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Peanuts are a versatile source of nutrition. Considerable research is now underway to provide information on the role peanuts can play in a healthy diet.


Health n NutritionPeanuts are a Power Food!

Peanuts and peanut butter are protein powerhouses providing over 10% of the U.S. recommended daily intake (RDI) per 1 ounce (28g) serving of peanuts or 2 tablespoons (23g) of peanut butter. In addition to protein, peanuts are packed with important vitamins and minerals, including resveratrol found in the skins. Not only are peanuts a nutritional powerhouse, but confer many health and nutritional benefits.

Peanuts move into the health spotlight

World scientific and consumer interest in peanuts as part of healthy eating patterns continues to grow. Yet not too many years ago, peanuts were on “don’t eat” lists for many people in the developed world. That’s because conventional nutrition advice judged foods one-dimensionally and  this influenced the public to focus mainly on their fat and calorie content. How times change. Over the past two decades, nutrition research has made big strides in understanding the health characteristics of different types of fat, leading to a clearer understanding of the beneficial role of unsaturated fats (the type overwhelming found in peanut products) particularly for heart health.  

For the American peanut industry and its worldwide customers, nutritional investigations and support for health and food services professionals and consumers wanting to learn more about peanuts have been spearheaded by The Peanut Institute and supported by many industry groups.

Claims and Guidelines

The United States approved a qualified health claim as early as 2003 for peanuts based around heart-healthy fats. In 2011, the European Union took this further by approving a health claim for foods such as peanuts, peanut butter made from 100% peanuts and peanut oil reflecting the heart healthy characteristics of the unsaturated fatty acids (predominantly monounsaturated oleic acid as found in olive oil) in these products. APC led the work which resulted in the European health claim for healthy fats found in such foods as peanuts, peanut butter and peanut oil and is able to advise users of US peanuts about communications and labelling implications of health and nutrition claims applying to peanut products.

Nutrient density – a new consensus

A new consensus is forming around the nutrient density of foods. That means seeing the nutritional attractiveness of a food in terms of the types and ratios of fat it contains plus macro and micro-nutrients per serving - rather than just calories. From that perspective, peanuts have clearly moved center stage and into the health spotlight.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010 recommend foods like peanuts because they are high protein packages that include healthy fats and nutrients like dietary fiber, potassium, folate, vitamin E, thiamin, and magnesium.   Nutrient dense foods help maintain good nutrition and calorie balance. Research shows that frequent peanut eaters do not gain weight when following a healthy diet and replacing less healthy fats and snacks with peanuts.

Peanut-related health evidence mounts up worldwide

It was only about twenty years ago that the landmark study appeared which described the relationship between eating nuts frequently and lower coronary disease risks – The Adventist Health Study. At that time, scientists advocating more nut consumption were the distinct minority.  It wasn’t until 1998 with the publication by Harvard researchers of results from the first Nurses’ Health Study that nutrition professionals and the media began to take notice. This large, ongoing epidemiological study of thousands of American professional women found frequent nut consumption (about five ounces per week) was associated with the lowest heart disease risks. Since then, the build up of evidence relating peanuts to health benefits has accelerated and the focus has moved beyond just healthy fats.   

Following from the groundbreaking work of the 1990s, the main findings emerging from nutrition research focusing on peanuts in recent years have changed our understanding of key factors related to healthy eating and disease risk reduction. These themes include:

satiety or “hunger management”;

healthy weight control and;

cholesterol levels and heart health.   

Rediscovering the role healthy-fat, high protein foods like peanuts can play in Mediterranean and many types of traditional eating patterns increases their attractiveness and versatility to consumers and health professionals alike. 

Since 2001, APC has tracked major outputs of peanut related nutrition research going on around the world and produced the following summaries for health professionals. 

A Global Review of Peanut Health Studies - July 2009

Peanut Research Update 2005-2008 - December 2008

Peanuts - Surprising Healthy July 2003

Nutrition & Food Science - Volume 32, Number 6, 2002

Nutrition & Food Science - Volume 33, Number 2, 2003

The potential role of peanuts in the prevention of obesity

Future directions for peanut and health research 

The spectrum of new and emerging research related to peanuts and health is broadening quickly. It already reaches beyond the well-established interest in healthy fats by investigating bioactive and anti-inflammatory constituents of peanuts for their health protecting qualities.

Scientific interest is rapidly rising in the polyphenols, phytosterols, amino acids and vitamins and minerals present in peanuts.

The application of this research to produce a better understanding of disease risk reduction practical dietary interventions associated with type two diabetes and some cancers, for example, is likely to be the next big chapter in the peanuts and health story.

