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This month and year-round, embrace the power of the peanut

March is National Peanut Month.

For years, dieters were told to avoid peanuts, as well as most other nuts, because of their high fat content.

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But recent studies have shown that low-fat diets aren't necessarily the best ones. In fact, diets that don't aggressively limit fat intake can actually be more effective than their low-fat counterparts.

According to www.peanut-institute.org, one study published in the New England Journal of Medicine detailed the results of putting more than 300 overweight people in Israel on low-fat, Mediterranean, and low-carb diets. The study found that all participants lost weight, but "more weight was lost on the Mediterranean and low-carbohydrate diets, which were high in healthy unsaturated fats like those found in peanuts."

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The website continues, "Studies clearly show that diets with higher fat can be more fulfilling to some and easier to follow. The 'Pounds Lost Study' published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2009 showed that peanuts and peanut butter could fit into low-fat, moderate fat, and high-fat diets ... All of the diet plans promoted weight loss showing that you don't need to go low fat to lose weight."

Peanut lovers, rejoice: You can have your peanut butter and stick to your health plan, too. In moderation, peanuts and peanut butter can not just help you lose weight when eaten in conjunction with other nutritious foods, but can also contribute to a healthy lifestyle.

Peanuts pack quite a punch when it comes to vitamins and nutrients. According to www.peanut-institute.org, "People who eat peanuts tend to take in more key nutrients critical to health. In more than 15,000 people who consumed peanuts and peanut products, it was found that levels of vitamin A, vitamin E, folate, magnesium, zinc, iron, calcium, and dietary fiber were higher than those who did not consume peanuts."

Not only that, but some bioactive components found in peanuts have been linked to decreasing blood pressure. And, peanuts' high levels of phytosterols can help reduce cholesterol.

Eating a serving size of peanuts on a regular basis can help improve your overall health and wellness. And the best part? There's quite a few delicious ways to get those health benefits.

From peanut butter spread over apples to peanuts added to a healthy stir fry dinner, your options are as plentiful as the nutrients you're getting. Enjoy!

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