Published on 03/24/11

Peanuts join red wine, blueberries as power food

By Sharon Dowdy

Eating peanuts with their skins on is not only less messy, it’s much healthier for you, too, according to a University of Georgia food scientist.

Peanut skins have high levels of resveratrol. The popular bioactive compound is often associated with red wine and the “French paradox,” a phenomenon noted in France where deaths from coronary heart disease are low despite the prevalence of fatty diets.

“Resveratrol is associated with reduced cardiovascular disease and has anti-aging, -cancer and –inflammatory factors,” said Anna Resurreccion, a food scientist with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

Skins boost resveratrol three fold

After red wine, red grape juice and dark chocolate, roasted peanuts are one of the important sources of resveratrol. “And when consumed with skins, they provide about three times more resveratrol” compared to leaving off the skins, she said.

“Roasted peanuts with skins also have antioxidant properties equivalent to blueberries, but more than in red wine, green tea or cocoa drinks,” said Resurreccion, who has studied peanuts for 25 years.

Full of good fats, too

Peanuts were once frowned upon for their high fat content, she said. But they are full of healthy fats like monounsaturated oleic and other polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Americans eat peanuts primarily as a snack food, but in underdeveloped countries peanuts serve as a major protein source.

A 2002 Nurses’ Health Study found that daily intake of two tablespoons of peanuts, or just a handful, reduced the risk of type 2 diabetes in women by 21 percent. The study also shows women with type 2 diabetes reduced their risk of cardiovascular disease by 44 percent by consuming the recommended daily allowance.

Full of vitamins

“Regular peanut intake has been shown to improve the diet quality of consumers as evidenced by higher intake of vitamins A and E, folate, calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron and dietary fiber,” Resurreccion said.

Peanut oil has healthy benefits, too. Phytosterols found in peanut oil can reduce cholesterol, inhibit colon, prostate and breast cancers and protect against atherosclerosis, she said.

“To date, we have only scratched the surface of this area of research, and scientists are discovering more bioactive compounds with beneficial effects,” Resurreccion said.

Sharon Dowdy is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

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