The American Peanut Council, on behalf of the entire US peanut industry, is an enthusiastic advocate of these future research directions.  

For more information on resveratrol and this exciting nutrititious discovery, click here. Plus, read below for more exciting discoveries on the peanut nutrition!

APC compiles a regular series of “nutrition news you can use” stories linked to peanut nutrition research themes which are initially published in the APC Newsletter for members (see below).

Peanuts are a versatile source of nutrition. Considerable research is now underway to provide information on the role peanuts can play in a healthy diet. Peanuts and peanut butter are among America's most popular foods.....
The National Peanut Board (NPB) is a farmer-funded national research, promotion and education check-off program. Each of the 10 major peanut-producing states has a grower Board member and an alternate representative.
The Peanut Institute is a non-profit organization that supports nutrition research and develops educational programs to encourage healthful lifestyles that include peanuts and peanut products.

Member Spotlight

  • The Virginia Diner

    An interview with Christine Epperson, President of the Virginia Diner

    APC: This year the Virginia Diner will be celebrating its 85th Anniversary

    The Virginia DinerCE: The Virginia Diner is an important part of Virginia history and there are several special events being planned to mark the anniversary.  There will be two open houses, one from April 25-27 and the major one will be from September 25-28.  We will feature our peanut products and the food for which we have become famous – chicken, ham, biscuits and peanut pie. Special guests and elected officials will be in attendance. Make plans to attend the 85th Anniversary! 

    APC: The Virginia Diner started out as a small diner in a railcar in 1929, when did peanuts become a major part of the business?

    CE: The Diner has been cooking and selling peanuts since the late 1940s.  The peanut part of the business grew out of the Diner, as travelers requested peanuts be shipped to them.  My parents bought the business in 1976. At that time, the mail order part of the business was mostly fourth quarter seasonal with everything still being done in the Diner kitchen utilizing many of the restaurant employees.  It was in the mid-1980s before we had full time staff hired for the peanut side of the business. Today, we provide sample bags of peanuts for diners in the restaurant. The Diner is a whole entity, you can’t have one without the other.

    APC: Is the mail order peanut business larger than the restaurant business, and when did this occur?

    CE: The peanut side is about 80% of our sales now.  Peanuts became a larger business in the mid-1980s. We printed our first "catalog" in 1984. Prior to that, we mailed letters with order forms and yellow envelope –sized cards with our products on them.

    APC: What kinds of peanuts do you use and what are some of your top selling products?

    Virginia Diner Peanut PieCE: We use only Super Extra Large peanuts and we have a production facility for most of our products. The salted peanuts are our best sellers, followed by the double dipped chocolate peanuts and butter toasted peanuts.

    APC: Are Virginia Diner peanuts sold nationwide?

    CE: Yes, but pockets of the business are in large metropolitan areas. We sell to resellers (particularly on the west coast due to shipping costs), internet sales, corporate gifts, home buyers and fundraising groups.

    APC: The American Heart Association has awarded your peanuts the "Heart-Check Food Certification". How has this impacted sales? 

    CE: This is very new and exciting and we are the only peanut company thus far to receive this.  There has been a lot of interest at wholesale shows, but it is too soon to tell.

    APC: Who developed your tag line, "A Legend in a Nutshell since 1929", which your firm has lived up to?

    CE: My father, now deceased, was a visionary.  He came up with the tag line, as well as first naming our product gourmet. He received a phone call from Moscow back in 1977. The ambassador wanted our Virginia Super Extra Large Salted Peanuts shipped to him for a banquet.  My father said that if our peanuts were being served alongside caviar and champagne, then by God we were gourmet! He was also the first among the peanut companies to lead the way to the world wide web.  We were on CompuServe in 1993, DOS, and then Windows 3.1.

    APC: How has APC membership helped your business?

    CE: Membership has given us a wonderful source of information. Helped us reverse the decision to keep peanuts out of the Boy Scout Jamboree in DC (where we sold).  It provides a resource for vendors and to our customers.  Membership also provides us with educational materials, and funding for the Ag schools which assist us with various projects.  And it has helped us prepare a response regarding peanut allergies in the schools when we had a school division threatening to not use our fundraiser.

    APC: Anything else you would like to add?

    GC: We are the oldest continually run roadside Diner in Virginia.

    For more information, visit: www.vadiner.com

    Virginia Diner, Inc.
    322 W. Main Street
    Wakefield, VA 23888

     

     

  • Mississippi Growers AssociationAn interview with Dr. Malcolm Broome, Executive Director, Mississippi Peanut Growers Association.