Many nutritionists have heralded the nut as an especially healthy source of protein and omega 3 fatty acids with cardioprotective effects -- the small pods like a natural supplement, packed full of vitamins, minerals, and mono- and polyunsaturated fats.
But more expensive tree nuts like almonds, cashews and pistachios get most of the attention. New analysis, however, suggests eaters shouldn't ignore the less expensive but equally healthy peanut -- which is actually a legume.
A survey of peanut consumption studies by public health researchers at Harvard showed that the peanut offers the same heart health and longevity benefits that its pricier counterparts do.
Researchers followed the health results of large populations in both China and the United States, plotting cause of death and nut consumption data. The combined studies included data from 72,000 Americans, ages 40 to 79, and 135,000 men and women living in Shanghai, China, ages 40 to 74. The data was compiled over five years.
Analysis showed high peanut consumption correlated with a 17 percent lower chance of premature death, while high nut consumption 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."