You don’t have to go far to hear a nutritionist championing the cause of the nut as a healthy source of protein and omega 3 fatty acids. Cardioprotective, nuts are packed with vitamins, mono and polyunsaturated fats along with minerals.

Oftentimes, it is the pricier nuts getting the praise. Pistachios, almonds and cashews get all the love, leaving the peanut twisting in the wind. No longer. Researchers are urging eaters to quit ignoring the cheaper, and equally healthy peanut (it’s actually a legume).

Public health researchers at Harvard used peanut consumption survey data to find the peanut offers the same heart and longevity benefits the pricier nuts offer. Mr. Peanut is dancing in the street with the news.

Compiling data from surveys in both China and the United States, researchers plotted both cause of death and nut consumption data. In all, 72,000 Americans, ages 40 to 79, and 135,000 men and women in Shanghai, ages 40 to 74, were analyzed. Survey data was compiled over five years.

High peanut consumption was correlated with a 17 percent lower chance of premature death, while high nut (this includes the pricier nuts) was linked with a 21 percent lower chance of dying.

“This confirms what we found a few years ago — and our results were greeted with intense skepticism,” Dr. Meir Stampfer, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told the Harvard Health Blog. “Botanically, peanuts are not nuts, but nutritionally they are very similar to tree nuts, and other studies have shown their benefits.”

Researchers stripped out factors that would skew the results, such as poor lifestyle habits and conditions like obesity, smoking, diabetes and high blood pressure. Benefits from peanuts held up across the racial spectrum.

This is like all health studies. Before you destroy the nut aisle at your local market, talk to your doctor and use common sense. Nuts can be packed with calories, so any benefit you see could be undone with you packing on weight.

Also, be aware of salted peanuts. Packed with sodium, the salt will present its own eventual health risks.

The study was published in this week’s issue of JAMA Internal Medicine.


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