Peanuts: The legume with nutritional punch

Peanuts provide many nutrients and help to decrease the risk of certain chronic diseases like diabetes.

Peanuts are a familiar food found at many family events including ball games and the circus. This favorite food also known as “goobers” sustained soldiers during the civil war. The name peanut can be deceiving. The peanut is not a nut but a legume. They are related to peas, lentils and beans. The peanut plant grows as a ground flower with its pods maturing underground.

There are many ways to enjoys peanuts, including peanut butter, oil, flour, flakes. These legumes pack a powerful punch of nutrition. They contain folate, niacin, magnesium, vitamin E, copper, and phosphorus. They also offer monounsaturated fats, fiber and the same polyphenol antioxidant found in red wine. These nutrients are needed to help convert food to energy, cell division and protection. One handful or ounce of peanuts contains 13% daily value for protein which makes them an excellent plant-based protein. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans specifically point out the need for a shift in food intake to a more plant-based diet; one that emphasizes fruits, vegetables,whole grains and nuts.

Research has long shown that peanuts to help reduce the risk of heart disease in small amounts. It has also linked peanuts to the prevention of other chronic diseases such as diabetes and certain cancers. Studies show that moderate consumption of peanuts does not lead to weight gain but, in fact, can help with weight loss by increasing fullness. Peanuts and peanut butter contribute offer than 30 essential vitamins and minerals and can be part of a varied balanced diet that promotes good health.

Peanuts are available year-round and come in a variety of ways. Enjoy them shelled, unshelled, raw, bulk, roasted or sweetened. Shelled peanuts store best sealed and refrigerated. Unshelled peanuts require cool, dark storage. They can be a handy snack or a nutritious addition to many recipes. For more information on healthy eating, visit www.nutrition.gov.

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