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Vitamins and Minerals
Peanuts and peanut butter stand out as unique healthful foods for more than just their healthy fat, protein, and fiber. They have also been recognized as a great way to get multiple nutrients in a small portion from a single food source versus a supplement. Peanuts and peanut butter are filled with a number of vitamins and minerals that we need daily in our diets, which are integral to growth, development, metabolism, and immunity. All of the nutrients in peanuts work by multiple mechanisms and are likely having synergistic effects toward improving health status.
NIACIN helps convert food to energy. The digestive system, skin, and nerves also use niacin to function. Further, research shows that dietary niacin may protect against Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive decline (Morris, 2004). An ounce of peanuts is an excellent source of niacin providing a quarter of our daily needs.
FOLATE is especially important in infancy and pregnancy. It helps produce and maintain cells. Research shows that people who take in higher dietary folate may have an advantage when it comes to prevention of heart disease (Rimm, 1998). An ounce of peanuts is a good source of folate providing over 10% of our daily needs.
PANTOTHENIC ACID is critical in the metabolism and synthesis of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. An ounce of peanuts provides almost 10% of our daily needs.
THIAMIN(B1) is essential for the functioning of the heart, muscles, and nervous system. It also helps cells in the body convert carbohydrates into energy. An ounce of peanuts is a good source of thiamin providing 10% of our daily needs.
RIBOFLAIN (B2) has a key role in metabolizing fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. Just 2 servings provide 5% of our daily need.
CHOLINE is critical for normal membrane structure and function. It is also important to lung function and memory development in infants. An ounce of peanuts provides almost 5% of our daily needs.
VITAMIN B6 is involved in protein and red blood cell metabolism and has a role in the nervous and immune systems. A higher intake of dietary vitamin B6 may be beneficial for heart disease. An ounce of peanuts provides over 5% of our daily needs.
VITAMINE E is commonly known as an antioxidant, but it is also involved in immune function and regulation of certain metabolic processes. Since studies that have supplemented vitamin E have been mixed, eating peanuts is a great way to get it from a dietary source. Vitamin E is considered a hard-to-get nutrient as it was shown that over 90% of men and women were not meeting the recommendations for intake (Gao, 2006). New research shows that there is more vitamin E in peanuts that was realized (Shin, 2009). An ounce of peanuts provides 20% of our daily needs and is considered an excellent source. That means that two servings provide almost half of our daily needs.
MAGNESIUM has multiple roles in the body. It maintains normal muscle and nerve function thereby keeping our heart rhythm steady, it supports a healthy immune system, promotes normal blood pressure, keeps bones strong, and helps to regular blood sugar levels. Magnesium can also reduce the risk of stroke (Larsson, 2012). A number of studies have shown that magnesium intake is associated with reduced inflammation (King, 2005; Song, 2005) and a decreased risk of metabolic syndrome (Song, 2005) and type 2 diabetes (Kao, 1999; Lopez-Ridaura, 2004; Huerta, 2005; Larson, 2007). People who eat peanuts have been shown not only to increase their intake of peanuts, but also their blood levels. Peanuts are a good source of magnesium and just 2 servings provides a quarter of our daily needs.
PHOPHORUS primarily functions in the formation of bones and teeth. It also helps synthesize protein for the growth, maintenance, and repair of cells and tissues. A serving of peanuts is a good source providing about 15% of our daily needs.
POTASSIUM is critical to maintaining fluid and electrolyte balance in the body. It is important to brain and nerve function and is necessary for normal growth and muscle development. Just one serving provides almost 5% of our daily needs.
ZINC supports our immune systems, helps in wound healing, and is involved in building proteins. Zinc also supports normal growth and development during pregnancy, childhood, and adolescence. A serving of peanuts provides almost 10% of our daily needs.
IRON is an integral part of many proteins and enzymes that maintain good health. It is involved in oxygen transport and helps regulate cell growth and differentiation. A serving of peanuts provides almost 10% of our daily needs.
COPPER plays a role in the production of key proteins in our body such as collagen and hemoglobin, which transports oxygen. A serving of peanuts is an excellent source of copper providing over 20% of our daily needs.
MANGANESE is a cofactor for many enzymes. A serving of peanuts is an excellent source of manganese providing over a quarter of our daily needs.
SELENIUM is an antioxidant helping to prevent cellular damage from free radicals. It regulates thyroid function and plays a role in the immune system. A serving of peanuts provides about 5% of our daily needs.
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Nutrients of Concern
It doesn’t take many peanuts to help bump up the levels of nutrients that we need each day. Just a small handful can naturally provide many of the ones that are hard-to-get. In fact, the Women, Infant’s and Children (WIC) program chose peanut butter to include in food packages because it contributes significant levels of iron, folate, Vitamin E, and fiber.
According to the 2010 US Dietary Guidelines, nutrients that are of concern for the population include potassium, dietary fiber, calcium, and vitamin D. One study looked at the diets of more than 15,000 children and adults in the US to see how much of an impact peanuts were having. It showed that those who consumed peanuts and peanut products achieved higher Recommended Daily Allowances (RDAs) for vitamin A, vitamin E, folate, magnesium, zinc, iron, calcium, and dietary fiber than those who did not eat peanuts (Griel, 2004). Overall, peanut-eaters had higher quality diets than non-eaters.
One more benefit: according to survey data, over two-thirds of the peanut butter that is eaten is consumed with milk, which is what likely boosted calcium in the subjects diets. This means peanut butter can act as a magnet for other healthy foods contributing to an improved overall diet.
In another study, data from the 2001-2004 “What We Eat in America,” National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) was examined. Children and adults who ate peanut and peanut butter were also found to take in more critical nutrients. Levels of vitamin E, niacin, food folate, magnesium, copper, and potassium were significantly higher than in those who did not eat peanuts.
In a human study conducted at Purdue University, eating about three ounces of peanuts a day lead to significant increases in the intake of fiber, magnesium, folate, vitamin E, copper, and the amino acid arginine (Alpher, 2003). Also in the study, initial baseline values of blood magnesium fell below recommended levels, but these increased in all of the peanut eaters to above recommended levels corresponding with a range required to lower cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk.
Peanut Contribution to the Diet Versus Other Nuts
Compared to other nuts, peanuts contribute significantly more nutrients to the diet each day. Data on the average intake of vitamins and minerals for all nut users calculated from the 2001-2004 “What We Eat in America,” National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) was presented at the 2007 Nuts & Health Symposium at the USDA Western Human Nutrition Research Center at the University of California, Davis. The breakout by average intake of each specific type of nut is shown here based on a 2000-calorie intake.
Peanut, Peanut Butter, and Nut Nutrient Contribution to RDA in Men per 2000 Calories
Source: WWEIA, NHANES 2001-2004, 1 day, 19+ years
Peanut, Peanut Butter, and Nut Nutrient Contribution to RDA in Women per 2000 Calories
Source: WWEIA, NHANES 2001-2004, 1 day, 19+ years