Peanuts are one of the most popular snacks around the world.
Although peanuts are technically legumes, we class them as nuts due to their similar nutritional profile.
But are these pseudo nuts just as good for you as true nuts?
This article provides an in-depth review of peanuts and their nutritional properties.
What Are Peanuts?
The peanut, sometimes referred to as groundnut or monkey nut, is a type of legume that grows underground.
Interestingly, peanuts are more closely related to lentils, peas, and soybeans than they are to tree nuts like almonds and pecans.
However, we refer to them as nuts because of their similar appearance and nutritional profile.
Peanuts are a popular type of snack, whether raw, salted, roasted or coated in a variety of toppings.
In addition, peanut products are also very popular around the world, with peanut butter being a notable example.
Nutritionally, the nuts are primarily a source of (monounsaturated) fat, and they also offer protein and a range of vitamins and minerals.
Peanuts rarely get mentioned compared to other nuts in conversations about health benefits.
However, this is perhaps undeserved as they do have a good nutrition profile.
In this section, we’ll look at some potential health benefits of peanuts.
1) Peanuts May Improve Cardiovascular Markers of Health
Research suggests that adding peanuts into the diet can improve markers of cardiovascular health.
For example, a systematic review of 13 randomized controlled trials found that peanut consumption significantly improved high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels. Additionally, there were no changes to other markers such as triglycerides and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) (1).
As a result, peanut intake appears to lower the ratio of non-HDL to HDL.
2) A Good Source of Healthy Fats
Peanuts are primarily a source of dietary fat.
A one-ounce serving (28 grams) of peanuts offers 13.8 grams of fat, half of which is monounsaturated fat (6).
Among the different fatty acids in peanuts, the most predominant is called oleic acid (7).
Oleic acid is also the primary fatty acid in olives and olive oil, and it has a “heart healthy” reputation.
However, further human trials are necessary to improve knowledge in this area.
3) A Good Source of Protein
Peanuts offer approximately 7.2 grams of protein per 28-gram serving (6).
This protein content is equivalent to over 25 grams of protein per 100 grams, which is a significant amount.
On the negative side, the protein digestibility rating of peanuts is only around 0.52 (compared to 0.92 for beef and 1.00 for eggs) (10).
However, peanuts are still a reasonably good source of plant protein.
4) Rich In Biotin (Vitamin B7)
Not many people know about biotin, a compound that is also known as vitamin B7.
On the positive side, peanuts are one of the best dietary sources of biotin, and only organ meats and eggs contain more of the vitamin.
Peanuts contain 175 ng of biotin per gram (13).
5) Peanuts Are Associated With Longevity Benefits
As always with associations, it is important to recognize that correlation doesn’t necessarily equal causation.
That said, studies show an association between peanut consumption and longer life.
For instance, three extensive cohort studies, featuring over 200,000 participants, found that higher peanut intake had an association with (14);
- A decreased risk of total mortality
- Lower risk of mortality from cardiovascular disease
However, it is worth being aware of possible confounders, such as the ‘healthy user bias.’
To illustrate this point, people who make an effort to consume higher amounts of nuts are also more likely to have other healthy lifestyle habits such as exercise.
As a result, it is hard to prove that the intake of one specific food is responsible for the benefits.
6) Peanuts Contain Antioxidants and Polyphenols
Another potential benefit of peanuts is their antioxidant and polyphenol content.
A typical 28-gram serving of peanuts offers 2.3 mg of vitamin E, which is equivalent to 12% of the recommended daily intake (17).
In a 5-week rodent study, adding peanut skin extract to the diet of the rats led to decreases in triglycerides and plasma fatty acids (20).
However, this does not infer the same would be true in humans, and more research is necessary in this regard.
Potential Concerns and Side Effects
In addition to the benefits peanuts present, there are also some potential concerns and side effects to consider.
1) Peanut Allergy
Peanut allergy is one of the most common food allergies in the world.
On this note, research suggests that peanut allergy affects around 1.4% of the US population (21).
Based on the current population of 327 million people, this would be equal to 4.5 million peanut allergies in the United States alone.
Unfortunately, allergic reactions can be serious and cause anaphylaxis (a severe allergic reaction). According to research, peanuts are the most common cause of fatal anaphylaxis (22).
Symptoms of anaphylaxis can include dizziness and breathing difficulties (23).
Anyone suspecting a severe allergic reaction should seek emergency medical assistance.
2) Peanuts Are High In Oxalate
Peanuts contain a moderately high concentration of oxalic acid (oxalate).
Oxalate is a compound found in some plant foods, and high amounts of it can cause problems for people with kidney problems (24).
According to Harvard School of Public Health, an ounce (28-gram) serving of peanuts contains around 27 mg of oxalate (25).
Although this is nothing to worry about for healthy individuals, it is quite high for individuals who follow a low-oxalate diet.
Case studies show that high amounts of peanuts can be problematic for people with renal dysfunction (28).
Aflatoxins are metabolic products produced by two common types of mold; Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus. These compounds are carcinogens, and they can grow on various crops (29).
Unfortunately, peanuts are one of the most commonly affected crops by aflatoxins. However, they usually contain such low amounts that researchers do not deem them to be a risk (30).
That said, in some situations, aflatoxin levels can increase. This increase is usually due to poor storage conditions that leave the nuts in a humid environment (31).
However, it is a good habit to store peanuts in a cool and dark place and to discard any nuts that seem old or moldy.
Full Nutrition Facts
For reference purposes, here is the full nutrition profile of peanuts.
The data source is the USDA Food Composition Databases, and the values are per 100 grams (6).
|Saturated Fat||6.8 g|
|Monounsaturated Fat||24.4 g|
|Polyunsaturated Fat||15.6 g|
|Omega-3 Fatty Acids||3.0 mg|
|Omega-6 Fatty Acids||15555 mg|
Peanuts are primarily a source of fat, but they also provide moderate amounts of carbohydrate and fat.
Approximately half of the carbohydrate content comes from fiber.
For anyone looking for nuts which mainly offer fat and fewer carbs, check out pili nuts.
|Folate||240 mcg||60 %|
|Niacin (B3)||12.1 mg||60 %|
|Thiamin (B1)||0.6 mg||43 %|
|Vitamin E||8.3 mg||42 %|
|Pantothenic Acid (B5)||1.8 mg||18 %|
|Vitamin B6||0.3 mg||17 %|
|Riboflavin (B2)||0.1 mg||8 %|
Peanuts are a good source of B vitamins and vitamin E.
|Manganese||1.9 mg||97 %|
|Copper||1.1 mg||57 %|
|Magnesium||168 mg||42 %|
|Phosphorus||376 mg||38 %|
|Iron||4.6 mg||25 %|
|Zinc||3.3 mg||22 %|
|Potassium||705 mg||20 %|
|Selenium||77.2 mcg||10 %|
|Calcium||92 mg||9 %|
|Sodium||18 mg||1 %|
Although they are technically a legume, peanuts are just as nutritious as true tree nuts.
These “nuts” offer healthy fats, good protein content, and a wide variety of essential nutrients.
They are also an excellent snack option, especially when replacing unhealthy alternatives.
As a bonus, peanuts taste delicious – particularly in their salted and roasted forms.
For a true tree nut with a unique nutrition profile, see this guide to chestnuts.