The simple decision to toss back a handful of peanuts a few times a week in place of other junk food snacks could go a long way to help people fight the battle of the bulge and could prevent childhood obesity, researchers say.
Peanuts are packed with vitamins and nutrients that make the tiny legumes one of the healthiest foods around. Look at the nutritional punch you get from just a 1/4 cup:
- 88% biotin
- 47% copper
- 36% manganese
- 28% vitamin B3
- 24% molybdenum
- 22% folate
- 20% phosphorus
- 20% vitamin E
- 19% vitamin B1
- 19% protein
Peanuts are rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, high in oleic acid, and loaded with antioxidants, too. In fact, previous research found that consuming more nuts was associated with decreased overall disease mortality.
But continuing with the original study at hand …
According to scientists, eating peanuts 3 to 4 times a week could help lower body mass index (BMI). That could be especially good news for children and teens with developing bodies. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistics show obesity affects about 12.7 million children and adolescents between the ages of 2 and 19. (The only problem is that BMI is a bit antiquated.)
For the study researchers at the University of Houston, Baylor College of Medicine, and Texas Woman’s University followed 257 Latino adolescents over the course of 6 months. Each was in the 85th percentile or greater for BMI.
During the study period, about half the group snacked on peanuts or peanut butter right after school 3 to 4 times a week. The other half of the group had the same snack less than once a week. All of the students were taught proper nutrition and engaged in physical activity.
The group eating the most peanuts during that time reduced their BMI more than twice as much as the group eating peanuts less than once a week.
“Peanuts provided an acceptable, healthy snack for children. Although peanuts were relatively high in fat, the weight loss intervention of replacing energy-dense and unhealthy snacks with peanuts and peanut butter helped children maintain a healthy body weight.”
Lead study author Craig Johnston, assistant professor at the University of Houston’s department of health and human performance, said in a statement:
“Schools are doing a great job of teaching kids, getting them workforce ready, and a whole bunch of other things. We’ve just got to make sure that our kids are going to live long, happy lives with that kind of education.”
Snacking is more common among teenagers, who are usually left to their own devices in the food department, and that can lead to serious weight gain.
“What we found is that kids get home from school around 4 p.m. There’s less supervision by parents and less structure. Kids are sitting down at the TV and eating, eating, eating because they really didn’t eat at school.”
The researchers recommend schools cut out energy-dense unhealthy snacks and replace them with healthier ones like peanuts to get kids in the habit of eating nutritious foods in proper serving sizes.
Johnson said obesity “is the most pressing health issue facing us today We’d like to think it’s preventable, but from where I sit right now, there hasn’t been a lot shown to be very effective on a large scale.”
As snacks go, peanuts have been shown to be more universally liked than “health foods” like vegetables, and the protein found in peanuts can help kids feel full longer.
The study was published in the Journal of Applied Research on Children.
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