Eating peanuts is a great way to satisfy hunger when you are reaching for a snack, and they are a nice addition to any snack mix. Yet, the question comes up… Can diabetics eat peanuts?
With a low glycemic index of 13 -14, and a glycemic load of only 1, people with diabetes can definitely eat peanuts. Peanuts can help support blood sugars, aid in weight loss, and may reduce risk for heart disease. They provide protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients, making them a beneficial snack for people with diabetes.
This article will look at peanuts in detail, how they are viewed in accordance with GI and GL, and how these scales and values pertain to someone who has diabetes.
You will also see the nutrient information in four different ways that peanuts are processed, and learn how they may impact a person with diabetes.
I will review the health benefits of peanuts, as well as discuss some reasons why you won’t want to gorge yourself on them. Lastly, I will compare alternative nuts.
FUN FACT: Peanuts go by a variety of names, including ground nuts, earth nuts, and goobers.
Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load in Peanuts Explained
It is very important for people who have diabetes to maintain and watch their blood sugar levels. Knowing what types of foods spike and do not spike your blood sugar levels is one way of preserving these levels.
One way to help predict the way food will affect your blood sugar is something called the glycemic index (GI).
This is a numerical scale that evaluates food and how quickly or slowly that food impacts the rise in blood sugar levels. The ranking is based on a point system consisting of 0-100 points.
A low GI food ranges from a number of 1 to 55, a medium GI food ranges from 56 to 69, and a high GI food is valued at 70 or higher.
Another measurement to consider something called glycemic load (GL). The GL calculates the rise in blood sugar based on the number of carbohydrates a food contains in one serving. This is more reliable because with this measurement, the length of time it took for a food to impact blood sugar levels can be calculated.
Peanuts have a GL value of 1, which is very low. Thus far, peanuts are looking like a favorable snack for a person with diabetes. Let’s look at the nutrients that peanuts contain, and decide if one peanut is better than another.
Do All Peanuts Have The Same Nutrition Value?
In addition to GI and GL, the preparation of the peanut may have an effect on a person with diabetes. Notice the differences between these four examples. Note that peanuts are rarely eaten raw in the United States. They are most often consumed roasted or as peanut butter.
Comparing Raw, Roasted, Oil-Roasted, and Honey-Roasted Peanuts
These values are according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service (USDA).
Values apply to one portion of peanuts, which is 1 ounce (28 g, 1/4 cup, or approximately 35 peanuts).
Just for fun, I counted out 35 peanuts and put them on a scale. I made sure I used whole peanuts, and not the halves. I weighed them out and it came to 1.1 ounces.
Some of the peanuts were slightly bigger than the “average peanut,” so I ate one of them, bringing the total weight to 1 ounce. My experiment showed me that the claim that there are 35 peanuts in one ounce is spot on.
Note that values may vary slightly from manufacturer to manufacturer.
|Raw Peanuts||Dry Roasted Peanuts||Oil-Roasted Peanuts||Honey Dry|
|Protein||7.3 g||6.9 g||8.0 g||6.0 g|
|Total Carbohydrate||4.6 g||6.0 g||4.3 g||8.0 g|
|Dietary Fiber||2.4 g||2.4 g||2.7 g||2.0 g|
|Total Fat||14 g||14.1 g||14.9 g||12.8 g|
|Saturated Fat||1.8 g||2.2 g||2.5 g||1.5 g|
|Monounsaturated Fat||6.9 g||7.4 g||7.4 g||6.7 g|
|Polyunsaturated Fat||4.4 g||2.8 g||4.3 g||4.0 g|
|Omega-6 Fatty Acid||n/a||2.7 g||4.3 g|
|Omega-3 Fatty Acid||n/a||Trace||Trace|
|Vitamin E||2.4 mg||1.4 mg||2.0 mg||15%|
|Folate||68 mcg||27 mg||34.0 mg|
|Niacin||3.4 mg||4.07 mg||3.9 mg||25%|
|Thiamin||0.18 mg||0.04 mg||0.02 mg|
|Riboflavin||0.04 mg||0.06 mg||0.03 mg|
|Pantothenic acid||0.5 mg||0.29 mg||0.34 mg|
|Vitamin B6||0.10 mg||0.13 mg||0.13 mg|
|Zinc||0.93 mg||0.79 mg||0.93 mg|
|Copper||0.32 mg||0.12 mg||0.15 mg||20%|
|Selenium||2.0 mcg||2.6 mcg||n/a|
|Magnesium||48 mg||50 mg||50 mg||15%|
|Phosphorus||107 mg||103 mg||113 mg|
|Potassium||200 mg||180 mg||206 mg||180 mg|
|Calcium||26 mg||16 mg||17 mg||30 mg|
|Sodium||100 mg||116 mg||91 mg||85 mg|
|Iron||1.3 mg||0.45 mg||0.43 mg||1.7 mg|
|Cholesterol||0.0 mg||0.0 mg||0.0 mg||0.0 mg|
|Arginine||0.88 g||0.8 g||0.92 g|
|Total Phytosterols||n/a||n/a||62.4 mg|
If you are adhering to the suggested portion size of your peanuts, it is not likely that you will see dramatic changes in your blood sugar, blood pressure, or weight.
