People with diabetes have to carefully consider their diet. As a result, many of those with the disease wonder if peanuts are fine to eat.
This article explores a few things that people with diabetes should be aware of before making the decision to eat peanuts.
Are nuts good for people with diabetes?
Unsalted peanuts can be a great snack food for people with diabetes.
There is a lot of evidence that suggests nuts, on the whole, are good for the health. According to a study posted in Nutrients, nuts and peanuts are full of nutrients. They are often also rich in healthful substances such as:
- healthful fats
- vegetable protein
While nuts are high in fat and calories, the research suggests that they may even help with weight loss. From this point of view, they are a much healthier option than other snacks, such as a bag of chips. There are some other factors to consider as well, with peanuts specifically.
Glycemic index of peanuts
The glycemic index (GI) is used to rate foods based on how slow or fast they cause an increase in blood sugar. Foods lower on the GI scale tend to be converted to sugar slowly and steadily. High GI foods release glucose quickly into the bloodstream.
People with diabetes are usually more aware of these numbers. They can inform the person if and when they need to take insulin, and what and when they can eat.
The GI scale goes from 0-100. Something with a score of 0 would be anything which has no effect on blood sugar, such as water. A score of 100 is pure glucose.
The other common measurement is the glycemic load, which signals the food's impact on the blood sugar after it has been completely digested. Foods with a glycemic load of 10 or less are considered low-impact foods.
According to Harvard Medical School, peanuts have a GI number of 13. This number is very low and means that peanuts can cause less of a spike in blood sugar than many other foods.
Peanuts also have a glycemic load of 1, meaning that after they are digested completely, they do not add much sugar to the blood. This means peanuts would be considered a good snack for people with diabetes.
Are peanuts healthful for people with diabetes?
It is interesting to know that peanuts are not actually nuts. They are legumes that have properties surprisingly similar to nuts. Unlike nuts, peanuts have a completely different taste raw and must be roasted to be truly edible.
In a review in Food and Nutrition Sciences, researchers noted that peanuts were indeed a nutrient-rich food. They had a high fat and protein content, and were a good source of B-vitamins, phosphorous, magnesium, and vitamin C.
As peanuts have little effect on the blood sugar, it would seem people with diabetes could eat them in moderation.
Peanuts do have a higher concentration of omega-6 fatty acids than other nuts. This may be cause for concern, as some people believe omega-6 oils can contribute to inflammation in the body. Over time, this pro-inflammatory response may make diabetes symptoms worse.
People with diabetes have to closely monitor glucose levels. Peanuts contain very little glucose.
Other research indicates that omega-6 fats may actually reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. A recent study found that people with higher concentrations of omega-6 fats in their blood had a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. This study was carried out on men who did not already have diabetes, and more tests are needed to find out the exact role omega-6 fats play in diabetes.
It does appear that omega-6 fats need to be properly balanced with healthy omega-3 fats to avoid inflammation. If peanuts are eaten regularly, they should also be balanced with foods high in omega-3 fats.
Salt content is something else to be aware of, as people with diabetes are at risk for high blood pressure. Store-bought roasted and salted peanuts are typically loaded with sodium, and may contain other flavor enhancers, such as sugar.
A study posted in Nutrition Journal, found that people with diabetes who had peanuts added to their diet plans improved the number of nutrients they were getting. They also helped manage weight and certain fats in the blood.
After looking at the evidence, peanuts seem to be a much better option than many other store-bought or highly processed snacks.
Peanuts and the heart
According to the American Heart Association, people with diabetes are at a higher risk of developing heart diseases.
Diabetes is often associated with high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, obesity, and lack of physical activity. These are all direct risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Because of this, foods that protect the heart may be helpful for anyone with diabetes.
People with diabetes need a diet that protects the heart. Research has shown peanuts to provide cardiological benefits.
Recent research from JAMA Internal Medicine found that of the more than 200,000 people studied, anyone who regularly ate peanuts and other nuts was much less likely to have died of any cause, but in particular, of heart disease. This suggests that even though peanuts are not actually nuts, they are similar in nutrition and health benefits.
Importantly, the study looked at people from different races, incomes, and backgrounds. This makes the research even more useful, as these are all factors that may influence health.
The study was merely an observation study, however. People cannot assume that the peanuts were the only thing that was protecting the heart. But there could be a link.
Peanut butter and diabetes
Peanuts may have some benefit for diabetes, but this is not the same as saying peanut butter has benefits.
Many commercial peanut butters have additional fats, sugars, and oils added to get the taste and texture most people love. The added fats are generally trans fats or saturated fats, which are more inflammatory and less healthful for the heart. The added sugar is not good for people with diabetes either.
If a person with diabetes wants to eat peanut butter, it should be a completely natural peanut butter that contains only peanuts and just a little salt, if any.
Other precautions for peanuts and diabetes
While peanuts can be a great addition to the diet of many with diabetes, it is important to understand a few precautions before adding them to the diet regularly.
Peanuts can cause allergies, and life-threatening allergic reactions can occur. It is important for people to be certain that they are not allergic to nuts before adding peanuts to their diet.
Raw peanuts require roasting to be truly edible. They may then be salted or seasoned to taste. It is more healthful to buy raw and self-prepare rather than buying ready-salted peanuts.
The increased sodium from store-bought peanuts is also cause for concern. The best option is to buy unsalted peanuts or unroasted peanuts and roast them at home, adding just a little seasoning to taste.
Eating a lot of peanuts can also add many calories to the diet, which is why portion control is very important.
Another concern is that the mold that is often present on peanuts produces a toxin called aflatoxin, which is acceptable in the United States, at varying levels. Any people with diabetes who have liver disease dysfunction or cancer should limit their exposure to aflatoxins.
Some products on the market, such as PB2, are produced after all the oils and fats have been removed from the peanuts to make a dry powder, and sugar has been added. These highly processed products are unlikely to provide the same health benefits as whole peanuts.
All things considered, many people find that adding a small handful of peanuts to the diet each day can be a great way to control the appetite while keeping the blood sugar stable between meals.
Current research supports the idea that peanuts are good and safe for people with diabetes. However, other proper nuts are even more advantageous. Almonds contain twice the fiber, more calcium, more iron, and one-and-a-half times more vitamin E than peanuts. Eating a variety of nuts, such as almonds and walnuts, along with peanuts, is likely to give the best variety of nutrients, omega-3 fats, fiber, and health benefits.