This column is dedicated to my husband, who eats at least five peanut butter and jelly sandwiches a week. And I am sure he is not alone. There are other easily prepared foods in the house but the classic PBJ is his go-to meal, because as he says, “I like the taste.”
I don’t have a problem with his lunch routine but I am feeling even better after reviewing a recent study from Vanderbilt University published in the March 2, 2015 JAMA Internal Medicine. The researchers reviewed data from three very large ongoing studies, one in the United States and two in China. The study participants were from all races and economic strata.
Researchers found that peanut consumption was associated with reduced total mortality and cardiovascular disease mortality. This type of study cannot say peanuts cause reduced mortality, only that when looking at study participants’ diet and health data, those who are eating peanuts have reduced total mortality and cardiovascular disease mortality.
This is not surprising as peanuts are packed with nutrients: niacin, vitamin E, folate, protein, manganese and even resveratrol, the phenolic antioxidant also found in red grapes and red wine. Peanuts also contain a compound called p-coumaric acid, thought to reduce the risk of stomach cancer. Roasting peanuts can increase their p-coumaric acid levels and antioxidant content by as much as 22 percent.
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The American Heart Association recommends eating four servings of unsalted, unoiled nuts a week. A serving of peanuts or tree nuts is about 1 ounce or 2 tablespoons of nut butter.
If you are ready to enhance the PBJ experience, try substituting mashed banana and raisins for the jelly or pump up the anti-inflammatory quotient of the peanut butter with a sprinkle of turmeric. Use whole wheat bread, pita for extra manganese or magnesium. Or ditch the bread and spread the peanut butter on apple slices, my personal favorite.
Sheah Rarback is a registered dietitian on the faculty of the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine. Follow her on Twitter @sheahrarback.