However, if your snacking habits involve taking the entire canister to your desk and leaving it there, or setting it on your lap while you’re watching TV, you may want to consider some potential problems that may arise related to sodium, or calories, or both.
The sodium content increases up to 20 times if you compare raw peanuts to other roasted nuts. The ADA (American Diabetes Association) recommends that people with diabetes limit their sodium intake to 1500-2000 mg a day. The recommendation for persons without diabetes is 2300 mg per day.
USEFUL FACT: 2300 mg = 1 teaspoon sodium
If you like to frequently snack on peanuts, and do not pay attention to how many you are consuming, it is easy to go well over your recommended sodium limit the day. Remember to keep in mind that you are eating other foods throughout the day that will contain sodium, and some of them may contain excessive, added sodium.
If you use the salt shaker at the table, it is more than likely that you are exceeding your daily recommended intake limit of sodium.
People with diabetes are at higher risk for heart disease and high blood pressure.
Table salt is comprised of to electrolytes, sodium and chloride. Electrolyte imbalance can occur if there is too much or too little of an electrolyte. High sodium intake will lead to this imbalance, causing hypertension (high blood pressure) or edema (swelling or fluid buildup, usually in the feet, ankles, or hands.
Increased fluid on the body can make your heart work harder, which can lead to hypertension (HTN), heart disease, or stroke.
Peanuts have a relatively high caloric value. As we can see, 1 serving of peanuts no matter how prepared, will contain around 150 – 170 calories. People who have type 2 diabetes are sometimes following a calorie-restricted diet (consuming between 1500 and 1800 calories a day), so 1 oz of peanuts would equate roughly to 10% of a person’s recommended daily caloric intake.
With this in mind, it is better to substitute peanuts for a snack rather than adding them in addition to your snack.
Peanuts are, in essence, a plant-based protein. However, if you look at the total carbohydrate in each of the four examples in the chart, you will notice that there are 4 – 8 grams of carbohydrate per each 1 ounce serving. Eight grams of protein in one serving of peanuts is not likely to affect your blood sugar, especially given the fat and protein content. However, if you are a person who mindlessly grabs peanuts because the canister is sitting right next to you, your carbohydrates are going to add up before you know it.
Peanuts contain both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, as well as essential fatty acids. Unsaturated fats, like those in peanuts, are liquid at room temperature. They are considered beneficial to us because they promote improved blood lipid (fat) and cholesterol levels (HDL), alleviate inflammation, stabilize heart rhythms, and play other beneficial roles. (Harvard School of Public Health)
Saturated fats are solid at room temperature. Eating foods that contain saturated fats will increase the level of cholesterol in your blood. High levels of LDL (“bad” cholesterol) will increase your risk for heart disease and stroke. (American heart Association or AHA)
HEALTHFUL TIP: When I am discussing fats in my education sessions, I encourage people to remember which fats are “good” or healthful vs “bad” or unhealthful by remembering the following:
- LDL = Think of “L” for lousy
- HDL = Think of “H” for healthy
So keep in mind that the fats that are in peanuts are the beneficial fats, but there are a lot of them. Fats are more calorie dense at 9 calories per gram, where carbohydrates and protein have 4 calories per gram. When it comes to peanuts (and all nuts), too much of a good thing is not necessarily better for the waistline.
