Healthy Foods Deliver Defense Against Cancer And Heart Disease

by: The Peanut Institute, | February 26, 2024
Visit Organization


It’s a scientific fact. The human body requires nutrient-rich foods for optimal health and wellness. The vitamins and minerals in “good-for-you” nourishment provide energy for daily living, help the body grow and repair and can prevent diet-related illnesses like cancer and heart disease.

“Food can truly be medicine since it’s what the body is built on. Making smart choices about what to eat has an impact on every body – whether you’re young, old or in between,” says Dr. Samara Sterling, a nutrition scientist and research director with The Peanut Institute. “One easy food to incorporate into a healthy diet is peanuts. They are a powerful weapon because studies have found that a daily serving can deliver significant short- and long-term benefits, including the prevention of chronic diseases.”

Fighting Heart Disease

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, followed by cancer.

There are a number of factors that can increase the risk of developing heart disease, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity and diabetes. And, while they may be small, peanuts pack a punch since they are a good source of monounsaturated fats, which have been linked to lowering blood pressure levels.[1]

A 2022 study from the University of South Australia found consuming lightly salted peanuts twice a day before meals led to weight loss, lowered blood pressure and improved fasting glucose levels.[2] In addition, according to a 2014 study from Purdue University, the benefits peanuts provide for blood pressure are seen regardless of whether peanuts were flavored, salted or unsalted.[3]

Controlling Cholesterol The Natural Way

Blurred portrait image of person holding in-focus peanut.

Credit: Peanut Institute

High LDL cholesterol, known as “bad” cholesterol, can lead to plaque build-up in the arteries, making it harder for them to carry blood to the heart.

Peanuts are naturally cholesterol free and have healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats, like those in olive oil and avocados, that help raise levels of HDL (aka “good”) cholesterol to improve overall cholesterol levels.[4]

In fact, a one ounce serving of peanuts contains 19 vitamins and minerals, many of which fight heart disease, including vitamin E, folic acid, niacin, magnesium, vitamin B6, zinc, copper and potassium.

Managing Weight

For many, extra weight is a constant battle and snacking can add unwelcome pounds.

However, mindful snacking can, in some cases, be beneficial. A 2015 study of Mexican American school-age children found that swapping unhealthy snacks for peanuts or peanut butter can support decreases in body mass index (BMI) and improve overall health.[5]

“Peanuts are a smart choice because they deliver satiety. They are high in three macronutrients – protein, fiber and healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats – so they provide a feeling of fullness longer,” explains Dr. Sterling.

Preventing Or Controlling Diabetes

For those who are worried about diabetes, peanuts and peanut butter are considered low GI foods, which means they release sugar more gradually into the bloodstream. This can help prevent blood sugar spikes that lead to “crashing.”

Overall, eating healthy low GI foods can significantly reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. A 2016 study from Harvard University showed that substituting a serving of animal protein for a serving of plant protein like peanuts and peanut butter significantly reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.[6]

Nourishing The Fight Against Cancer

The word 'CANCER' being crushed by a hand.

Consuming nuts has shown a significant association with a reduced risk for cancer and cancer mortality.

A number of studies have investigated the link between peanuts and their cancer-fighting powers:

  • A 10g daily increase in nut consumption has been related to a 20% reduction in overall cancer mortality.[7]
  • Peanut/tree nut intake has been associated with 84% lower odds of breast cancer when comparing participants who consumed the most to those who consumed the least.[8]
  • In a 2008 study, participants who consumed the most nuts had a 40% reduced risk of esophageal cancer compared to those who consumed none.[9]
  • Peanut and tree nut consumption were associated with a reduced risk of small cell carcinoma (a type of lung cancer) per 5g/day increment.[10]

Rather than one component working alone, it’s believed that a number of compounds found in peanuts band together in a synergistic way to help stop cancer cells from developing.[11] Two of these compounds are phytosterols and resveratrol.

Found naturally in high concentrations of plant oils, seeds and legumes like peanuts, phytosterols offer an amazing array of healthy benefits. Research shows that in addition to inhibiting colon, prostate and breast cancer cell growth, they can also protect against heart disease.

In a study from the University of New York at Buffalo, phytosterols reduced prostate tumor growth by over 40%, and decreased risk of cancer spreading by almost 50%.[12,13] Used by plants to protect themselves against diseases, this phytochemical demonstrates anti-cancer properties. Some studies have shown that resveratrol may be beneficial for colorectal, prostate, brain and bladder cancers.[14-17]

It’s also been noted that resveratrol has been used in conjunction with radiation and certain chemotherapy treatments to increase the effectiveness and potentially reduce side effects.

“There are ways to stack the deck in favor of good health,” says Dr. Sterling. “Nutritious eating, along with exercise and sufficient rest, can lead to a longer life with fewer health problems.”

For the more health news and peanut recipes, visit or follow Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Pinterest.

About The Peanute Institute

The Peanut Institute Logo

Based in Albany, Ga., The Peanut Institute is a non-profit organization supporting nutrition research and developing educational programs to encourage healthful lifestyles that include peanuts and peanut products. The Peanut Institute pursues its mission through research programs, educational initiatives and the promotion of healthful lifestyles to consumers of all ages. As an independent forum, The Peanut Institute is uniquely positioned to work with all segments of the food industry, the research community, academia, consumer organizations and governmental institutions.

  1. Kris-Etherton PM, Pearson TA, Wan Y, et al. High-monounsaturated fatty acid diets lower both plasma cholesterol and triacylglycerol concentrationsAm J Clin Nutr. 1999;70(6):1009–1015.
  2. Petersen KS, Murphy J, Whitbread J, Clifton PM, Keogh JB. The Effect of a Peanut-Enriched Weight Loss Diet Compared to a Low-Fat Weight Loss Diet on Body Weight, Blood Pressure, and Glycemic Control: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Nutrients. 2022; 14(14):2986.
  3. Jones JB, Provost M, Keaver L, Breen C, Ludy MJ, Mattes RD. A randomized trial on the effects of flavorings on the health benefits of daily peanut consumption. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014 Mar;99(3):490-6. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.113.069401. Epub 2013 Dec 18. PMID: 24351876.
  4. Lokko P, Lartey A, Armar-Klemesu M, Mattes RD. