Can You Lose Weight Eating Peanuts?

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Eating 1.5 ounces of nuts, such as peanuts, each day may reduce your risk for heart disease. Peanuts are a healthy snack and a good sources of antioxidants, B vitamins and healthy monounsaturated fats. Although peanuts are high in calories and fat, regular onsumption of peanuts is not associated with weight gain.

Packed with 190 calories and 16 grams of fat per serving, peanut butter hardly sounds like the stuff that diets are made of. But two recent studies suggest people can actually lose weight by centering their meals around this popular spread.

It tastes good.

“Overweight people thought peanut butter was taboo,” says , says Holly McCord, nutrition editor of Prevention magazine. “But studies now say that you don’t just lose weight on the diet, but you stick with the diet better, because peanut butter is tastier and more satisfying, compared to other low-fat, high-carb diets.”

McCord’s new book, The Peanut Butter Diet, was prompted by two recent studies, one from Harvard University, the other from Penn State. Researchers found that a diet that includes foods with high levels of monounsaturated fats like peanut butter can help people lose weight and prevent heart disease.

Like other weight-loss programs, a peanut butter diet should be done in conjunction with exercise. And dieters are warned to avoid over-indulging eat too much and you can gain weight.

Taste Comes First

When Prevention magazine ran an article on the peanut butter diet in March, it was the best-selling issue of the year, so the magazine decided to create a book of peanut butter recipes. They range from peanut butter oatmeal, to entrees such as Tahitian chicken with peanut butter mango sauce and curried peanut butter soup.

“The studies have concluded that taste comes first, so you have to like what you’re eating, “McCord says. In studies, people in the low-fat group were jealous of those assigned to the peanut butter diet.

The Harvard study, done jointly with Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, looked at 101 people who weighed about 200 pounds each, and divided them into two groups. One group was put on a traditional low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet; the other got richer fare  the so-called peanut butter diet  that allowed them to to get 35 percent of their calories from fat, 50 percent from carbohydrates and 15 percent from protein.

But the fat in this diet was the good kind: “heart-healthy” monounsaturated fats, found in foods such as olives, nuts, avocados and peanut butter. Such fats can lower bad cholesterol and so reduce the risk of heart disease. Researchers found that the first thing that people in the moderate fat group wanted to choose was peanut butter. Over the first six months (the “honeymoon” period in most diets), both groups lost an average of 11 pounds, McCord said.

But after 18 months, three times as many people on the higher unsaturated-fat diet had stuck with the program and kept the weight off. People in the low-fat diet regained an average of five pounds each.

Ping-Pong Portions

Even though such research suggest the potential virtues of eating peanut butter, dieters cannot go hog wild and eat peanut butter straight out of the jar, McCord warns. As with other diets, it is important to limit portions.

In the Prevention plan, women get two servings twice a day of peanut butter (four servings total) think of it as the equivalent of two ping-pong ball size servings. Because men tend to be larger, so are their portions: They are allotted six tablespoons of peanut butter a day (the equivalent of three ping-pong balls a day).

The diet takes off about half a pound a week, for a total of 25 pounds a year, McCord said. They also have higher calorie allowances than other diets: 1,500 a day for women, and 2,200 a day for men. Slower paced weight loss tends to help dieters keep the weight off longer.

“Most diets have calories pared down so low, you might lose a pound or two a week, but you feel so deprived, you end up breaking the diet and going back to your old habits,” McCord says. “This is less stressful; you almost don’t notice you’re dieting.”

But some critics argue that because the peanut butter diet delivers a higher proportion of its calories as fat, it contradicts the low-fat, high-carb dietary thinking of recent years. Some weight-loss experts argue this kind of eating will make many people gain weight.

Good for Your Heart

Advocates such as McCord disagree, pointing to the recent studies. They also note that the peanut butter plan is similar in many ways to the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet based on olive oil that has been shown to cut the risk of heart disease. The peanut butter diet appeals more to Americans, they note because it can be spread on something and there’s no need to slave over the stove.

To be successful, the diet should be accompanied by 45 minutes of exercise each day, which can be anything from cleaning the tub, to dancing around to a tape for 10 minutes at a time.

McCord emphasizes that it is also important to stick to the diet don’t just add peanut butter to what you are already eating, unless you want to gain weight.

And some people should not try the peanut butter diet: anyone who is allergic to peanuts, children under 18 months, and pregnant women with a history of allergies or while breast-feeding. And a woman who is allergic to peanut butter shouldn’t give it to her child until the child is three, to make sure he hasn’t developed the same allergies.

