As I have mentioned before, I am a nut fiend, so when the topic of nuts came up during a recent ladies brunch, intrigue and joy tingled through my veins. No I am not kidding, I was really that excited about it, and it sparked my curiosity to learn more about this nut. Almonds, walnuts and cashews get a lot of attention. They are clearly the more prestigious of the nuts, but maybe the little peanut should get more recognition.
Three interesting “I heard” topics were brought to the table. First was, “I heard peanuts somehow increase lifespan.” Second was, “I heard that recently they discovered eating peanuts during pregnancy can prevent nut allergies in children.” And third was, “I heard that peanut butter (and probably peanuts) help relieve IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) symptoms.”
So is what we “heard” true? Turns out there is some truth to all three statements. But, before I speak to this, the first thing I learned is that the peanut is actually not a nut! Whaaaatttt???? Yes, I was just as taken aback as you probably are. Unlike other nuts, peanuts come from the ground, so they are actually in the legume or bean family. In short, it’s a ground nut versus a tree nut. Now that we have that squared away, let’s move on to the first of the “I heard” topics.
1) Will you live longer if you eat peanuts? Maybe. I am less clear about this one, but I think the longevity connection is a result of the phytochemical resveratrol. Resveratrol was first discovered in wine and touted as the “fountain of youth.” I remember watching a 60 minutes segment about this years ago. This little bugger has been shown to prevent cardiovascular disease and cancer (sort of a big deal), AND in concentrated amounts resveratrol can slow down the aging process — by almost a decade! It can be found in peanuts, as well as other foods. So, if you aren’t a fan of wine or peanuts/peanut butter, then you can also get it from red grapes (with the skin), dark chocolate, and blueberries. Actually, the combination of some of these sounds delicious. I may just treat myself to some melted dark chocolate, combined with peanut butter, topped with blueberries, and accompanied with a glass of wine on the side (I prefer my grapes in fermented, liquid form).
2) Now, on to peanuts and pregnancy. To eat or not to eat? Current research says you should eat them. Recently, American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reversed their position regarding nut intake while pregnant from avoiding to consuming them. Turns out, when women ate MORE NUTS during their pregnancies, their child was LESS LIKELY to be allergic. What does this mean? Ladies, you are free to eat nuts while bearing! It’s no liquor, but still exciting news…well until new research comes out that is.
3) Finally, do peanuts help prevent IBS symptoms? Yes and No. This one could go both ways because IBS symptoms are individual-based. Peanuts may be an IBS trigger food for some, but not for others. Also, in reading, I found that peanut butter (as well as other nut butters) is recommended versus consuming the nut in whole form. Not sure what that’s about, but my advice would be to try peanuts or peanut butter and see how your body reacts. All that said, I believe there is something in the peanut that helps with IBS. I’ll explain my logic…the number one way to help IBS through food is through diet, especially fiber because fiber improves the way the intestines work. This site provides more detail, but the following sentence, particularly the bolded words, stuck out to me: “Soluble fiber found in foods such as dried beans and other legumes, oats, barley, and berries may help diarrhea by slowing down the passage of food from the stomach to the intestines and by giving stool form.” Based on what we know about the peanut (i.e., it’s actually a legume/bean), this would lead me to believe it can be beneficial for IBS. Make sense? It does to me, but I am willing to admit I may be wrong, although I’m probably not.
There are many more health benefits with respect to the peanut and other nuts (which I will definitely write about in the near future), but that’s all I got for now. I love peanuts and am fortunately not allergic, so I’m off to crack myself some…