Picky Eater


GOING NUTS
March 31, 2008, 12:50 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

I promised more info about brain foods, so today we’ll look closer at peanuts. I once heard a scientist recommend to eat a handful of peanuts before an exam to enhance the performance of your neuron cells. The peanut has many more promising qualties than being a great brainfood, as I discovered during my research about this nut that’s not a nut 😉

Peanuts originated in South America where they have existed for thousands of years. They played an important role in the diet of the Aztecs and other Native Indians in South America and Mexico. The Spanish and Portuguese explorers who found peanuts growing in the New World brought them on their voyages to Africa. They flourished in many African countries and were incorporated into local traditional food cultures. Since they were revered as a sacred food, they were placed aboard African boats traveling to North America during the beginning of the slave trade, which is how they were first introduced into this region.

In the 19Th century, peanuts experienced a great gain in popularity in the U.S. thanks to the efforts of two specific people. The first was George Washington Carver, who not only suggested that farmers plant peanuts to replace their cotton fields that were destroyed by the boll weevil following the Civil War, but also invented more than 300 uses for this legume.

At the end of the 19Th century, a physician practicing in St. Louis, Missouri, created a ground up paste made from peanuts and prescribed this nutritious high protein, low carbohydrate food to his patients. While he may not have actually “invented” peanut butter since peanut paste had probably used by many cultures for centuries, his new discovery quickly caught on and became, and still remains, a very popular food. Synonymous with baseball games, circus elephants, cocktail snacks and, of course, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, peanuts are ever popular in the American culture. Raw, roasted, shelled or unshelled in all forms are available throughout the year.

Contrary to what their name implies, peanuts are not true nuts but a member of a family of legumes related to peas, lentils, chickpeas and other beans. Peanuts start growing as a ground flower that due to its heavy weight bends towards the ground and eventually burrows underground where the peanut actually matures. The veined brown shell or pod of the peanut contains two or three peanut kernels. Each oval-shaped kernel or seed is comprised of two off-white lobes that are covered by a brownish-red skin.

In addition to being every kid’s (and many grownup kid’s) favorite sandwich filling, peanuts pack a serious nutritional punch and offer a variety of health benefits.
Besides your brain,your heart will go nuts for peanuts as well. At least five major studies confirm that eating peanuts can lower risk for coronary heart disease.

Peanuts are a very good source of monounsaturated fats, the type of fat that is emphasized in the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet. Studies of diets with a special emphasis on peanuts have shown that this little legume is a big ally for a healthy heart. In one such randomized, double-blind, cross-over study involving 22 subjects, a high monounsaturated diet that emphasized peanuts and peanut butter decreased cardiovascular disease risk by an estimated 21% compared to the average American diet.

In addition to their monounsaturated fat content, peanuts feature an array of other nutrients that, in numerous studies, have been shown to promote heart health. Peanuts are good sources of vitamin E, niacin, folate, protein and manganese. In addition, peanuts provide resveratrol, the phenolic antioxidant also found in red grapes and red wine that is thought to be responsible for the French paradox: the fact that in France, people consume a diet that is not low in fat, but have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease compared to the U.S. With all of the important nutrients provided by nuts like peanuts, it is no wonder that numerous research studies, including the Nurses’ Health Study that involved over 86,000 women, have found that frequent nut consumption is related to reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.

Peanuts Rival Fruit as a Source of Antioxidants.
Not only do peanuts contain oleic acid, the healthful fat found in olive oil, but new research shows these tasty legumes are also as rich in antioxidants as many fruits. While unable to boast an antioxidant content that can compare with the fruits highest in antioxidants, such as pomegranate, roasted peanuts do rival the antioxidant content of blackberries and strawberries, and are far richer in antioxidants than apples, carrots or beets. Research conducted by a team of University of Florida scientists, published in the journal Food Chemistry, shows that peanuts contain high concentrations of antioxidant polyphenols, primarily a compound called p-coumaric acid, and that roasting can increase peanuts’ p-coumaric acid levels, boosting their overall antioxidant content by as much as 22%.

Nuts’ high antioxidant content helps explain results seen in the Iowa Women’s Health Study in which risk of death from cardiovascular and coronary heart diseases showed strong and consistent reductions with increasing nut/peanut butter consumption. Total death rates decreased 11% and 19% for nut/peanut butter intake once per week and 1-4 times per week, respectively.

Even more impressive were the results of a review study of the evidence linking nuts and lower risk of coronary heart disease, also published in the British Journal of Nutrition. (Kelly JH, Sabate J.) In this study, researchers looked at four large prospective epidemiological studies-the Adventist Health Study, Iowa Women’s Study, Nurses’ Health Study and the Physician’s Health Study. When evidence from all four studies was combined, subjects consuming nuts at least 4 times a week showed a 37% reduced risk of coronary heart disease compared to those who never or seldom ate nuts. Each additional serving of nuts per week was associated with an average 8.3% reduced risk of coronary heart disease.

