This Nut Could Save Your Brain

Wednesday, 28 April 2010 09:28 AM

Researchers at Johns Hopkins have found that resveratrol, a nutrient in peanuts, may protect the brain against damage from strokes. Earlier studies have shown that the same ingredient may also help to prevent strokes.

The research, with mice, is preliminary but it does show that a very simple food may have more therapeutic potential than we might think.

To put resveratrol in context, it’s found in red wine and is believed to be a key reason for the “French paradox,” the fact that the French have relatively low rates of heart disease despite eating a diet high in saturated fat. Resveratrol is also found in grapes, purple grape juice and some berries, as well as peanuts.

To compare the resveratrol content of peanuts and red wine, the non-profit Peanut Institute combed through research and came up with these estimates: One ounce of peanuts contains approximately 73 micrograms, compared to 160 micrograms in one fluid ounce of the wine. These quantities sound miniscule but it seems that small amounts of the nutrient can be beneficial.

The Bigger Peanut Picture

Peanuts are beneficial for several reasons. The “nuts” (they’re really legumes, in the same plant family as lentils, beans, and peas) are rich in healthy fats, fiber, protein, and antioxidants. And, they contain a variety of vitamins and minerals, such as magnesium, which helps to reduce blood pressure and risk for diabetes.

According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, eating one ounce of peanuts, five or more times per week, reduced risk for diabetes by 27 percent. One tablespoon of peanut butter, eaten just as often, reduced risk by 21 percent.

Other studies have found that peanut eaters tend to weigh less. Peanuts are more satisfying than other popular snacks, such as pretzels or rice cakes that are lower in calories but higher in carbohydrates. In the research, people who added peanuts to their diets ended up eating less in the course of the day because they weren’t as hungry, and lost weight.

How to Eat Peanuts

Many foods lose nutrients when they’re exposed to heat but this doesn’t happen when peanuts are roasted. The USDA’s Agricultural Research Service found that darker roasted peanuts have higher levels of antioxidants, and more vitamin E, than lightly roasted or raw ones.

For a snack, a healthy portion is one ounce of peanuts (about 40 peanuts), or two tablespoons of peanut butter. The peanut butter and jelly sandwich is a classic, but there are plenty of other options.

Try this cinnamon-apple toast with peanut butter:

• Toast one slice of whole grain bread (white or brown)
• On one side, spread one tablespoon of peanut butter (smooth or crunchy)
• Put the toast on a baking sheet lined with tinfoil
• Top with thin slices of 1/2 medium apple (or more, if you like)
• Sprinkle cinnamon (as much as you like) and up to one teaspoon of brown sugar on top
• Broil, in the broiler of your oven or in a toaster oven, until lightly browned and the peanut butter is gooey

The total calories are approximately 265, about the same as one 260-calorie Dunkin’ Donuts jelly doughnut, but the toast recipe is a lot more satisfying. In addition to antioxidants, fiber, and other nutrients, the peanut-butter toast contains healthy fat: a total of 8 grams with only 1.6 grams of saturated fat. The doughnut has more than three times as much saturated fat: 5 grams, and a total of 11 grams of fat.

Other ways to enjoy peanuts:

• Sprinkle roasted peanuts on salads, coleslaw, and soups.
• Add them to vegetable and grain side dishes.
• Mix crushed peanuts into crusts for fish or batter for French toast.
• Thicken sauces or vinaigrettes with peanut butter.
• Spread peanut butter on celery or slices of banana, apple, or pear or blend it into smoothies or puddings.

One word of warning: Not all peanut products are healthy. Peanuts can be roasted in partially hydrogenated oil, which is an artery-clogging trans fat. Peanuts in the shell, dry roasted ones or at least those roasted in an oil that isn’t partially hydrogenated are healthier choices.

Partially hydrogenated oil, high-fructose corn syrup and salt are also added to many peanut butters, so it’s smart to check nutrition labels. You’re better off buying peanut butter without any other ingredients and adding your own salt, jelly, honey, or other flavorings. And feel free to get creative.

© HealthDay

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A new study has showed that resveratrol, found in peanuts, could protect the brain against damage from strokes. But not all peanut products are healthy. Try these tips to get the most benefit from this all-time favorite.
Wednesday, 28 April 2010 09:28 AM
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