Bioactive probably isn’t a word you use every day—but maybe it should be. Simply put, bioactive compounds that are found in some foods act in your body in ways that promote a longer, healthier life.1, 2 Many are being studied for the prevention of heart disease, cancer, and other diseases.1
One particular food that’s packed with bioactive compounds: peanuts.2 Here are four bioactive reasons to fit more peanuts into your diet:
Reason 1: Resveratrol to Combat Aging
Resveratrol is found in peanuts, red wine, red grapes, and berries.3 It’s an antioxidant—a substance that protects your cells from damage caused by unstable molecules called free radicals.1
In animals, resveratrol activates a gene that helps slow aging and delay the development of several diseases. In humans, there’s evidence that it may combat age-related changes in the arteries that can lead to heart disease and stroke.3 Researchers are also looking at the compound’s potential in cancer prevention.1
Reason 2: Phytosterols to Lower Cholesterol
As the “-sterol” in their name suggests, these plant compounds are similar to cholesterol. When eaten, they compete with cholesterol for absorption in your digestive tract. And that may lower the level of unhealthy cholesterol in your blood.2
In peanuts, you get not only phytosterols, but also heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. This may explain why eating peanuts as part of a balanced diet is associated with better heart health.2 Researchers are also studying how phytosterols may help fight inflammation and prevent cancer.1, 2
Reason 3: Arginine for Healthy Arteries
Arginine is one of the amino acids—the building blocks of protein.1 Peanuts are high in arginine. In the body, this amino acid plays a key role in making nitric oxide, a gas that helps keep your arteries relaxed, improves blood flow and contributes to lower blood pressure.2
One study showed that drinking a shake containing peanuts kept arteries more open and flexible, compared with drinking a peanut-free shake. The researchers gave arginine much of the credit.4
Reason 4: Other Antioxidant Compounds
Peanuts also provide other compounds that help protect cells from damage, including:
- Coenzyme Q10, which enables cells to produce energy1
- Flavonoids, which may protect against heart disease and cancer2
- Phenolic acids, which have strong antioxidant effects4
One Last Thing …
Some of the bioactive compounds in peanuts are available as supplements. But nutritionists say that it’s better to get them from foods.5 When you eat peanuts, you get protein, fiber, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals along with these other compounds.2 Where peanuts are concerned, good things really do come in small packages.
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- “NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms.” National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health. cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/cancer-terms.
- “Peanuts as Functional Food: A Review.” S.S. Arya et al. Journal of Food Science and Technology. 2016, vol. 53, no. 1, pp. 31–41.
- “Compound in Red Wine May Reduce Artery Stiffness in Diabetics.” American Heart Association. https://news.heart.org/compound-in-red-wine-may-reduce-artery-stiffness-in-diabetics.
- “Acute Peanut Consumption Alters Postprandial Lipids and Vascular Responses in Healthy Overweight or Obese Men.” X. Liu et al. Journal of Nutrition. 2017, vol. 147, no. 5, pp. 835–40.
- “Benefits of Good Nutrition During Cancer Treatment.” American Cancer Society. cancer.org/treatment/survivorship-during-and-after-treatment/staying-active/nutrition/nutrition-during-treatment/benefits.html.