With new diets coming out every other day, it can be confusing to know the right healthy choices to make. The good news is that many diets are healthy and many can work. New research shows that healthy eating patterns with different percentages of fat, protein, and carbohydrates can all promote weight loss when the right amounts of calories are consumed. Research also shows that peanuts and peanut butter can be a part of all these diets.
In a review of more than 600 studies assessing how dietary factors are associated with coronary heart disease, certain diets and individual foods notably popped out as key players in reducing the risk of coronary heart disease. Of these, the Mediterranean diet, the “prudent” diet, and a high-quality diet were considered beneficial.
The Mediterranean diet emphasizes a higher intake of vegetables, legumes, fruits, nuts, whole grains, cheese or yogurt, fish, and monounsaturated fat relative to saturated fat. The “prudent” diet is characterized by a high intake of vegetables, fruit, legumes, whole grains, and fish and other seafood. A high-quality diet provides more nutrient density. Peanuts, known to the culinary world as a nut but classified as a legume because of the way they grow, fit in all of these diets.
In addition, both monounsaturated fat, high levels of which are in peanuts, and nuts themselves, also showed a strong association with a lower risk of heart disease. Visit the links below to learn more about how to make healthier dietary choices including peanuts. Also check out the eating recommendations to learn how peanuts can be a healthy part of your lifestyle.
Learn more about the role peanuts play in healthy eating patterns in a high-quality, printable format.
Healthy Lifestyles & Weight Loss
There are many ways to lead a healthy lifestyle and lose weight, but research shows many diets have peanuts in common!
Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) is an eating plan that emphasizes whole foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts and peanuts, and grains.
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a global public health concern. It is often referred to as the “silent killer” because its symptoms are not always evident. In America, hypertension affects one out of every four people, or 25% of the population. In the United Kingdom, the rate of hypertension is 23%.
In a clinical study supported by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, scientists found for the first time that elevated blood pressure can be reduced with an eating plan low in saturated fat, total fat and cholesterol, rich in fruits, vegetables, grains, peanuts and nuts, and plentiful in magnesium, potassium, and calcium, as well as protein and fiber.
A significant finding in another study was the short amount of time it took to see results. Subjects who followed the DASH diet for just two weeks saw their blood pressures drop. Furthermore, the reduction in blood pressure stayed for as long as they stayed with the DASH diet.
In 2012, the DASH diet was ranked “Best Overall Diet” by U.S. News “for its nutritional completeness, safety, ability to prevent or control diabetes, and role in supporting heart health.” The DASH diet also topped the list for the “Best Diabetes Diet” and the “Best Diet for Eating Healthy.”
The OmniHeart Diet was developed to take the DASH Diet a step further by replacing some of its carbohydrates with unsaturated fat or protein. Research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2005 found that the high-protein diet and the high-unsaturated fat diet both delivered even greater health benefits than the high-carbohydrate DASH-like diet did; these diets improved blood pressure and cholesterol levels even more. Peanuts are the perfect food to include in these diets, since they are high in both protein and unsaturated fats!
A “Mediterranean-style” diet includes an abundance of fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes, and whole grains; some dairy products, fish and poultry; and very small amounts of meats. The main source of fat, which constitutes 35-40% of calories, is monounsaturated fat from olive oil and nuts and omega-3 fat from fish.
The MIND diet (or Mediterranean-DASH diet Intervention for Neurological Delay) combines components from two existing diets that are recommended for overall health: the Mediterranean and DASH diets. The MIND approach incorporates foods from each that have been shown to be particularly beneficial for the brain. And the best part? Peanuts and peanut butter are a part of all three! With a wealth of antioxidants, vitamins & minerals, unsaturated fats and polyphenols, peanuts aren’t just brain food—they’re brain superfood!
So it’s no surprise that when the MIND diet was created to bring together the most brain-boosting foods, peanuts and peanut butter were on the list. Many studies have been conducted that prove the benefits of the MIND Diet.
In 2015, 460 MIND diet participants were followed over the course of 4.7 years. Researchers observed that a higher adherence to the MIND diet “substantially slows cognitive decline with age.” A study on the relationship between MIND diet adherence and Alzheimer’s Disease examined a total of 923 participants, ages 59-98, for an avg. of 4.5 years. They found high adherence reduced risk of Alzheimer’s by 53%, and a significant reduction with even mild adherence. In 2018, researchers examined how following the MIND diet could impact rates of Parkinson’s disease and its progression. In that study, they found that closely following the MIND diet was associated with a decreased risk of Parkinson’s Disease, as well as a slower rate of progression.
