Plant Based Diets
Vegetarian and vegan cuisine has today become one of the most popular and influential culinary trends in the consumer market. Health benefits and taste preferences are reported to be the primary reasons for this growing trend. Large scale studies on populations in the Mediterranean and in China show a protective effect from their traditional plant based diets.
Because of their unique composition, peanuts can provide a number of nutritional benefits for vegetarian and vegan diets, including valuable plant protein, fiber, and vitamins and minerals.
What is plant-based eating?
We are moving towards a healthful, balanced way of eating, one that includes nuts, seeds, and oils. Eating peanuts and peanut products can help us move towards this healthful way of eating.
Plant-based eating is a way of expanding the variety of foods on our plate, with the added health potential as the cherry on top. It can be applied to today’s health-conscious world, while adding an exciting exploration of food flavors and combinations.
The report of the DGAC defined plant based eating as one “that emphasizes vegetables, dry beans and peas, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds.”1 This report went on further to say that this pattern of eating can be done with an omnivorous diet. A plant-based eating pattern that includes peanuts, peanut butter, and other peanut products every day is in sync with these national recommendations; this pattern is also aligned with the way we look at foods now.
Are peanuts and peanut butter vegetarian & vegan?
Peanuts certainly qualify to be part of vegan and vegetarian diets. They provide important healthy nutrients and are loaded with plant based protein. As with any vegetarian diet , reading labels before purchasing is always advised.
Vegetarian & vegan food pyramid
Oldways Vegetarian Network has created a Vegetarian & Vegan Pyramid, reviewed and updated by a scientific committee, which includes a prestigious group of nutrition researchers and numerous nutrition experts.7 The pyramid highlights plant-based foods that should be included in the diet daily and includes peanuts, peanut butter, and peanut oil in two of the tiers.
There are many health benefits associated with following a vegetarian or vegan diet. Compared to non-vegetarians, studies show vegetarians have lower mortality rates and a reduced risk of developing coronary heart disease, hypertension that can lead to stroke, non-insulin dependent diabetes, obesity, and some cancers.
Lower BMI – Obesity
There are many studies that looked at plant-based eating patterns and how they can help us manage our weight, diabetes, and other obesity-related diseases. A study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital showed that those who are trying to lose weight had a higher risk of falling off their diet routine with a diet that is too restricted (i.e. low-fat diets).8 On the other hand, people who were on a moderate-fat diet plan, one that includes peanuts, stuck to their diet plan for a longer period of time.
Increased Nutrient Intake – Macronutrients
Peanut butter and peanuts have more protein than any other nut, and because of their popularity, peanuts are a major plant protein source for most Americans. A 1-ounce handful of peanuts contains about 8g of protein, which is more than most cereal-based grains and comparable to a serving of beans.3
Unlike animal based proteins, peanut protein is low in cholesterol and saturated fat, and contains many beneficial nutrients like fiber, vitamins, minerals, and bioactives shown to help reduce the risk of many diseases.3,4 Peanut protein is a favorite food that is both affordable and convenient; and with most households already keeping peanut butter in their cupboard, making the switch to plant based eating becomes even easier.
Plant foods are naturally high in fiber. Many people following a plant-based diet tend to have higher fiber intakes. Peanuts are high in fiber, providing 2 grams of fiber per ounce
Mono Saturated & Unsaturated Fats
Not all fats are created equal. Although most Americans need to lower their total fat intake, the type of fat consumed is also important to monitor. Nuts are high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat and contain minimal saturated fat. Since they are plant foods, peanuts and peanut butter do not contain any cholesterol. Both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat have been shown to decrease total and “bad” LDL-cholesterol levels when substituted for saturated fat.
