Are Peanuts Bad for You?

Peanuts are one of the top allergic foods—and consequently, have gotten a bad rap. But are they bad for everyone? Here, we consider 5 common questions about peanuts and what answers science gives for them.


Are peanuts healthy? When we wrote 6 Healthiest Nuts to Snack On in a past issue of EatingWell magazine, some of you wanted to know why we left peanuts off the list. Our number one reason? They're technically a legume, not a nut.

Despite that distinction, they do share a lot of properties with other nuts. For example, they deliver heart-healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats, vitamin E and zinc.

Still, we wondered whether they bestow some of the same health benefits as tree nuts—such as almonds and walnuts—and we also wanted to know about peanut allergies. So I visited the Peanut Institute and spoke with a number of scientists and found out some surprising new things about these "nuts."

What's your peanut IQ? Here are a few common beliefs people have about peanuts. Are they true?

Are All Peanut Products Off-Limits for People with Peanut Allergies?

For the most part, yes, but there is one big exception—highly refined peanut oil. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states that highly refined oils, such as peanut oil, are not considered "major food allergens." That's because the protein, which triggers the allergic response, has been removed from the oil.

While there may still be a very small trace of protein in the oil, the FDA claims it's not sufficient to trigger an allergic response. That being said, it's understandable not wanting to take the risk when there are so many other oils out there.

Of note: Aromatic peanut oil is less refined and contains peanut protein. If you have a peanut allergy, this oil needs to be avoided.

Are Peanuts Fattening?

Like other nuts, peanuts have good-for-you mono- and polyunsaturated fats. And just because they contain fat, it doesn't mean they'll make you fat if you're mindful of your portion size. For example, a 1-ounce serving of peanuts (32 nuts) delivers 166 calories, per the USDA.

Peanuts might even help with weight loss. In a 2022 study in Nutrients, researchers compared two groups. One group ate a reduced-calorie diet plus 35 grams of peanuts prior to two main meals each day. The other group ate a typical low-fat diet. Both groups had similar amounts of weight loss and similar blood sugar levels after six months. And compared to the low-fat diet group, the peanut-eating group had greater reductions in blood pressure.

Like other nuts, peanuts also contain fiber, which helps make them satiating. That 1-ounce serving of peanuts has about 2.5 grams of fiber. And we know that fiber helps with weight loss.

Do Peanuts Contain Anti-Aging Compounds?

Peanuts contain resveratrol, the same polyphenol found in red wine. Studies, including a 2022 review in Molecules, suggest that resveratrol is anti-inflammatory and may help prevent infections, heart disease and cancer.

Resveratrol may also have anti-aging effects for your skin. A 2022 review in Advances in Dermatology and Allergology suggests that this polyphenol may help protect the skin against the harmful effects of type B ultraviolet rays. These researchers also state that resveratrol may enhance collagen synthesis—which could reduce wrinkles—and accelerates skin healing following surgery or injury.

Want to get as much resveratrol as you can from peanuts? According to another 2022 study in Molecules, soaking peanuts can increase resveratrol levels.

Is Peanut Flour Gluten-Free?

Although peanut flour would definitely be an allergen for people with peanut allergies, it is gluten-free. So if you need a gluten-free flour and are not allergic to peanuts, peanut flour might be a good option for you. It has a slightly nutty flavor and can be used in baking or to coat fish or chicken before it's sautèed.

Interestingly, peanut flour is high in protein and fiber and comes in different levels of "defatted-ness" (flour that has had more oil pressed out of it is higher in protein).

Do People Who Eat Peanuts Have Lower Rates of Chronic Diseases?

According to a 2022 review in Frontiers in Nutrition, eating peanuts can lower blood triglycerides. This could, in turn, reduce heart disease risk.

A 2019 review in Nutrients found that nut-eaters were less likely to die from any cause, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, infectious diseases, liver disease and kidney disease. In this study, nuts included peanuts, walnuts, seeds and other nuts.

And a 2021 study in the American Heart Association's journal, Stroke, found that higher peanut consumption was linked to a reduced risk of stroke.

Bottom Line

While peanuts are not technically nuts, they share many of the same characteristics and health benefits as nuts. If you're allergic to peanuts, highly-refined peanut oil might be okay to use, but you must weigh the potential risk. If you're not allergic to peanuts, and you like their nutty flavor, feel free to include them in your nutrition plan. We like them in both sweet and savory dishes, from satisfying smoothies that have peanut butter in them to tasty noodle dishes that include peanuts.

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