Here is a sample from day one of the Prevention Peanut Butter Diet:

Breakfast:

Peanut Butter Oatmeal ( click here for this and other peanut butter recipes)

Lunch: Bean burrito (restaurant or homemade).

For homemade burrito, use an 8-inch tortilla, 1/2 cup beans, and 3 Tablespoons of Salsa). 1 cup of either bell pepper strips, baby carrots, or other vegetable of your choice.

Snack: : 1 cup fruit salad

Dinner:

Chicken and vegetable stir fry (2 cups vegetables, 2 ounces of chicken (1/2 cup). In a Chinese restaurant, ask for very little oil. Or try this safer bet, calorie wise: Sauté one teaspoon each of minced ginger and garlic, with 2 cups fresh or frozen veggie mix containing broccoli in 1 teaspoon of canola or peanut oil. Add your own chicken (pre-cooked chicken such as Perdue Short Cuts is fine.) Season with teriyaki sauce. 1/2 cup cooked brown rice (instant fine)

Here are just a few key reasons you can lose weight with peanuts:

Because peanuts and peanut butter are packed with fiber and protein, they keep you satisfied and full for a long time, helping to manage your hunger. Because of their protein and fiber, peanuts and peanut butter will stick with you for about 2 1/2 hours versus the half hour you’ll get from high-carbohydrate foods, according to one study.

Peanuts can increase your metabolic rate. When researchers studied resting energy expenditure on peanut and peanut butter eaters, they found that it was 11 percent greater after regular peanut consumption for 19 weeks compared to the baseline.

As you may or may not know, the new 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans focus less on specific nutrients and more on eating healthier foods to improve your overall eating habits. I’ll be writing more about the particulars soon, but since we’re on the subject of peanuts, they do play a role in those guidelines.

How? According to The Peanut Institute:

  • Peanuts are part of all the healthy diets studied.
  • Peanuts are one of the most nutrient-dense foods available.
  • Most peanut products are minimally processed and low in sugar, saturated fats and sodium.
  • When substituted for other snacks and proteins, peanuts and peanut butter improve nutritional status.
  • Peanuts are convenient, affordable and portable.

What’s more, a 2008 study that looked at various weight-loss regimens found that there was greater compliance to the diet as well as greater weight loss in the groups who were permitted to include nuts.

The Peanut Institute says that although peanuts are high in fat, that fat is mainly of the monounsaturated variety which is a healthy fat that can improve blood lipids if eaten in moderation.

But before you pile on the peanut butter or eat heaping handfuls of peanuts, which, in their defense, are energy dense, high in fiber and fill you up, keep in mind that quantities do matter. Peanuts are caloric, and, simply put, consuming too many calories can pile on the pounds. A small handful or an ounce a day will do you.

Peanuts cause weight gain the same as any other food: their calories add-up if you don’t watch the amount you consume. Like other snack foods, it’s easy to eat more than you realize as you grab them out of the jar or bowl while you’re doing other things. As long as you eat a moderate amount as part of a calorie-controlled diet, peanuts can be part of your weight loss plan.

Peanuts and Weight Loss

Contrary to what you might expect, eating peanuts is not associated with weight gain. In fact, they may help you lose weight, notes researchers in the July 2010 issue of “Nutrients.” A review of existing research published in September 2008 in the “Journal of Nutrition” noted that consuming a moderate amount of peanuts contributed dietary nutrients without posing a threat for weight gain.

Early in 2010, researchers from Purdue University published a review in the “Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition,” reporting that regular consumption of peanuts was associated with an increase in resting energy expenditure.

Limit Portions to Restrict Calories

One of the biggest challenges of eating peanuts is keeping portions small so you don’t overload on calories. The health claim approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration states that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, including peanuts, may lower your risk of heart disease.

On the nutrition facts label, you’re more likely to see one serving defined as 1 ounce or 28 grams. This portion equals about 32 peanuts. Whether they’re oil- or dry-roasted, a 1-ounce serving has 166 calories and 14 grams of total fat. On the positive side, most of the fat consists of healthy unsaturated fats that lower cholesterol.

Protein for Satiety

Peanuts contribute the protein your body needs to build and repair tissues, keep muscles working, and produce hormones and enzymes. Protein also supports your weight loss efforts. It helps prevent fluctuations in blood sugar that lead to feeling hungry when sugar levels dive.

