.
- Fill celery sticks with peanut butter and top with raisins (or dried cranberries).
- Add a small spoonful of peanut butter to oatmeal for breakfast.
- Apple slices dipped in peanut butter are always a great go-to snack.
- Make your own trail mix with peanuts, dried fruit and dark chocolate chips for an added antioxidant boost.
- Peanut butter and banana slices on a whole grain waffle makes for an easy breakfast.
- Adding a spoonful of peanut butter to Thai recipes adds a depth of flavor.
- Make your own granola with peanuts.
- Sprinkle chopped, roasted peanuts on top of your stir-fry for an added crunch.
Dining out? Many restaurants serve choices with peanuts and peanut butter from salads to wraps to sandwiches.