Friday, April 01, 2005

You are what you eat - Are you nuts?

Discoveries Help Peanuts Shed Fat Stigma

2 hours, 42 minutes ago
By ELLIOTT MINOR, Associated Press Writer

ALBANY, Ga. - Peanuts, a dietary outcast during the fat-phobic 1990s, have made a comeback, with consumption soaring to its highest level in nearly two decades and more doctors recommending the nuts as part of a heart-healthy diet.
When consumption of peanut butter and snack peanuts plummeted as Americans switched to lowfat diets, the peanut industry responded with studies showing the health benefits of peanuts.
"Mothers gave us peanuts and peanut butter. Now, we've figured out that mom was right. But it took a lot of researchers and universities to figure that out," said Don Koehler, executive director of Georgia's Peanut Commission.
The campaign apparently worked. Total consumption of peanuts jumped last year to nearly 1.7 billion pounds, 9.2 percent higher than the 1.5 billion pounds consumed the year before.
Consumption of snack peanuts alone climbed to 415 million pounds in the 2003-2004 crop year, the highest since a low of 285 million pounds in the mid-1990s. And peanut butter consumption soared to 900 million pounds, from a low of about 700 million also in the mid-1990s.
The federal government's latest dietary guidelines now acknowledge that peanuts, which contain monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat, can be consumed in moderation.
"Now we know that the type of fat found in peanuts is actually good for us," said Lona Sandon with the American Dietetic Association. "It doesn't clog our arteries like saturated fat. It helps keep the arteries clean."
But that's only if peanuts are consumed "in moderation," and that's the part that often trips up peanut lovers. There are 14 grams of fat in one serving of peanuts, which is only one ounce. And a handful can have up to 200 calories.
"The problem is that the portions need to be low so you don't overconsume the calories, that's where the public has a disconnect," said Madelyn Fernstrom, director of the Weight Management Center at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. "It's a well spent 200 calories if you can limit it to that. The problem is volume. It's very hard to have a small serving of peanuts, meaning a small handful."
Peanut consumption dwindled in the early 1990s when the government began requiring nutrition labels on food products, which show peanuts to be high in fat.
U.S. peanut consumption dropped from about 1.6 billion pounds during the 1989-1990 crop year to about 1.4 billion pounds in 1995-96.
What American consumers seemed to overlook in the 1990s is that the humble peanut contains a respectable list of nutrients — vitamin E, niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B6, and essential minerals such as copper, phosphorous, potassium, zinc and magnesium. They also are a good source of fiber and protein.
Peanuts also contain a small amount of resveratrol, the antioxidant in red wine that has been linked to the "French Paradox" — a low incidence of heart disease among the French, despite their love of cheese and other high-fat foods.
Research at Penn State University, Harvard Medical School, Purdue University and the University of Florida have shown that peanuts may help prevent heart disease, that they can lower bad cholesterol and that they can help with weight loss, possibly by making people feel satisfied so they eat less overall. One of the Harvard studies showed an association between peanut butter consumption and a reduced risk of diabetes.
Even the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has authorized a qualified health claim for peanuts and some tree nuts. Producers can say they may reduce their risk of heart disease by eating 1 1/2 ounces daily.
Anna Resurreccion, a University of Georgia food scientist, has focused her research on the resveratrol found in peanuts. By subjecting the nuts to stress — slicing the kernels, or subjecting them to ultrasound — the resveratrol level greatly surpassed that found in red wine, she said.
This development opens the door for new food products, such as enhanced peanut butter, that may help prevent cancer and heart disease. It could also be a way to get resveratrol into the diets of children.
"Young children can't very well drink wine," she said. "But most of them love peanut butter and peanut snack foods."
Seattle nutrition consultant Lola O'Rourke said the recent research provides scientific backup for what nutritionists have known all along.
"It's good news that people are realizing that some fat is OK and fat in moderation can even work well with a weight management program," she said. "The fats in peanuts are healthy fats. ... It all comes back to balance and moderation."

Comment: You all know how I feel about fats by now, you can read about it on my website, Fat Facts.. The cultures who eat high fat diets have lower levels of Heart Disease then do Americans who eat a diet high in refined carbohydrates. Not only do the French have lower heart disease, but so do Eskimo's and some tribes in Africa who have 60% or more of their total calories in the form of fats in their diets. What really matters is the blood levels of anti-oxidants like resveratrol, A,C,E, Zinc & Selenium and low insulin levels. We eat lots of nuts, the best being Raw Almonds, Walnuts and Macadamia Nuts. One caveat though, if you are trying to lose weight, eat them when your in maintenance mode for best fat loss. Understanding the Glycemic Index and weight control.


Christopher Wiechert's Healthblogger is for educational or informational purposes only, and is not intended to diagnose or provide treatment for any condition. If you have any concerns about your own health, you should always consult with a healthcare professional.