Your body burns more energy digesting protein than it uses for carbs or fat. Protein also makes you feel full, notes the Harvard School of Public Health. You’ll get 7 grams of protein from a 1-ounce serving, which is 15 percent of women’s and 13 percent of men’s recommended daily allowance.

Fiber Keeps You Full

In addition to lowering cholesterol and maintaining a healthy digestive tract, fiber helps you lose weight. As soluble fiber absorbs water in your stomach, it forms a gel-like mass that fills you up. It makes you feel full longer by slowing down the pace at which food leaves your stomach.

Fiber may also delay the release of the hormone ghrelin, according an article published in the June 2012 issue of “Current Obesity Reports.” This action should postpone the feeling of hunger since your appetite is triggered by ghrelin. You’ll get 2 grams of fiber from a 1-ounce serving of peanuts.

The Secret Of Successful Dieting

According to research at Harvard Medical School and Brigham Women’s Hospital in Boston, almost three times as many people were able to follow a higher-fat diet that included peanuts and peanut butter during an 18-month weight loss study.

101 overweight men and women were assigned to either a low fat diet or a higher monounsaturated fat “Mediterranean Style” diet. The study found that participants on the latter diet lost more weight and were able to stay with the program.

These findings are consistent with a study at Purdue University, which showed that snacks of peanuts and peanut butter produced more eating satisfaction and feelings of fullness than other high-carbohydrate snacks such as rice cakes. Study participants who were fed peanut snacks didn’t feel the need to add additional kilojules to their daily diets to attack hunger.

Remember, Peanuts.

  • Are a significant source of plant protein without the high-cholesterol saturated fat found in many animal sources of protein
  • Contain high amounts of both mono- and polyunsaturated fat which have generally been shown to help lower total cholesterol and rates of coronary heart disease and to suppress appetite naturally
  • Are amongst the most concentrated food sources of Vitamin E (also linked to preventing coronary heart disease)
  • Are abundant in beta-sitosterol, known to inhibit cancer growth as well as protect against heart disease
  • Contain isoflavones and saponins, which both have anti-cancer and antioxidant properties
  • Contain additional vitamins such as B6 and folic acid, as well as minerals such as magnesium, copper, zinc and selenium

Dieting Idea To Go Nuts About!

If you’d like to try losing weight by adding more peanuts to your diet, here are some ideas about things you might like to try!

  • Mix nuts with sultanas or raisins for a high energy snack
  • Serve peanuts in their shells when you have guests
  • Spread peanut butter on bread and top with sliced banana or grated apple
  • Add mixed, crushed nuts to your muesli or sprinkle on a banana smoothie
  • Toss raw peanuts into a beef and vegetable stir fry.
  • Include nuts in your next garden salad.
  • Spread a little peanut butter and a scrape of honey on rice cakes or crispbread
  • Add nuts to a low-fat biscuit or slice recipe
  • Top a healthy banana cake with crushed nuts and low fat cream cheese
  • Mix crushed nuts into sweet soy sauce and use as a dipping sauce for Vietnamese rolls

Nutrition

A 1-ounce serving of peanuts, which is equal to about 39 peanuts, contains 170 calories, 7 grams of protein, 6 grams of carbohydrates, including 2 grams of fiber, and 15 grams of fat, including 2 grams of saturated fat.

It provides you with 20 percent of the daily value for niacin; 10 percent of the DV for folate, phosphorus and magnesium; 8 percent of the DV for thiamine and smaller amounts of zinc, iron, vitamin B-6 and calcium. The protein and fiber in peanuts help make them more filling, so you aren’t as likely to get hungry soon after eating them.

Effect on Weight

As long as you stick within your recommended calories for the day, eating a handful of peanuts will not make you gain weight. People who regularly consume nuts tend to have lower body mass indexes than those who do not, and dieters are more likely to stick with low-calorie diets that allow nut consumption, making nuts potentially helpful for weight loss, notes a September 2008 article published in “The Journal of Nutrition.”

Reasons

When people eat peanuts, they usually eat fewer calories later in the day, notes a study published in August 2002 in the “International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders.” Peanuts also have a high satiety value, helping to keep you full for longer after you eat them. The combination of these two factors means that people do not usually gain weight from eating a small amount of peanuts.

Considerations

If you want to avoid gaining weight when you eat peanuts, eat them in place of some other, less healthy food and stick to your daily allotted calories. Peanuts are a healthier snack than some of the more processed options, since they are nutrient and energy dense.

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