- A new study suggests that small, weekly servings of tree nuts or peanuts (half an ounce) may prevent hypertension in women over 40.
- Nuts included in the study were almonds and pine nuts, as well as peanuts.
- Experts agree that a larger serving, consumed daily, has many benefits that reach beyond heart health.
A recent study suggests that a small, daily serving of tree nuts or peanuts can decrease the risk of hypertension. Here, nutrition experts weigh in on other potential benefits of daily nut consumption, and how to spot worthwhile strategies for increasing consumption.
About The Study
In this prospective study of Korean adults age 40 and older, researchers projected the intake of peanuts, almonds, and/or pine nuts in more than 10,000 participants based on food frequency questionnaires.1
Researchers analyzed the potential cumulative tree nut and peanut intake over the participants’ life span. What they discovered was a significantly inversive association between an average weekly consumption of 15 grams or more and the incidence of hypertension.1
This study suggests a very small weekly serving of peanuts, almonds, and/or pine nuts may be effective in the prevention of hypertension, especially in this specific population.1 However, nutrition experts note that a daily serving of nuts or nut butter can offer additional benefits throughout a person’s life, as well.Nuts Do Not Lead to Weight Gain, Meta-Analysis Shows
Overcoming the Fear of Fat
Foods that contain monounsaturated fats—such as tree nuts, peanuts, and peanut butter—are often lauded for their heart-health benefits. But some nutrition experts indicate that nuts and peanuts have potential benefits beyond their positive impact on heart health. For instance, nut consumption can be useful when included as part of a weight management strategy.
The problem is that many people avoid foods higher in fat due to the common misconception that eating fat causes fast weight gain. However, ongoing data suggests a link between nut consumption and weight change.— DIANA RODRIGUEZ, MS, RD, CDN
“The problem is that many people avoid foods higher in fat due to the common misconception that eating fat causes fast weight gain,” says Diana Rodriguez, MS, RD, CDN. “However, ongoing data2 suggests a link between nut consumption and weight change, suggesting that adding half a serving of nuts (including peanuts) instead of a less nutritious snack can help prevent weight gain in the long term.”
Amber Trejo, MS, RDN, NASM-CPT echoes the importance of overcoming the fear of fat in nutrient-dense nuts and nut butter. The benefits that nuts and nut butter can add to a person’s meal plan are numerous.
“If I had a dollar for every time someone said they can’t keep peanut butter in their house in fear of eating too much of it and gaining weight, I’d have a decent amount of money saved up,” says Trejo. “The biggest reason why people tend to overconsume foods like nut butter and nuts is that they over restrict these foods. This can lead to weight gain over time and make someone want to avoid these foods even more.”
“Importantly, peanuts are part of many of the most researched healthy eating patterns in the world, including the DASH diet, MIND diet, and can be easily incorporated into the Mediterranean diet,” says Sherry Coleman Collins, MS, RD, LD.MIND Diet is Associated with Better Cognitive Function, Study Shows
Moreover, nuts such as peanuts are often included in some of the most widely studied meal patterns like the MIND diet and the Mediterranean diet, both of which are known to have a positive impact on heart health.
Daily Nut Consumption
Experts agree that, while the most recent data suggests the consumption of just half an ounce of almonds, peanuts, and/or pinenuts per week can be beneficial to heart health, daily consumption comes with its own host of potential benefits, including increased mindfulness.
“Eating nuts requires you to slow down because you are chewing them first before swallowing,” says Rodriguez. “In doing so, you are practicing mindful eating techniques.”
Moreover, while feeding your family, it is worth noting that eating peanuts and other similar foods can be beneficial as early as infancy. In the past, healthcare providers advised parents to delay introducing highly allergenic foods like tree nuts and peanuts, but that is no longer the case.3
“Infant-safe peanut foods should be introduced in the first year of life and as early as 4 to 6 months old for babies at high-risk for allergies to help prevent the development of peanut allergies,” says Coleman Collins. “Once successfully introduced, they should be kept in the diet on a regular basis.”
As for the adults in the family, Trejo offers a number of tips on incorporating appropriate portions of nuts on a daily basis. For instance, split a serving of nut butter in half throughout the day. Add 1 tablespoon of peanut butter to oats in the morning, then 1 tablespoon to Greek yogurt later in the afternoon.
Another option is to add slivered almonds to a salad. The satiating fat will help keep you fuller, longer, Trejo says. You also can opt for pre-portioned snack packs of nuts.
“I really love these snack packs because they can fit in your pockets and make great midday snacks, especially in the afternoon if you’re feeling like you’re crashing,” says Trejo.Increasing Omega-3s Could Add Five Years to Your Life
Spotting Worthwhile Nut Trends
While Rodriguez and Trejo both advise proceeding with caution when seeking nutrition and culinary advice on popular social media platforms, Coleman Collins notes that some trends lend themselves to increasing nut consumption.
“There are a few ways to spot a silly trend on TikTok,” Trejo says. “The biggest red flag of a silly trend is if it has the words ‘food’ and ‘hack’ next to each other. You cannot hack food or cooking methods for a great meal. Good things always take time and there are no hacks or shortcuts. This includes food.”
Rodriguez advises being wary of quick fixes, videos promoting supplements, and “what I eat in a day” videos.
“The thing with these videos is that they can lead the viewer down the path of comparison and the desire to eat less than what their body actually needs,” she says. “Everyone’s daily calorie needs are different.”
But social media is not all trickery and misinformation. You can find worthwhile ideas on social media that may help you incorporate more tree nuts and peanuts into your meal plan.
“Social media is packed with great ideas for using peanuts and peanut butter,” says Coleman Collins. “Some of my very favorites involve how to use every last bit of the peanut butter in the jar.”
I have a colleague who used to say “peanuts make the familiar exotic and the exotic familiar.” That saying has stuck with me and reminds me that the familiar flavor of peanuts can open culinary doors for people to try foods they might not otherwise eat.— SHERRY COLEMAN COLLINS, MS, RD, LD
Finally, foods like nuts and nut butter can help increase consumption of other nutrient-dense foods of which you and your family may not be getting enough. In fact, pairing a familiar flavor with an unfamiliar food may encourage kids—and adults—to try new things.
“I have a colleague who used to say ‘peanuts make the familiar exotic and the exotic familiar,'” adds Coleman Collins. “That saying has stuck with me and reminds me that the familiar flavor of peanuts can open culinary doors for people to try foods they might not otherwise eat.”
She notes that a simple “ants on a log” featuring peanut butter can help get kids to eat veggies such as celery. But food exploration isn’t limited to children. Peanuts and peanut butter can open new culinary doors for adults as well, noting that dishes such as African peanut stew and peanut butter noodles can drive increased produce consumption.
What This Means For You
Nuts and nut butter can not only be a part of an overall strategy for preventing hypertension, but they can also help with weight management strategies. They also can increase mindfulness and help increase produce consumption for you and your family. If you are considering making changes to your meal patterns, talk to a healthcare provider or registered dietitian to determine what is right for you.