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Most of us are familiar with salted peanuts as a snack bartenders offer to make us thirstier, but these lowly legumes are actually surprisingly high in antioxidants. In fact, scientists from the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences found that they rival many fruits. “When it comes to antioxidant content, peanuts are right up there with strawberries,” says Steve Talcott, one of the researchers whose study was published in the Journal of Food Chemistry.
But peanuts offer more than just antioxidants. When researchers at Purdue University investigated the impact of peanut consumption on total diet quality, “We found that including peanuts in the diet significantly increased magnesium, folate, fiber, copper, vitamin E, and arginine, all of which play a role in the prevention of heart disease,” says Dr. Richard Matttes, one of the principle investigators of the study, which was published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition. And another study of 4,751 people found that those who regularly consumed peanuts had higher intakes of protein, fiber, vitamins A and E, calcium, and other key nutrients.
About half of the fat in peanuts comes from monounsaturated fat, the same kind that’s so plentiful in the Mediterranean diet, which has been shown in virtually every study to be associated with lower levels of heart disease and cancer. A new peanut has been developed recently called a“high oleic,” which is good news because oleic acid is the monounsaturated fat that all the shouting is about. The new high oleic peanut has been engineered to have about 80 percent of its fat (instead of 50 percent) from oleic acid, thus boosting its monounsaturated fat content even higher.
In my local natural foods store, there’s a little grinder that sits in the produce section. You throw peanuts into the sieve and put a little plastic container underneath, flip the switch, and out comes the richest, most delicious, oily, thick peanut butter you can imagine. That’s the real stuff with nothing added, just the benefits described above. You can also buy ready-made jars of peanut butter like that in health food stores, usually labeled natural, and sometimes also organic.