Three Healthy Reasons to Include Peanuts in Your Baby’s Diet
Samara Sterling, PhD | 03.09.2021
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents introduce complementary foods in their baby’s diet at around 6 months old, which is a great time to incorporate peanuts . According to The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025, early introduction of peanuts as a complementary food can reduce the risk of peanut allergies . In addition, including peanut foods in your child’s diet can promote good nutrition and better health as they continue to grow into adulthood.
1. Promoting proper development of brain and body
Proper nutrition during the first 2 years of life is essential for healthy growth and development. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025 refers to this time period as “B24” and highlights that nuts/peanuts “are important sources of iron, zinc, protein, choline, and long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids .” These unsaturated fatty acids are vital for the rapid brain development that happens through the child’s first 2 years of life . Peanuts also contain essential nutrients like arginine, which encourages healthy growth. Arginine intake from foods is associated with higher growth velocity and linear growth in children .
2. Promoting healthy dietary habits
Cultivating good nutrition habits in children starts with their earliest introduction to foods that encourage healthy dietary patterns. In fact, studies show that a baby’s diet—from breastfeeding to solid foods—can impact how they eat as they grow and, can consequently, affect their health as they age .
As parents include complementary foods in their baby’s diets, they should [5-7]:
- limit their baby’s intake of sugar-sweetened drinks and snacks
- limit foods that are high in salt, such as processed meats and some canned foods
- emphasize nutritious foods like fruits and vegetables
- include nutrient-dense snacks
A study published in the Journal of the American Dietetics Association found that pairing vegetables with a preferred taste like peanut butter significantly increased vegetable consumption in children . Feeding whole nuts or sticky foods like peanut butter to infants and toddlers may not be appropriate due to choking risk. However, parents can pair thinned peanut butter with softened vegetables to help build healthy habits that may be carried throughout childhood and adulthood.
3. Protection against obesity and chronic diseases
The prevalence of obesity in children has been increasing since the 1990s. Today, 1 in 3 children is either overweight or obese, and 1 in 5 is obese [9, 10]. Children who are overweight or obese are likely to be overweight or obese as adults. They are also more likely to have asthma, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease [4, 10]. Rapid infant weight gain is a strong predictor of childhood overweight and obesity .
Healthy diets in infancy and childhood can protect against obesity and its related chronic diseases in adulthood. Regular consumption of peanuts and peanut butter is associated with better weight management, heart health, and protection from diabetes in adults [12-15], and early introduction of peanuts could reduce risk of some of these chronic diseases as infants and toddlers grow older. For example, a 2019 study showed that children as young as 6 who ate nuts/peanuts instead of sweet snacks had a 59% lower risk of early signs of atherosclerosis than children who didn’t . Encouraging healthy diets that include peanuts early on can promote healthy hearts and bodies throughout the lifespan.
For tips about preventing peanut allergies and how to introduce peanut foods in your infant’s diet, visit www.peanutallergyfacts.org.