Essential fatty acids (Omega-3 and Omega-6) are polyunsaturated. They are deemed “essential” because our bodies can not produce them on our own. Humans lack the enzymes necessary to create the chemical bonds that exist in these fatty acids.
Omega-6 Fatty Acids
Research has shown that the increase in omega-6 fatty acids could increase the risk of obesity. The amount within roasted and oil-roasted nuts is relatively low, so there is no need to discard them.
Other research has also shown that very high amounts of omega-6 fatty acids cause inflammation over time, worsening diabetes.
However, other research has shown that omega-6 may reduce the risk of diabetes.
Whatever your take-away from all the research is, you should just be mindful and keep a healthy balance between the omega fatty acids in your diet.
Health Benefits of Peanuts
Peanuts are an excellent, vegan friendly source of protein. They offer many health benefits for the person with diabetes, as well.
Resveratrol, A Powerful Antioxidant
Resveratrol is a powerful antioxidant, which can help protect your body from cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. It is also found in the skin and red grapes, blueberries, cranberries, dark chocolate, and red wine. It also acts against pathogens, including bacteria and fungi. (nim.nlm.gov)
Resveratrol is the reason that you have heard that red wine and dark chocolate are good for your heart.
Peanuts May Support Your Blood Sugars
As previously mentioned, peanuts have a low glycemic content (GI and GL), so this can help prevent rapid spikes in your blood sugar.
I frequently use peanut butter as an example when I am describing different concepts. If you are eating high glycemic foods, or foods that tend to have a greater impact on your blood sugar, I suggest adding peanut butter (or something similar) to your high GI or higher carb foods, as it will help prevent a spike in your blood sugar.
The fat and protein in the peanut butter will also help prevent those spikes.
An example of this might be to add peanut butter to your 1/2 banana. Bananas have a low to medium GI, which increases as they ripen. My clients tend to shy away from bananas due to the carb content.
Enjoying 2 tablespoons of peanut butter on a half of a banana is not only tasty, It is something you can try without worrying about a postprandial (after eating) glucose spike.
Peanuts Help Aid in Weight Loss Goals
Peanuts contain fiber, protein, and healthful fats. All of these provide a feeling of satiety. When hunger is suppressed, you tend to eat less, resulting in weight loss.
Peanuts May Help Reduce the Risk for Heart Disease
- May lower inflammation related to heart disease
- Help improve the health of the lining of your arteries
- Lower your LDL’s (Low Density Lipoproteins or “bad” cholesterol and your triglyceride levels, which play a role in clogging your arteries
- May reduce the risk of blood clots, which may lead to heart attack
Peanuts contain a fair amount of fiber. Fiber is excellent in helping to slow the absorption of glucose in the blood. In addition, it helps lower cholesterol levels and may also reduce blood pressure and inflammation. These are all significant advantages, especially for people who have diabetes.
Peanuts, in reality, are not nuts. They are legumes, in the same category as lentils and peas. The proteins in a peanut are similar to the structure of tree nuts, so they are lumped together.
Peanut is the most likely food allergy to cause anaphylaxis (acute allergic reaction) and death, so it is critical to be aware of any allergies if you are serving guests.
If you suspect you have an allergy to peanuts or any other food, contact your medical provider or an allergist for testing.
What About Peanut Butter?
Peanut butter is a bit tricky. I use peanut butter as an example in my education sessions, as different preparations have different pros and cons.
Peanut butter has similar nutrient values as regular peanuts. A 2 tablespoon (32 g) serving of regular, smooth peanut butter contains 190 calories, 16 g fat, 8 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 3 g sugar, 7 g protein, and 140 mg sodium.
If you are reading labels, you will notice that a reduced fat peanut butter contains 190 cal, 12 g fat, 15 g carbohydrate, 3 g fiber, 4 g sugar, 8 g protein, and 250 mg of sodium.
