Cracking the peanut – Part two: Five essential nutrients of peanuts and peanut butter

In the May 2012 issue of In a Nutshell, you read about how to eat healthy throughout the year. The key take-away from this article was that nuts can play an important role in your quest for health. Now it’s time to dig deep into the nutritional benefits of peanuts.

A study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition showed that Americans who eat peanut butter and peanuts regularly have higher levels of vitamin A, vitamin E, folate, calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron and dietary fibre in their diets – which are nutrients that are often missing in our diets¹. The study found that “peanut eaters” also had leaner bodies than the “non-peanut eaters,” helping to dispel the myth that higher-fat foods automatically lead to weight gain.

Read on to learn about the top five essential nutrients of peanuts and peanut butter that contribute to normal growth, development and maintenance of good health.

Vitamin B1, also known as Thiamin, plays an important role in the body by helping convert carbohydrates into energy. This nutrient is also important for the functioning of the heart, muscles and nervous system. On the flip side, low levels of this essential nutrient can cause eye weakness, mental confusion and loss of physical coordination.

Vitamin B3, also called Niacin, is another essential nutrient required for the metabolizing of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Niacin also plays an important supporting role in proper blood circulation, healthy skin and the functions of the central nervous system. This is also required for the production of hydrochloric acid for digestion. Niacin is also used in the treatment of high cholesterol levels.

Magnesium is a mineral that is required by the body for the growth and formation of healthy bones, muscles and enzymes. Like vitamin B1, it is used to convert carbohydrates, fats and proteins into energy. This essential nutrient also plays an important role in helping to ensure the absorption of calcium and potassium as well as assisting with the transmission of nervous system impulses.

Folate is another B vitamin found in food and often included in the form of folic acid in multi-vitamins. Folate is essential for the production of normal red blood cells. It also helps keep heart and blood vessels healthy. Folate is especially important during pregnancy because it is needed for the body to produce new genetic material (DNA).

Vitamin E is one of a number of nutrients called antioxidants. It is a fat-soluble vitamin that protects vitamin A and other essential fatty acids from oxidation in the body’s cells, and prevents breakdown of body tissue. When the body transforms food into energy or fights off infection, toxic by-products are released. Antioxidants, including vitamin E, help to protect the body from these toxins, defending against various health conditions such as heart disease, cancer (prostate among others) and arthritis.

¹ Griel, A., Eissentat B., Juturu, V., Hsieh, G., Kris-Etherton, P.M. “Improved diet quality with peanut consumption,” Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 2004. Vol. 23, No. 6.