Peanuts come in many forms, including roasted, salted, chocolate-coated, and as peanut butter. Different types have different nutritional profiles and various health benefits.
Along with their healthful nutritional profile, peanuts are a calorie-rich food, so they are most healthful when enjoyed in moderation.
In this article, we provide the nutritional profile of peanuts, their health benefits, and how different types compare.
Peanuts are most healthful when they are in their raw form.
Peanuts are an especially good source of healthful fats, protein, and fiber. They also contain plenty of potassium, phosphorous, magnesium, and B vitamins. Despite being high in calories, peanuts are nutrient-rich and low in carbohydrates.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), 100 grams of raw peanutscontain 567 calories and the following nutrients in grams (g), milligrams (mg), or micrograms (mcg):
|vitamins||vitamin B-3 (niacin)
vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)
vitamin B-1 (thiamine)
vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine)
riboflavin (vitamin B-2)
folate (vitamin B-9)
The mixture of healthful fats, protein, and fiber in peanuts means they provide nutritional benefits and make a person feel fuller for longer. This makes peanuts a healthful, go-to snack when people compare them with chips, crackers, and other simple carbohydrate foods.
Below, we discuss the benefits of key nutrients in peanuts.
Peanuts are an excellent source of plant-based protein, offering 25.8 g per 100 g of peanuts, or around half of a person’s daily protein needs.
The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for protein in adults is:
- 46 g for women
- 56 g for men
Protein is essential for building and repairing body cells. The amount of protein a person needs varies, depending on their age and activity level.
2. Healthful fats
Peanuts contain healthful fats that are an essential part of a nutritious diet.
Fatty acids are an essential part of every diet. Most of the fats in peanuts are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are a healthful type of fat.
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), consuming monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats instead of saturated and trans fats can improve a person’s blood cholesterol levels. This, in turn, lowers the risk of heart disease and stroke.
There is also a small amount of saturated fat in peanuts. Saturated fat is less healthful than unsaturated or polyunsaturated. Doctors link too much saturated fat with cardiovascular disease. As a consequence, it is best to eat peanuts in moderation to get their optimal health benefits.
3. Dietary fiber
Peanuts are a good source of dietary fiber. They contain 8.5 g per 100 g, which around one-quarter of a male’s recommended fiber intake or one-third for females.
The current Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults get the following amounts of fiber per day:
- 34 g for men
- 28 g for women
Fiber is a heart-healthful nutrient. The AHA report that eating fiber-rich foods improves blood cholesterol levels and lowers the risk of heart disease, stroke, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.
Which types of peanuts are most healthful?
Raw peanuts are the most healthful variety. Peanut butter is a great choice, offering a healthy nutritional profile and a range of health benefits.
People can also buy roasted, salted peanuts. Eating these types is okay in moderation, though consuming too much sodium is linked with high blood pressure and heart disease.
The AHA recommend an ideal limit of 1,500 mg of sodium per day, and no more than 2,300 mg of sodium — equivalent to 1 teaspoon of salt — especially for people with high blood pressure.
Where possible, choose raw peanuts with the skin attached. Peanut skins contain antioxidants. Antioxidants help protect the body’s cells from damage from free radicals. Producers usually remove the skins from most roasted or salted peanut.
People can enjoy peanuts and peanut butter in moderation as a snack throughout the day. In main meals, peanuts make a great addition to salads or Thai dishes.
Health benefits of peanuts
Eating peanuts may help with managing blood sugar levels.
Eating peanuts has three main health benefits:
- supporting heart health
- maintaining a healthy weight
- managing blood sugar
The following sections discuss these benefits and the science behind them.
1. Supporting heart health
Peanuts contain more healthful monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats than they do saturated fats. This fat ratio makes peanuts better for the heart than fat sources with a higher proportion of saturated fats.
A 2014 study found that eating 46 g of peanuts or peanut butter each day may improve heart health for people with diabetes.
2. Maintaining a healthy weight
Because peanuts are full of healthful fats, protein, and fiber, they make a satisfying snack. Eating them in moderation may help a person maintain a healthy weight.
Research found that women who ate nuts, including peanuts, twice a week had a slightly lower risk of weight gain and obesity over 8 years than those who rarely ate nuts.
A large-scale study found that eating peanuts and other nuts may reduce a person’s risk of obesity over 5 years.
3. Managing blood sugar levels
Peanuts are an excellent food for people with diabetes or a risk of diabetes. Peanuts have a low glycemic index (GI), meaning they do not cause big spikes in blood sugar levels.
Nutritionists see foods with a GI of 55 or lower as low-GI foods, and those with a GI of more than 70 are high-GI foods. Peanuts have a GI score of 23, making them a low-GI food.
Peanuts help control blood sugar levels because they are relatively low in carbohydrates but high in protein, fat, and fiber. Fiber slows down the digestive processes, allowing a steadier release of energy, and protein takes longer to break down than simple carbohydrates.
Research suggests that eating peanut butter or peanuts may help women with obesity and a higher type 2 diabetes risk to manage their blood sugar levels.
Risks and considerations
Peanuts contain proteins called arachin and conarachin. Some people are severely allergic to these proteins. For these people, peanuts can cause a life-threatening allergic reaction.
Because peanuts are high in calories, it is sensible to eat them in moderation as part of a balanced diet. Consuming too many calories may lead to weight gain. This is true regardless of whether the foods those calories come from are nutritious or not.
Roasted, salted peanuts may be less healthful than raw peanuts due to their high sodium content. That said, if people consume them in moderation, they can enjoy them as a part of a healthful, balanced diet.
Peanuts are a nutrient-rich source of protein, dietary fiber, and healthful fats. Eating them in moderation, as part of a balanced diet, may:
- support heart health
- help a person maintain a healthy weight
- help a person manage their blood sugar levels
Peanuts are a good option for people with diabetes for these reasons. They are also a good snack option for those looking to reduce carbohydrates and increase healthful fat intake.
For their optimal health benefits, choose raw peanuts with the skin on. Raw peanuts with their skin on are high in cell-defending antioxidants.
Roasted, salted peanuts are high in sodium, which health professionals link to heart disease. That said, eating roasted, salted peanuts as part of a balanced diet is okay.
As with most foods, the key to enjoying peanuts is eating them in moderation as part of a healthful, calorie-controlled diet.