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 and had a 13% lower risk of Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) compared with those who never or rarely ate nuts. And several studies have shown that consuming peanuts, peanut butter, or mixed nuts 5 times per week can reduce the risk of heart disease, and even the risk of death. Even better, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine finds that eating nuts daily can reduce death from heart disease by 29%. Improving heart health has never been so easy- or tasty!
Several nutrients in peanuts—including healthy fat, fiber, magnesium, and vitamin E—may have heart-health benefits. 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. If the arteries leading to or inside your heart become clogged by these deposits, the result can be heart disease. Fortunately, different components of the peanut including healthy oils, protein and fiber can help reduce cholesterol. Peanuts are a rich source of monounsaturated fat—a heart-healthy type of fat that helps lower LDL levels.
Peanuts Contain Nutrients to Lower Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease. Essential nutrients can lower this risk. With 19 vitamins and minerals, peanuts contain an abundance of essential nutrients. Peanuts are an excellent source of manganese, niacin and copper. Peanuts contain numerous phytochemicals, such as resveratrol and phytosterols. Peanuts contain magnesium and potassium—two minerals that help control your blood pressure. The fiber and protein in peanuts are helpful, as well. A study shows that eating peanuts regularly helps decrease blood pressure, even among individuals with high blood pressure: “…participants with elevated blood pressure at baseline had significant decreases in diastolic blood pressure…” after peanut consumption.
To maximize the blood-pressure benefits, choose unsalted peanuts. Peanuts naturally have almost no sodium, and when salt is added to them, it stays on the surface so less is needed. Most salted varieties of peanuts have less than 140mg of sodium per serving, which is considered heart-healthy by the American Heart Association®. 1-ounce of roasted salted peanuts typically contains 91mg of sodium, which is less than half of the amount in 1-ounce of cheese puffs or salted pretzels.
Peanuts Contain Vitamin E for Antioxidant Effects
Another factor contributing to cardiovascular disease is damage caused by unstable molecules called free radicals. Antioxidants, such as vitamin E, help protect cells from this type of damage. It’s best to get this vitamin straight from foods, such as peanuts, where it works together with other healthy substances to increase their beneficial effects.
Peanuts Can Prevent Damage Inside Arteries
Damage to the inner lining of your arteries, called the endothelium, may lead to atherosclerosis. Peanuts contain substances that help protect the endothelium, including arginine (an amino acid) and phenolic compounds (substances with antioxidant properties). A study of healthy, overweight men showed that including peanuts in a meal helped preserve endothelial function.
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. 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.
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. Research has shown that eating nuts and peanut butter is linked to a lower risk for type 2 diabetes.
The key is that peanuts are a good source of plant protein. With over 7 grams of protein per ounce, peanuts have more protein than any other nut. Research from Harvard School of Public Health shows that substituting a serving of red or processed meat with a serving of vegetable protein, such as peanuts or peanut butter, once per day, can reduce type 2 diabetes risk by 7-21%.
Peanuts are among the list of foods certified by the American Heart Association®’s Heart-Check* program. The American Heart Association® recommends a heart healthy dietary pattern that includes a variety of nuts, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and other healthy foods. Also, peanuts have a Food & Drug Administration (FDA) Qualified Health Claim that states: “Scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces of most nuts, such as peanuts, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease.
If you’re a peanut lover, the message is clear: The next time you’re trying to decide what to have for a snack, go for some heart healthy peanuts!
Click here for some recipe ideas to get more peanuts and peanut butter into your diet.
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