Practical Tip: To lower your risk of cardiovascular and coronary heart disease, enjoy a handful of peanuts or other nuts, or a tablespoon of nut butter, at least 4 times a week.

Potentially Reduced Risk of Stroke Based on Preliminary Animal Studies.
Resveratrol is a flavonoid first studied in red grapes and red wine, but now also found to be present in peanuts. In animal studies on resveratrol itself (the purified nutrient given in intravenous form, not the food form), this phytonutrient has been determined to improve blood flow in the brain by as much as 30%, thus greatly reducing the risk of stroke, according to the results of a laboratory animal study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Lead researcher Kwok Tung Lu hypothesized that resveratrol exerted this very beneficial effect by stimulating the production and/or release of nitric oxide (NO), a molecule made in the lining of blood vessels (the endothelium) that signals the surrounding muscle to relax, dilating the blood vessel and increasing blood flow. In the animals that received resveratrol, the concentration of nitric oxide (NO) in the affected part of the brain was 25% higher than that seen not only in the ischemia-only group, but even in the control animals.

The jury is still out on peanuts however, since they contain far less resveratrol than the amounts used in the above study, and also less than the amount provided by red wine. An ounce of red wine can provide as much as 1,000 micrograms of resveratrol, and it almost always provides over 75 micrograms. The same ounce of peanut butter can only provide about 50 micrograms of resveratrol. Still, routine consumption of peanuts or peanut butter might turn out to be significant in terms of the resveratrol provided by this food.

A number of studies have shown that nutrients found in peanuts, including folic acid, phytosterols, phytic acid (inositol hexaphosphate) and resveratrol, may have anti-cancer effects. Colorectal cancer is the second most fatal malignancy in developed countries and the third most frequent cancer worldwide. Taiwanese researchers decided to examine peanuts’ anti-colon cancer potential and conducted a 10-year study involving 12,026 men and 11,917 women to see if eating peanuts might affect risk of colon cancer. Risk of colon cancer was found to be highly correlated with both peanuts, which greatly lessened risk, and pickled foods, which greatly increased risk, particularly in women. Eating peanuts just 2 or more times each week was associated with a 58% lowered risk of colon cancer in women and a 27% lowered risk in men.

Help Prevent Gallstones
Twenty years of dietary data collected on over 80,000 women from the Nurses’ Health Study shows that women who eat least 1 ounce of nuts, peanuts or peanut butter each week have a 25% lower risk of developing gallstones.

Protect against Alzheimer’s and Age-related Cognitive Decline
Research published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry indicates regular consumption of niacin-rich foods like peanuts provides protection against Alzheimer’s disease and age-related cognitive decline. Researchers from the Chicago Health and Aging Project interviewed over 3,000 Chicago residents aged 65 or older about their diet, then tested their cognitive abilities over the following six years. Those getting the most niacin from foods (22 mg per day) were 70% less likely to have developed Alzheimer’s disease than those consuming the least (about 13 mg daily), and their rate of age-related cognitive decline was significantly less. One easy way to boost your niacin intake is to snack on a handful of peanuts-just a quarter cup provides about a quarter of the daily recommended intake for niacin (16 mg per day for men and 14 for women).

Eating Nuts Lowers Risk of Weight Gain
Although nuts are known to provide a variety of cardio-protective benefits, many avoid them for fear of weight gain. A prospective study published in the journal Obesity shows such fears are groundless. In fact, people who eat nuts at least twice a week are much less likely to gain weight than those who almost never eat nuts. The 28-month study involving 8,865 adult men and women in Spain, found that participants who ate nuts at least two times per week were 31% less likely to gain weight than were participants who never or almost never ate nuts. And, among the study participants who gained weight, those who never or almost never ate nuts gained more (an average of 424 g more) than those who ate nuts at least twice weekly.

In addition to that old stand-by, the PB&J sandwich, try some of the following:
Spread peanut butter on your morning waffle, whole grain toast or mid-morning crackers.
Add a tablespoon of peanut butter to your morning smoothie.
Enjoy a handful of dry roasted peanuts with a glass of tomato juice as an afternoon snack.
Combine peanut butter, coconut milk, and ready-to-use Thai red or green curry paste for a quick, delicious sauce. Pour over healthy sautéed vegetables. Use as a cooking sauce for tofu or salmon.
Toss cooked brown rice with sesame oil, chopped peanuts, scallions, sweet red pepper, parsley and currants.
Fill a celery stick with nut butter for an afternoon pick-me-up.
Sprinkle a handful of nuts over your morning cereal, lunchtime salad, dinner’s steamed vegetables.
Or just enjoy a handful of lightly roasted nuts as a healthy snack.

When purchasing peanut butter, be sure to read the label. Hydrogenated(trans-) fats and sugar are often added to peanut butter. Buy organic and choose brands that contain peanuts, salt-and nothing else!

YOXOMO

Advertisements

Leave a Comment so far
Leave a comment



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s



%d bloggers like this: