Heart Health by pblovers Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Eating a nutritious diet is a key component to fighting heart disease, but that doesn’t always seem easy or tasty. The good news is that peanuts and peanut butter fit easily into a heart healthy diet. The American Heart Association recommends ‘Life’s Essential 8’ as the key measures for maintaining and improving cardiovascular health. Peanuts and peanut butter can help in five of the eight measures: Eat Better The American Heart Association encourages a diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, lean meats and good-for-you fats, like the unsaturated fats in peanuts. Peanuts and peanut butter are nutrient-dense foods that are extremely popular with children and adults alike. People who eat peanuts tend to consume more key nutrients critical to health both because of the macro- and micro-nutrients in the peanuts themselves and because adding peanuts and peanut butter may increase the acceptability of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Try our Far East Peanutty Broccoli, Crisp Shrimp with Cabbage Stir Fry or Thai Peanut Veggie Dip for some easy, heart healthy recipes. Manage Weight It is clear that being overweight or obese puts people at a greater risk for many chronic diseases, including heart disease. Although peanuts are an energy dense food, research consistently shows that eating peanuts is NOT associated with weight gain or a higher BMI. With a balanced diet and exercise, peanut butter can even be incorporated in a variety of ways to aid in weight loss. Peanuts help you feel full because of the healthy fat, protein and fiber. One study showed that people naturally compensate for ¾ of the calories consumed from peanuts by eating fewer calories throughout the remainder of the day. (1) Generally, people are better able to maintain a healthy diet when it includes a higher amount of good fats from peanuts and peanut butter when compared to a typical low-fat diet. Control Cholesterol Peanuts and peanut butter have mostly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, sometimes called the ‘good fats’. When these fats replace saturated fat in the diet, they lower total and “bad” LDL cholesterol as well as triglyceride levels, while keeping “good” HDL cholesterol high. A controlled study of people eating diets high in either peanut oil, peanuts and peanut butter, or olive oil, all of which are high in monounsaturated fat (MUFA), showed that levels of total cholesterol, bad LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides were lowered, while good HDL cholesterol levels remained high. (2) Manage Blood Sugar According to the CDC, rates of type 2, or adult onset, diabetes have tripled in the last 30 years. This is due largely to the global epidemic of obesity, a major risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes. The connection is so strong that some health experts have coined a new term, “diabesity.” Peanuts and peanut butter are both low Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load foods, as they contain healthy oils, protein, and fiber that have a positive effect on blood sugar control. Research has shown that peanuts can help control blood sugar in both healthy individuals and those with type 2 diabetes. Peanuts and peanut butter have even been shown to help lessen the spike in blood sugar when paired with high-carbohydrate or high-GL foods. One study showed that, when eaten in the morning, peanuts and peanut butter positively impact blood sugar control throughout the day for women at high risk for type 2 diabetes. Not only did consuming 1.5 ounces of peanuts or peanut butter at breakfast help to decrease blood sugar spikes early in the day, but the effects were also seen hours later when participants continued to show blood sugar control following a high-carbohydrate lunch. (3) Manage Blood Pressure One-third of Americans have high blood pressure, and many may not even know they have it. High blood pressure increases your risk of heart disease and stroke, and scientists have learned that the dietary choices we make can have an impact on blood pressure. The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan was developed as a dietary pattern that combines nutrients that are thought to be effective at reducing blood pressure. Studies show it works—people sticking to the diet substantially lower their blood pressure! When following the DASH diet nuts, including peanuts and peanut butter, plus seeds and beans are eaten four to five times per week. Peanuts and peanut butter contain magnesium, potassium, fiber, arginine, and many bioactive components, each of which could be contributing to lowering blood pressure. Peanuts also contribute healthy plant protein and healthy unsaturated fats to the diet in addition to micronutrients. When part of a healthy diet, peanuts and peanut butter, which are high in unsaturated fats, can help keep this silent condition in check. (4) Kirkmeyer SV, Mattes RD, Effects of food attributes on hunger and food intake. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2000;24:1167-1175. Kris-Etherton, PM et al. High-monounsaturated Fatty Acid Diets Lower Both Plasma Cholesterol and Triacylglycerol Concentrations. Am. J. Clinical Nutrition 1999; 70:1009-15 Reis CE, Ribeiro DN, Costa NM, Bressan J, Alfenas RC, Mattes RD.Acute and second-meal effects of peanuts on glycaemic response and appetite in obese women with high type 2 diabetes risk: a randomised cross-over clinical trial. Br J Nutr. 2013 Jun;109(11):2015-23. doi: 10.1017/S0007114512004217. Epub 2012 Nov 5. PubMed PMID: 23122211. Appel LJ, Moore TJ, Obarzanek E, Vollmer WM, Svetkey LP, Sacks FM, Bray GA, Vogt TM, Cutler JA, Windhauser MM, Lin PH, Karanja N.A clinical trial of the effects of dietary patterns on blood pressure. DASH Collaborative Research Group. N Engl J Med. 1997 Apr 17;336(16):1117-24. PubMed PMID: 9099655.