If you ♥ peanuts, here’s great news: Peanuts love your heart back.

In one study, Harvard researchers tracked the health of more than 210,000 people for up to 32 years. They found that people who ate peanuts at least twice per week had a 15 percent lower risk of getting heart disease compared with those who never or rarely ate nuts.1

Several substances in peanuts—including healthy fat, fiber, magnesium, and vitamin E—may have heart-health benefits.2, 3 Here are six ways that eating peanuts is smart for your heart.

Peanuts Contain Healthy Fat to Manage Cholesterol

High levels of LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol in your blood can lead to atherosclerosis—fatty deposits that build up inside your arteries.4 If the arteries leading to or inside your heart become clogged by these deposits, the result can be heart disease.5 Fortunately, peanuts are a rich source of monounsaturated fat3—a heart-healthy type of fat that helps lower LDL levels.6

Peanuts Contain Nutrients to Lower Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease.7 Peanuts contain magnesium and potassium—two minerals that help control your blood pressure. The fiber and protein in peanuts are helpful, as well.3, 8 To maximize the blood-pressure benefits, choose unsalted peanuts.9

Peanuts Contain Vitamin E for Antioxidant Effects

Another factor contributing to cardiovascular disease is damage caused by unstable molecules called free radicals.10, 11 Antioxidants, such as vitamin E, help protect cells from this type of damage.12 It’s best to get this vitamin straight from foods12, 13, such as peanuts, where it works together with other healthy substances to increase their beneficial effects.3

Peanuts Can Prevent Damage Inside Arteries

Damage to the inner lining of your arteries, called the endothelium, may lead to atherosclerosis.5 Peanuts contain substances that help protect the endothelium, including arginine14 (an amino acid3) and phenolic compounds (substances with antioxidant properties 14). A study of healthy, overweight men showed that including peanuts in a meal helped preserve endothelial function14

Peanuts Can Protect Against Inflammation

Inflammation also plays a key role in the development of atherosclerosis. And several substances in peanuts—including magnesium, vitamin E, arginine, phenolic compounds, and fiber—may help fight inflammation. 15 In one study, researchers measured substances in the blood that are markers of inflammation. They found that eating nuts instead of red meat, processed meat, eggs, or refined grains was associated with lower levels of these substances.15

Peanuts Can Decrease the Risk for Diabetes

Many people think of diabetes and heart disease as totally unrelated problems. But the truth is, having diabetes increases your risk of developing and dying of heart disease.7 Research has shown that eating nuts and peanut butter is linked to a lower risk for type 2 diabetes.16

If you’re a peanut lover, the message is clear: The next time you’re trying to decide what to have for a snack, listen to your heart. Click here for some recipe ideas to get more peanuts and peanut butter into your diet.

 

Resources

  1. “Nut Consumption and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease.” M. Guasch-Ferré et al. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 2017, vol. 70, no. 20, pp. 2519-32.
  2. “Nut Consumption and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease, Total Cancer, All-Cause and Cause-Specific Mortality: A Systematic Review and Dose-Response Meta-analysis of Prospective Studies.” D. Aune et al. BMC Medicine. 2016, vol. 14, no. 207.
  3. “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.
  4. “HDL (Good), LDL (Bad) Cholesterol and Triglycerides.” American Heart Association. heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Cholesterol/HDLLDLTriglycerides/HDL-Good-LDL-Bad-Cholesterol-and-Triglycerides_UCM_305561_Article.jsp.
  5. “Atherosclerosis.” American Heart Association. heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Cholesterol/WhyCholesterolMatters/Atherosclerosis_UCM_305564_Article.jsp.
  6. “Monounsaturated Fat.” American Heart Association. https://healthyforgood.heart.org/eat-smart/articles/monounsaturated-fats.
  7. “Conditions that Increase Risk for Heart Disease.” American Heart Association. cdc.gov/heartdisease/conditions.htm.
  8. “DASH Eating Plan.” National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute/National Institutes of Health. nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/dash-eating-plan.
  9. “Why Should I Limit Sodium?” American Heart Association. heart.org/idc/groups/heart-public/@wcm/@hcm/documents/downloadable/ucm_300625.pdf.
  10. “Pairing Nuts and Dried Fruit for Cardiometabolic Health” A. Carughi et al. Nutrition Journal. 2016, vol. 15, article no. 23.
  11. “Prospective Evaluation of the Association of Nut/Peanut Consumption with Total and Cause-Specific Mortality.” H.N. Luu et al. JAMA Internal Medicine. 2015, vol. 175, no. 5, pp. 755-66.
  12. “Vitamin E: Fact Sheet for Consumers.” Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminE-Consumer.
  13. “Vitamin Supplements: Hype or Help for Healthy Eating.” American Heart Association. https://healthyforgood.heart.org/eat-smart/articles/vitamin-supplements-hype-or-help-for-healthy-eating.
  14. “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.
  15. “Associations Between Nut Consumption and Inflammatory Biomarkers.” Z. Yu et al. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2016, vol. 104, pp. 722-28.
  16. “Nuts and Dried Fruits: An Update of Their Beneficial Effects on Type 2 Diabetes.” Nutrients. 2017, vol. 9, no. 673.