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Are Peanuts a Healthy Snack?

Chances are that you’re part of the 90 percent of Americans who say snacking is a daily part of their lives. So if you’re snacking anyway (and, come on—you are), you might as well grab a snack that’s nutritious, energizing, filling, and delicious: good ol’ peanuts!

According to research done by NHANES, 25% of people’s caloric intake comes from snacks. (30) Choosing a nutrient dense snack to help curb appetite, like peanuts, may help you maintain your diet and improve overall nutrition. Peanuts and peanut butter are also convenient to take with you, as they’re available in portion packs and don’t need to be refrigerated.

A palm full of peanuts or a “ping-pong ball size” serving of peanut butter. These are what you should consider serving sizes. The amount you snack on still remains a factor when you are choosing to eat healthy. Snacking should be part of a balanced diet and should not contribute to exceeding your normal calorie intake. With proper portions and smart choices for health, snacking can enhance your overall diet.

Healthy Snacking

Many people have realized the benefits of snacking when it comes to holding you until the next meal so that you don’t overeat. But the benefits can go beyond tiding your hunger, based on the snack choices that you make.

Is it OK to Snack?

Snacking can be an important part of eating when it is done in the right way. The snack choices that you make impact your overall diet, so when you choose smartly, it can be a positive move for your overall health. If you want to avoid overeating at meals, snacking can be the perfect way to provide long lasting hunger satisfaction. You may actually consume fewer calories for the day when you take the edge off hunger by snacking, and in doing so, you can help manage weight.

Choosing a Smart Snack.

A smart snack choice is one that will provide your body the nutrients it needs to run efficiently, while providing the fuel that you need to keep going for the day. That means it should be nutrient dense, providing vitamins and minerals, and it should provide good quality macronutrients like protein, healthy fats, and healthy ‘carbs’ like fiber. Today more than half of Americans are consuming at least three snacks a day, which is at least triple the number of snacks consumed thirty years ago. (2) Unfortunately, many of the foods that are marketed as snacks or that people commonly choose for snacks are just the opposite — high in sugar and bad fats, and low in micronutrients.

Solution: Peanuts and peanut butter fit the bill.

Peanuts and peanut butter are not only affordable and tasty, they are nutrient dense—meaning they can help improve your diet quality. When eaten in small portions daily, they can also keep you feeling fuller longer, while providing energy and reducing your risk of chronic diseases.

Peanut Snacks Provide Energy & Nutrients

Since peanuts and peanut butter won’t cause your blood sugar to go up and down like a “roller coaster”, they help to maintain healthy energy levels throughout the day. Snacking on peanuts will help to bridge the gap between meals so you will be able to focus better and have the stamina to perform your responsibilities. It’s eating high carbohydrate snacks that can cause your blood sugar to spike and then crash, making concentration difficult, decreasing your energy and increasing fatigue.

Peanuts and peanut butter provide protein, fiber, and many vitamins and minerals, all of which are important to growth, the immune system, and overall body metabolism. They are also great ‘magnet foods’ – peanuts taste great with dried berries in a healthy trail mix, and peanut butter dips are perfect for getting kids to eat their fruits and vegetables.

Peanuts Are Great Snacks For Everyone

Kids may scream for a peanut butter and jelly snack, while adults may dip into a spicy peanut sauce. Either way, peanuts and peanut butter are ageless when it comes to nutrients, satiation, and health.

Over the past 30 years, there has been an increase in children snacking, but a decrease in meals—mostly breakfast. Children are eating about 3 snacks per day, which means that many are eating 6-8 times per day. Because snacking is happening more frequently, over a quarter of their daily calories are coming from snack foods. (29) Not only are children snacking more, but the calorie values in the snacks they are choosing are increasing as well. (30) The top snack foods children are eating are high in carbohydrates and sugars. (30) Consumption of high carbohydrate, high sugar, and salty snacks has increased the most and fruit juices are being consumed more over whole fruit. (29) Snacking is a large part of our eating pattern. Rather than advise people to stop snacking all together, it could be an opportunity to include more nutritious foods in their diets.

Nutrient dense snacks can be especially important for growing children and for the elderly, both of whom may have smaller appetites. A recent study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association looked at the influence of snacking on energy intakes and energy density in older adults since their energy intakes tend to decline with age. The study showed that snacking contributed to 14% of their daily protein intakes and that snacking helped them to consume the calories they needed. (16)

2. Alper CM and Mattes RD. Peanut Consumption Improves Indices of Cardiovascular Disease Risk in Healthy Adults. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 2003; 22(2): 133-141.
16. Zizza CA, et al. Benefits of Snacking in Older Americans. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2007 May; 107(5): 800-806
29. Piernas C, Popkin BM. Trends in snacking among U.S. children. Health AFF (Millwood). 2010 Mar-Apr;29(3):398-404. 13. NFCS 1977-78; NHANES 2001-02, 1 day, 9-12 year olds
30. Sebastian RS, Wilkinson Enns C, Goldman JD. Snacking Patterns of U.S. Adults: What We Eat In America, NHANES 2007-2008. Food Surveys Research Group Dietary Data Brief No. 4. June 2011. Available at: http://ars.usda.gov/Services/docs. htm?docid=19476.