When it comes to sprinkling nuts atop oatmeal or yogurt, peanuts are often disregarded in favor of more buzz-worthy nuts, like almonds or pistachios. (Yes, peanuts are technically legumes, but we basically think of them as a nut.)
Peanut butter will probably always remain popular, but with new nut butter spreads on the market, tons of people are making the swap for good, too.
Why? Well there have been many studies on the benefits of eating other nuts for heart health, higher “good” fat content, and fiber, and so people have begun to think that peanuts are a lesser-valued nut for snacking on raw and adding to your favorite trail mixes.
But it’s time to reshape your thinking! It turns out, contrary to popular belief, peanuts have as much heart-healthy, blood-sugar regulating benefits as almonds do.
According to a study published in the journal Nutrients last month, eating two servings of peanuts provides the same benefits for those with type 2 diabetes as they’d get from eating almonds.
In this study, 25 participants ate a low-carb diet for 12 weeks and had either a serving of peanuts or almonds twice a day. They found that there was no difference in improving blood glucose and hemoglobin A1c levels (a factor to determine long-term blood glucose regulation), between the two groups.
“The takeaway here is that individuals with diabetes should consume nuts to receive the many glycemic and cardio-metabolic benefits and can feel confident choosing peanuts, which are less expensive and more palatable to most consumers,” says Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, author of The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club.
Here’s why: “The fat, fiber and protein in peanuts help slow digestion and lessens spikes in blood sugar and insulin—more of these added to the daily diet can help impact [and improve] daily blood glucose control,” says Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC author of Healthy, Quick & Easy Smoothies.
Plus, they have a ton of other nutritional perks. “Peanuts are a powerhouse of nutrition with more protein than any nut, good fats, and a source for a variety of vitamins and nutrients. They contain arginine and resveratrol, associated with heart health, and are a good source of fiber, niacin, folate, and manganese just to name a few,” says Harris-Pincus.
How Much Do You Need to Eat?
Anything will help, but locking down those two servings a day, as was instructed in the study, will help you get the maximum benefit. “This study used 2 servings a day, so aim for 1 oz of nuts (about 28 peanuts) in a salad or a smoothie and then 2 tbsp of peanut butter on a rice cake or apple as a snack later in the day,” suggests White.
What’s more, you’re better off consuming peanuts at two separate times throughout the day to help with daily blood sugar management, White adds. “This could also be achieved with other foods rich in fiber/protein/healthy fat—not just peanuts, or almonds,” she says.
If you are adding peanuts to your day, look for unsalted and products free of additives. “When choosing peanut butter, I always suggest natural peanut butter without added oils and sugars to provide the same nutrition as whole peanuts,” says Harris-Pincus.