Are peanuts healthy? How do they compare, nutrition-wise, to other nuts? And does it matter how you eat them? You’ve got peanut questions, and we’ve got answers.
To cut to the chase, yes, peanuts are healthy. And there are lots of reasons why. But first, a quick overview of what it means to call a food “healthy.” This term is pretty nuanced and person-dependent, Maya Feller, MS, RD, CDN, founder of Maya Feller Nutrition and an adjunct professor at New York University, previously told Glamour. Factors like age, health status, food tolerances, cultural background, religious beliefs, socioeconomic status, and where you live can influence what “healthy” means for you, she explained.
That said, research does show that certain foods increase our risk of developing diseases, and other foods reduce that risk. And peanuts, when minimally processed, fall into the latter category.
Here is everything you need to know about peanuts with info straight from the experts. Let’s dig in, shall we?
Peanut nutrition facts
One big perk of peanuts is that they are an excellent source of plant-based protein, says Feller. A quarter cup of peanuts contains about nine grams of protein, says Boston-based registered dietitian Alex Aldeborgh, MS, RD, which means they can be a filling snack or a satiating meal topping. Another plus of peanuts: They contain fiber. A quarter cup of peanuts offers 3 grams of fiber—about 12 percent of a woman’s daily fiber needs. And, if you eat peanuts with the skin on, you’ll get an extra dose of fiber and antioxidants.
Moreover, peanuts are loaded with more than 30 essential vitamins and minerals, including folate, vitamin E, and magnesium, says Aldeborgh. They also contain a good amount of healthy unsaturated fats, including mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids, adds Feller.
Health benefits of peanuts
Getting enough unsaturated fat in your diet—like that found in peanuts—can support heart health, brain health, and provide anti-inflammatory benefits, according to Aldeborgh.
Also worth nothing: A 2017 study that analyzed data from more than 210,000 health professionals found that people who ate nuts at least five times per week had a 14 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease and a 20 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease than those who rarely or never ate nuts. Both walnuts and peanuts, the study found, were linked with decreased disease risk. And multiple studies have linked nut consumption with reduced risk of weight gain.
Peanuts vs. other nuts
Peanuts are technically a legume, but we group them in the nut family, explains Aldeborgh. And peanuts, compared to all other nuts, have the highest amount of protein per serving. There are other nutrition differences between peanuts and other tree nuts. For example, peanuts have more saturated fat than almonds and fewer carbohydrates than cashews. But these variances are pretty slight, and nuts in general have similar overall nutrient profiles, explains Aldeborgh. Which is why you should simply eat whichever nut (or nuts) you like best and not worry too much about the small differences in nutrition.
Does it matter how you eat them?
Not all peanuts are the same, nutrition-wise. It’s a good idea to scan the nutrition label on your pack of peanuts before buying so that you can make an informed decision.
The healthiest peanuts are raw unsalted peanuts that still have the skin on since that outer layer provides an extra dose of fiber and antioxidants, explains Aldeborgh. But if you don’t fancy the taste or texture of peanut skin, you can still get all the health benefits mentioned above by choosing raw, unsalted, and skinless peanuts.