Numerous studies show that eating a vegetarian or plant-based diet can help reduce the risk of many diseases and even assist with weight maintenance.24,25 Plant-proteins, like peanuts, are associated with reduced cholesterol and lowered blood pressure. Furthermore, studies show replacing red meat with a plant protein, like peanuts, can decrease the risk of stroke, mortality, and type 2 diabetes.26-30 In fact, research from several major studies shows eating a handful of peanuts daily can cut the risk of heart disease by about 50%.31 In one study, obese mice on a high cholesterol diet fed peanut protein flour had decreased cholesterol.32 In addition, peanuts are very high in Arginine, a vasodilator that helps to open up blood vessels and improve blood flow, which may contribute to decreased blood pressure.33 In fact, peanuts contain more Arginine than any other food.3 They are also very low in lysine, giving them beneficial Arginine to lysine ration; studies show that a positive arginine:lysine ratio has been associated with lower levels of cholesterol
The perfect balance of good fats found in peanuts and peanut products have been shown to reduce heart disease risks. A study by Purdue University in 2000 found that when men and women replaced bad fats from their diets with good fats from peanuts and peanut products, their cholesterol levels decreased.21 A review by The Journal of Nutrition, published in 2008, went on further to explain that the balance of good fats and other nutrients from peanuts may prevent cardiovascular diseases like stroke. They also stated that people who ate peanuts two or more times a week had a lower risk of heart disease.22
In the 2010 report of the DGAC, it was highlighted in a study published in 2009 that 5 servings of peanut butter a week greatly lowered cholesterol levels and risk of heart disease.23 The committee supports the idea of eating unsalted peanuts as part of a balanced diet can lower heart disease risks and improve cholesterol levels.20
Resveratrol, vitamin E, and other powerful bioactives and antioxidants are found especially in peanuts, their skins and roots, and peanut butter.9-17 These antioxidants may decrease our risk of many types of cancers.18,19
A 10-year-follow-up study published in The World Journal of Gastroenterology in 2006 concluded that women who ate peanuts regularly reduced their risk of colorectal cancer, citing peanuts’ antioxidants as the benefactor.19 Another study, published in Nutrition and Cancer in 2000, stated that peanuts, peanut oil, peanut butter, and peanut flour have a specific antioxidant that may protect us from cancers.8
If you’re looking to increase the amount of protein in your diet without increasing your risk of type 2 diabetes, plant protein is the superior choice. Animal protein has been shown to increase diabetes risk, so harnessing the diabetes-preventing power of plant protein in vegan and vegetarian diets is very beneficial.
- Papadopoulos, Heather. “Foodservice Gets Fresh,” Restaurants USA, Aug 1996: 45-47.
- Dietary Guidelines for America. Briefing for Capitol Hill and Press on Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Report Release 2010. http://www.cnpp.usda. gov/Publications/DietaryGuidelines/2010/DGAC/ Report/BriefinDGACAdvisoryReport.txt. Accessed June 16th, 2010.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. 2010, USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 25. Nutrient Data Laboratory Home Page, http://www.ars.usda.gov/ba/bhnrc/ndl
- Resurreccion. Functional Components in Peanuts. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. 2008;48:715–746.
- A wad AB, Chan KC, Downie AC, Fink CS. Peanuts as a source of beta-sitosterol, a sterol with anticancer properties. Nutr Cancer. 2000;36(2):238-41.
- USDA-ERS. 2009 Data. Available: http://www.ers.usda.gov/
- Oldways Vegetarian Network. 2013. Available: http://oldwayspt.org/programs/ oldways-vegetarian-network oldways-vegetarian-network
- McManus K, et al. A Randomized Controlled Trial of a Moderate-Fat, Low- Energy Diet Compared with a Low-fat, Low-energy Diet for Weight Loss in Overweight Adults. International Journal of Obesity.2001; 25:1503-1511.
- Chen RS, Wu PL, Chiou RY. Peanut roots as a source of resveratrol. J Agric Food Chem. 2002 Mar 13;50(6):1665-7.
- Craft BD, Kosińska A, Amarowicz R, Pegg RB. Antioxidant Properties of Extracts Obtained from Raw, Dry-roasted, and Oil-roasted US Peanuts of Commercial Importance. Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 2010 Mar 3. [Epub ahead of print]
- Ibern-Gomez M, et al. Resveratrol and piceid levels in natural and blended peanut butters. J Ag Food Chem. 2000; 48: 6352 – 6354.
