Do Peanuts Cause Weight Gain?

Few things are more enjoyable than snacking on peanuts while watching a good movie. But did you know that peanuts may help you live longer and ward off chronic diseases? This functional food was linked to reduced heart disease mortality rates and better overall health. Peanuts and peanut butter might even help you lose weight, as long as you don't go overboard.

When consumed in moderation, peanuts can make weight loss easier and improve your health. Credit: Creativ Studio Heinemann/Westend61/GettyImages

Tips

Rich in fiber and protein, peanuts fill you up quickly and can make it easier to lose those pesky pounds. Enjoy them in moderation to reap the benefits. Ideally, choose a brand with little or no added salt. Eat their skin too — it's chock-full of antioxidants.

Read more: 9 Healthy Nuts That May Help You Live Longer

Peanut Calories and Nutrition Facts

These delicious, crunchy treats have a bad rep for being high in calories and fats. The truth is that they actually provide fewer calories than most nuts and seeds. In fact, they're not technically nuts but legumes, which means they're related to soy, beans and lentils. One serving (1 ounce or about 28 grams) of raw peanuts delivers the following nutrients:

  • 159 calories
  • 7.2 grams of protein
  • 4.5 grams of carbs
  • 13.8 grams of fat
  • 2.4 grams of fiber
  • 27 percent of the DV (daily value) of manganese
  • 16 percent of the DV of copper
  • 12 percent of the DV of magnesium
  • 11 percent of the DV of phosphorus
  • 17 percent of the DV of folate
  • 17 percent of the DV of niacin
  • 12 percent of the DV of vitamin E
  • 61.6 milligrams of phytosterols

Peanuts are also a good source of zinc, selenium, potassium and calcium. Due to their high nutritional value, they're considered functional foods. According to a 2016 review published in the Journal of Food Science and Technology, they boast high doses of arginine, flavonoids, coenzyme Q10, antioxidants and phytochemicals that block cholesterol absorption, among other benefits.

Walnuts, by comparison, provide 198 calories and 18.9 grams of fat per 1-ounce serving. The same amount of raw almonds boasts 164 calories and 14.4 grams of fat. A 1-ounce serving of Brazil nuts has 187 calories and 19 grams of fat.

Read more: Nutrition of Peanuts vs. Almonds

Peanuts and Body Weight

Will eating peanuts make you gain weight? It depends — they're high in calories and fats but also contain protein, fiber and other nutrients that help maintain a healthy body weight. According to a recent study published in the journal Nutrition in 2018, diets rich in fiber and protein are sustainable in the long run and support weight loss. These nutrients keep you full longer and enhance satiety, making it easier to reduce your food intake.

A 2016 clinical trial conducted by the University of Houston Department of Health confirms these findings. Children who ate either peanuts or peanut butter between meals at least once a week for six months experienced a greater reduction in body mass index compared to those who didn't receive these snacks regularly.

Another study, which appeared in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition in 2018, has found eating high-carb foods along with peanut butter may help prevent blood sugar spikes. When you eat bread, cookies and other foods rich in simple carbs, your blood sugar levels rise and fall suddenly. This leads to increased hunger, low energy, fatigue and poor mental focus. Peanuts are low in carbs and may help improve glycemic control, leading to weight loss.

Peanuts May Cause Weight Gain

Despite their health benefits, these nuts can cause you to pack on pounds. If you're taking in more calories than you burn, the number on the scale will go up. Let's be honest — peanut butter and peanuts are easy to overeat. When consumed in excess, they can lead to weight gain, inflammation and poor mineral absorption, among other side effects.

Two tablespoons of peanut butter have 191 calories. It may not seem much, but do you really eat that little? The same goes for peanuts; these snacks often come in large packages which promote overeating. One cup boasts 828 calories — that's almost half the low end of the daily recommended calorie intake for adult women.

Read more: 13 Types of Nut and Seed Butters and Their Benefits (Plus, Our Top Picks!)

Another problem is their high sodium content. Most manufacturers add salt and flavorings to enhance their taste. Excess sodium can lead to hypertension, heart disease, stroke and osteoporosis in the long run. Plus, salty foods may cause water retention, leaving you feeling bloated and full.

Are They Really Healthy?

Rich in healthy fats and antioxidants, peanuts have their place in a balanced diet. The key is to enjoy them in moderation. These crunchy snacks have been linked to lower rates of heart disease, as well as decreasing the risk of endothelial dysfunction, inflammation and premature death.

More than half of the fatty acids in peanuts are monounsaturated. These fats support cardiovascular health due to their beneficial effects on cholesterol levels. Additionally, peanuts boast more protein than other nuts and seeds, making them ideal for vegans and vegetarians. Your body needs this macronutrient to build cells and tissues, fight pathogens, produce hormones and heal itself.

A 2017 study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology shows that peanuts may protect against cardiovascular events. Subjects who consumed one serving of cashews, almonds or peanuts at least twice a week had a 13 percent lower risk of heart disease and a 23 percent lower risk of coronary artery disease. Fiber, one of the most abundant nutrients in peanuts, may reduce the odds of developing diabetes, colorectal cancer, metabolic syndrome and obesity, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

The Antioxidant Power of Peanuts

In addition to protein, fiber and minerals, peanuts contain antioxidants that scavenge free radicals and protect against oxidative stress. According to a 2016 research paper published in The Scientific World Journal, they're high in resveratrol and other bioactive compounds. This antioxidant protects your heart and brain, fights inflammation and inhibits platelet aggregation.

A 2015 review featured in the World Journal of Gastroenterology highlights the anti-cancer properties of resveratrol. This compound appears to be particularly effective against gastric cancer due to its ability to suppress tumor growth and induce apoptosis (cancer cell death). It also exhibits antimicrobial effects and may help protect against H. pylori infection. If left unaddressed, this infection can lead to stomach cancer, ulcers and inflammation.

Furthermore, the phenolic compounds in peanuts inhibit the formation of advanced glycation end products (AGEs), which in turn, may help prevent vascular dysfunction, diabetes, premature aging and even cancer. The roasting process has been shown to increase antioxidant levels in peanut skin by up to 40 percent.

Healthy Ways to Enjoy Peanuts

Now that you know more about the health benefits of peanuts, incorporate them into your diet. Enjoy them as a snack, make your own trail mixes or use them as an ingredient in homemade protein bars, granola, oatmeal or Asian dishes. Sprinkle them over frozen bananas and ice pops or mix them with curry, garlic salt and chili powder for a savory treat.

If you prefer peanut butter, make your own version rather than buying it from the store. All you need is one cup of peanuts, a pinch of salt and olive oil. Add raw honey for extra flavor. Mix everything in a food processor and enjoy!

Read more: 9 Simple and Satisfying Peanut Butter Snacks

There are countless ways to use peanut butter. This decadent treat makes a healthy addition to homemade muffins, high-protein waffles, mug cakes, smoothies, sandwiches and even salads. It also goes well with chicken and pasta dishes, quinoa, rice and oatmeal. Since it's low in carbs, it fits most diets. Remember to watch your portions, though.

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