Peanut Butter Diet
A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that replacing saturated fat with good monounsaturated fat (MUFA) instead of carbohydrate lowers levels of total and LDL cholesterol as effectively as a low-fat diet, with the additional benefits of lowering triglyceride levels and maintaining high HDL levels in the blood (Kris-Etherton, PM et al). High-monounsaturated fatty acid diets lower both plasma cholesterol and triacylglycerol concentrations (AJCN 1999; 70:1009-15.v). This study is important because it shows that other food sources rich in MUFAs, specifically peanuts, peanut butter and peanut oil, can be used in designing heart-healthy, higher MUFA diets. By following higher MUFA diets, subjects saw heart-healthy results in just four weeks. During the course of this controlled study, subjects made small changes in their diets. They used peanut butter instead of butter on bagels, toast, and waffles, and snacked on peanuts instead of chips, crisps or pretzels.
With diabetic diets, it is important that carbohydrates, fat and protein are balanced to ensure blood sugar levels stay as stable as possible. On a 100-point scale, peanuts have a low glycemic index (GI) of 14 and a glycemic load (GL) of 1. Glycemic load factors in the amount of carbohydrate in a standard serving and research shows that foods with a low GI and GL may help keep blood sugar and insulin levels in optimal ranges.
Plant-based (Vegetarian) Eating
There are many health benefits associated with following a vegetarian 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. There is no single vegetarian cuisine or eating pattern. The bulk of calories for vegetarian diets usually comes from fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts and seeds. Eggs and dairy products may or may not be included. Because of their unique composition, peanuts can provide a number of nutritional benefits for vegetarian diets, including valuable plant protein, fiber, and vitamins and minerals.
Peanuts in the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, released every 5 years, was published on December 29, 2020. As a source of evidence-based nutrition recommendations, the guidelines are used by government agencies and healthcare professionals to make decisions and to advise the general public. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025 is the first set of guidelines that provide recommendations for healthy dietary patterns by life stage, from birth through older adulthood, including pregnant and lactating women. Peanuts are represented in this publication, especially in the area of early introduction to reduce allergy risk in children. Peanuts are also recommended as a protein source in the Nuts category for a variety of dietary patterns and for overall health.
Theme of the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines: Make Every Bite Count
The four principles of the guidelines:
- Follow a healthy diet at every stage of life
- Customize food and beverage choices to reflect personal preferences, cultural traditions, and budgetary considerations
- Focus on meeting food group needs with nutrient-dense foods and beverages, staying within calorie limits
- Limit added sugars, saturated fats, sodium, and alcoholic beverages
American Heart Association
The American Heart Association’s Nutrition Committee strongly advises these fat guidelines for healthy Americans over age 2:
- Limit total fat intake to less than 25–35% of your total calories each day.
- Limit saturated fat intake to less than 7% of total daily calories.
- Limit trans fat intake to less than 1% of total daily calories.
- The remaining fat should come from sources of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats such as nuts, seeds, fish and vegetable oils.
- Limit cholesterol intake to less than 300 milligrams per day, for most people. If you have coronary heart disease or your LDL cholesterol level is 100 mg/dL or greater, limit your cholesterol intake to less than 200 milligrams a day.
The AHA also recommends:
- Burn off at least as many calories as you take in. Prioritize regular physical activity, at least 30 minutes per day.
- Eat a variety of nutritious foods from all the food groups.
- Eat less nutrient-poor foods.
- Choose lean meats and poultry without skin and prepare them without added saturated and trans fat.
- Select fat-free, 1% fat, and low-fat dairy products.
- Cut back on foods containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oils to reduce trans fat in your diet.
- Cut back on foods high in dietary cholesterol. Aim to eat less than 300 milligrams of cholesterol each day.
- Cut back on beverages and foods with added sugars.
- Choose and prepare foods with little or no salt. Aim to eat less than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day.
- If you drink alcohol, drink in moderation. That means one drink per day if you’re a woman and two drinks per day if you’re a man.
- Follow the American Heart Association recommendations when you eat out, and keep an eye on your portion sizes.