Eat Peanuts: You May Live Longer
In the first study of its kind, eating nuts, including peanuts, has been linked to fewer deaths across ethnic groups, even for people who had metabolic conditions like morbid obesity or diabetes, were smokers, or drank alcohol.
“Nuts in particular have fiber, which can help lower LDL cholesterol, supply ample vitamin E, and even have L-arginine, all of which keep your arteries healthy and free of plaque buildup,” says says John Day, MD, a cardiologist and director of Heart Rhythm Services at Intermountain Medical Center in Murray, Utah. “If you can keep your arteries healthy you will be less likely to suffer many chronic medical conditions.”
The large, observational diet study included lower-income Americans from the Southeast and Chinese people in Shanghai. All groups — blacks, whites, and Asians — showed longevity benefits from eating nuts. Study participants didn’t need to eat expensive nuts to add years to their lives — peanuts and peanut butter work as well as more costly varieties of nuts.
Deaths from heart diseases and strokes were 20 percent less likely over the five years of the large study of more than 200,000 people, even for those who included small amounts of nuts or peanuts (one-third of an ounce) in their daily diets, compared with people who ate no nuts at all. The results of the study — conducted by researchers at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, the Shanghai Cancer Institute in China, and the Harvard School of Public Health — were just published in JAMA Internal Medicine.
“Consumption of nuts, particularly peanuts given their general affordability, may be considered a cost-effective measure to improve cardovascular health,” wrote the study authors. (They did not find a direct cause-and-effect relationship between eating nuts and living long — just an association.)
“The key message is that nuts are incredibly heart-healthy and can allow people to live longer and more productive lives,” says Dr. Day. He personally recommends that his patients have at least one serving of nuts or seeds each day.
Nuts and peanuts are a good source of healthy fats, protein, fiber, and nutrients.
While researching the heart-healthy habits of centenarians in China’s so-called Longevity Village, Bama County in Guangxi Province, Day observed that nuts and peanuts are regularly eaten there. “The Chinese have always enjoyed nuts as a snack or as part of their dishes,” says Day. “With a growing awareness of the health benefits of nuts, nut consumption has skyrocketed in China in recent years. They love their walnuts, cashews, chestnuts, pine nuts, and peanuts.”
Going for plant-based protein sources like nuts goes along with the newly proposed U.S. dietary guidelines, notes Bonnie Taub-Dix, MA,RD,CDN, nutrition columnist at Everyday Health and author of Read It Before You Eat It. “The guidelines are talking about having less meat, and using more plant sources.”
Why Nuts Are so Healthy
“Nut oils contain more polyunsaturated fats than saturated making them a healthy choice,” says registered dietitian Maureen Namkoong, MS, RD, who is director of nutrition and fitness for Everyday Health.
Beyond the healthy fats, nuts and peanuts are a good source of protein, fiber, and nutrients.
Namkoong also notes that nuts contain a “handful of vitamins and minerals,” plus:
Arginine, an amino acid that may help decrease blood pressure
Resveratrol, which can help reduce inflammation
Phytosterols, which can help reduce cholesterol
Flavonoids, which reduce inflammation and may inhibit platelets from sticking to arteries
Nuts and peanuts are also high in calcium, magnesium, and potassium, points out Taub-Dix: “When we eat food we look at the package deal in concert with the diet. A nut does have a lot of value in the nutrient package.”
Nuts also have another important advantage: Satiation. “Which foods really satisfy? Nuts have that value in your stomach, in your head, and your mouth,” says Taub-Dix.
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