Sometimes people think, “Peanut butter is a protein and I can have all I want.” However, 2 tablespoons (32 g) of peanut butter also has 16 g of fat. Too much fat in the diet does not favor your figure, and is not healthful from a cardiovascular standpoint.
People with diabetes tend to have more cardiac or heart problems than people without diabetes. If you choose the reduced fat peanut butter for the purposes of decreasing your fat intake, you will notice that the reduced fat version has 15 g carbohydrate and 250 mg sodium.
When taking out that flavorful fat, something needs to be added to make it taste better. In this case, it is salt and sugar. Fifteen grams of carbohydrate may affect your blood sugar, and 250 mg of sodium in 2 tablespoons of peanut butter is a considerable amount of salt.
As previously mentioned, the American Heart Association (AHA) and the American Diabetes Association (ADA) both recommend that a person with diabetes should limit their sodium intake to 1500-2000 mg per day. The RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) for the general population is 2300 mg per day.
What Peanut Butter Should Diabetics Choose?
I recommend choosing the peanut butter that tastes better to you. It is my philosophy that there are no “bad” foods. If you stick to the serving size, and you are not eating peanut butter at all three meals, it’s not going to make that big of a difference. “All foods can fit in moderation.”
Peanuts vs. Other Nuts
All nuts are a plant-based protein. Each of them have their own unique qualities and benefits. I will point out a few of them, so you can compare them to peanuts.
Research studies conducted in 2010, 2011, and 2012 show that the consumption of 2 ounces of almonds (45 nuts) may reduce glucose levels and insulin levels after meals. They also showed lower levels of fasting glucose and fasting insulin. In addition, eating almonds may increase insulin resistance in people with prediabetes.
Note that one serving of almonds, 1 ounce or 21 nuts, is a little higher in calories at 164; however, they also make you feel more full compared to eating other nuts.
Almonds are an excellent source of several vitamins and minerals, including vitamin E. They are also a good source of protein, fiber, calcium, riboflavin, copper, and magnesium.
Walnuts have higher antioxidant activity and more healthful omega-3 fats than any other nut.
In various studies on walnuts over the years, many benefits for people with diabetes have been revealed. These include improvement in the function of the blood vessels, reduction of insulin levels, improvement in lipid profile, and improvement in diabetic neuropathy symptoms.
One serving of walnuts is 14 halves. This provides 185 cal, 18 g fat, 4 g carbohydrate, 4 g protein, and 567 µg sodium.
Pistachio nuts, with a low GI of 18, promotes healthful blood sugar levels. They are a good source of magnesium. Pistachios provide benefits for diabetes related hypertension and nerve damage.
They also provide minor benefits for skin and wound healing, help regulate digestion, provide a feeling of satiety, and support weight loss.
A one once serving of pistachios is about 49 kernels (no shells).
Pecans, like other nuts are rich in vitamins and minerals, a good source of fiber, and high in antioxidants. They are a calorie-dense food, So you might want to monitor your intake.
Studies have shown that eating a serving of pecans (15 nuts) daily can improve insulin levels, improve insulin resistance and beta cell function for people at risk.
Cashews are a very tasty selection in the realm of nuts, but take caution. A one ounce serving of cashews (18 nuts) has 157 calories, 8.6 g carbohydrates, 5.2 G protein, land 12.4 g fat, including 2.2 g saturated fat (the solid stuff).
Cashews, like other nuts, have a plethora of health benefits with only 3 mg of sodium. They help support blood sugars with their low GI and GL, and they help improve cholesterol levels with the healthful fats.
Due to the high caloric content, cashews should best enjoyed infrequently, 2 to 3 times per week, most preferably not every other day.
In a nutshell, peanuts are an inexpensive and safe option for a person who have diabetes. They are high in protein, fiber, and healthful fats, and they also have a low glycemic index and low glycemic load.
Peanuts are relatively high in calories for their serving size, but you now know the health benefits.
Stick to the portion sizes, and enjoy this tasty, nutrient-packed snack.