Inspired living

Why peanuts are better than peanut butter


What role do nuts play in your life? Hold on there, before you start answering in terms of bolts and fastening (or any other nut-related tangent you may have been heading off on), we are talking about edible nuts, those fruits that consist of a seed surrounded by a hard shell. In this particular instance, you should include in your answer the peanut which, not really a “nut” but more of legume that grows underground. We are casting our nutty net to include peanuts here because in a recent study it emerged that nuts and peanuts can lengthen your life but not if your peanuts are made into a butter.

The study involved 120,000 men and women of the Netherlands aged between 55 and 69 who have been being followed since 1986 (in the scientific world that’s called a “cohort study”, to the rest of the world it’s called “stalking”). Food frequency questionnaires were used to establish nut intake and also consumption of peanut butter.

The results showed that people who consumed 10 grams of nuts or peanuts a day (that’s about half a handful) had a lower risk of dying from causes including respiratory disease, neurodegenerative disease, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer. The effects were equal for men and women and peanuts were as effective as tree nuts. However, when the researchers looked at peanut butter consumption there was no reduction in mortality risk.

On one level there is an easy explanation for the lack of protection from peanut butter. Although the Aztecs did pound peanuts into a butter, modern peanut butter as we know it is attributed largely to a chap who originated many other “foods”, John Harvey Kellogg. Following on from the patented peanut paste if Marcellus Edson, in 1895 Kellogg patented a process for creating peanut butter from raw peanuts and he marketed it as a healthy protein substitute for patients without teeth. Today of course, peanut butter’s reach extends beyond the toothless market. While peanuts and tree nuts contain antioxidants, minerals, sterols, and healthy fats peanut butter is different matter. Aside from nuts peanut butter may also contain salt, sugar, and vegetable oils and in some cases may contain trans fatty acids.

In addition to the goodness in nuts it may also be that people who choose to snack on nuts are also more likely to make other healthy life choices.

However you slice it though, once again raw food comes up trumps where the processed relative falls short. Last month this column reported a study showing how nuts in the context of a Mediterranean style diet help preserve mental function as you age. So as the evidence mounts to ignore the goodness of nuts… well…you’d have to be.


Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.