Peanuts and Baseball

“Take me out to the ballgame….buy me some peanuts….”

Baseball and peanuts are a natural combination and with baseball season right around the corner it got me thinking about peanuts (that, and the fact that I live in Georgia!) But, peanuts don’t seem to get the love like the tree nuts almonds, walnuts, pecans and pistachios. I love all of the tree nuts, but the humble legume, the peanut, should also be celebrated for its nutritional content and health benefits. So, here are all the reasons you should eat peanuts:

  • Peanuts are a protein powerhouse with 7 grams of protein per 1-ounce serving (that is about 40 pieces from a jar of peanuts) and that is the same amount of protein found in one egg. Peanuts are rich in the amino acid arginine which is a precursor to a potent compound that relaxes blood vessels to help keep the blood flowing and lower blood pressure.
  • Peanuts are not high in sodium contrary to what you might think. Roasted unsalted peanuts have only 5 milligrams of sodium per ounce and roasted salted nuts have 230 mg so a serving of salted nuts can easily fit into a diet with a heart healthy 2300 mg of sodium per day.
  • Research has shown that frequent nut eaters have lower lipid levels than those who don’t eat nuts. Eating peanuts lowers your risk of heart disease. Peanuts also reduce inflammation; a condition that can set the stage for heart disease and other chronic diseases.
  • Peanuts are high in the mineral magnesium; a nutrient in short supply for many Americans.
  • Peanuts are also high in two plant nutrients (phytonutrients) beta-sitosterol and resveratrol and both are tied to reducing cancer risk.
  • Lastly, peanuts have a low glycemic index (GI) helping to keep your blood sugar level in a healthy range.

Peanuts, like all nuts, are high in calories and fat. The fats in peanuts are “good” kinds of fat (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) but all fats have 9 calories/gram so keep your portion sizes in check. Share your bag of peanuts at the baseball with your family and friends!

Enjoy baseball and enjoy peanuts this season.

What does "natural" mean on a food package?

Today’s article in the New York Times on functional foods got me thinking about the word “natural” on so many food packages. Just yesterday a friend was snacking on a bag of pretzels flavored as “everything” bagels…they were shaped like tiny little bagels and did look like mini, mini-everything bagels. The package contained the word “natural” in several different places (including “naturally delicious” which of course is a matter of opinion). In reading the ingredient list there were many ingredients, including food additives used as preservatives, coloring, and flavor. What is “natural” about that?

In addition to many of the functional food health claims discussed in the NY Times article, consumers should be leery of the “natural” buzzword, too. One dictionary definition of natural is “present in or produced in nature; not artificial.” Hardly describes pretzel bagels. Before the nutrition labeling act, such practices as calling an oil “light” because it was lighter in color, was widespread. The NLEA was supposed to make food labels truthful and easy to understand but health claim creep has overtaken food packaging. Marketing is often way ahead of science and it shouldn’t take a PhD in nutrition to figure out the meaning of all of these claims (or a magnifying glass to read the fine, fine print).

I suggested to my friend a really natural snack…nuts, natural, unsalted, delicious nuts. A handful of walnuts, almonds or pistachios will satisfy hunger, provide some protein, and lots of other good-for-you nutrients like fiber and Vitamin E. So next time you get the urge to snack, watch out for the “natural” claims and go for something really natural.