- Sanders, T.H. and McMichael, R.W. Occurrence of resveratrol in edible peanuts. Presentation. American Oil Chemists Society, Las Vegas, Nevada. 1998.
- Sobolev V. and Cole R. Trans-resveratrol content in commercial peanuts and peanut products. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 1999 Apr;47(4):1435-9.
- Davis, et al. Roast effects on the hydrophilic and lipophilic antioxidant capacities of peanut flours, blanched peanut seed and peanut skins. Food Chemistry. 119 (2010) 539-547.
- Lou H, Yuan H, Yamazaki Y, Sasaki T, Oka S. Alkaloids and flavonoids from peanut skins. Plantas Medicinales. 2001;67(4):345-349.
- Shin EC et al. Commercial runner peanut cultivars in the United States: tocopherol composition. J Agric Food Chem. 2009 Nov 11;57(21):10289-95.
- Yu et al. Effects of processing methods and extraction solvents on concentration and antioxidant activity of peanut skin phenolics. Food Chemistry. 2005 (Vol. 90) (No. 1/2) 199-206.
- Awad AB, Chan KC, Downie AC, Fink CS. Peanuts as a source of beta-sitosterol, asterol with anticancer properties. Nutr Cancer. 2000;36(2):238-41.
- Yeh CC, You SL, Chen CJ, Sung FC. Peanut consumption and reduced risk of colorectal cancer in women: a prospective study in Taiwan. World J Gastroenterol. 2006 Jan 14;12(2):222-7.
- Hill and Press on Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Report Release 2010. http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/Publications/DietaryGuidelines/2010/DGAC/Report/BriefinDGACAdvisoryReport.txt. AccessedJune 16th, 2010.
- Alper CM, Mattes RD. Peanut consumption improves indices of cardiovascular disease risk in healthy adults. J Am Coll Nutr. 2003 Apr;22(2):133-41.
- Kris-Etherton PM, Hu FB, Ros E, Sabaté J. The role of tree nuts and peanuts in the prevention of coronary heart disease: multiple potential mechanisms. J Nutr. 2008 Sep;138(9):1746S-1751S. Review.
- Li TY, Brennan AM, Wedick NM, Mantzoros C, Rifai N, Hu FB. Regular consumption of nuts is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease in women with type 2 diabetes. J Nutr. 2009 Jul;139(7):1333-8.
- Spencer EA, et al. Diet and body mass index in 38,000 EPIC-Oxford meat-eaters, fish-eaters, vegetarians, and vegans. Int J Obesity. 2003;27:728-734.
- Rizzo, et al. Nutrient Profiles of Vegetarian and Nonvegetarian Dietary Pattern. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2013 doi.org/10.1016/j.jand.2013.06.349.
- Kris-Etherton, et al. High Monounsaturated Fatty Acid Diets Lower Both Plasma Cholesterol and Triacylglycerol Concentrations. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 1999;70:1009-1015.
- Bernstein, et al. Major Dietary Protein Sources and the Risk of Coronary Heart Disease in Women. Circulation. 2010;122(9):876–883.
- Bernstein, et al. Dietary Protein Sources and the Risk of Stroke in Men and Women. Stroke. 2012;43:637-644.
- Pan, et al. Red Meat Consumption and Mortality. Arch Int Med. 2012;E1-E9.
- Pan, et al. Red meat consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes: 3 cohorts of US adults and an updated meta-analysis. AJCN. 2011;94(4):1088-96.
- Sabate J, et al. Nuts and health outcomes: new epidemiologic evidence. Am J Nutr. 2009; 89:1S-6S.
- Sanders, et al. Peanuts, Peanut Oil, and Fat Free Peanut Flour Reduced Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors and the Development of Atherosclerosis in Syrian Golden Hamsters. Journal Of Food Science. 2010;75(4):H116-H122.
- Palmer, RM, Ashton DS, Moncada S. Vascular endothelial cells synthesize nitric oxide from L-arginine. Nature. 1998;333:664-6.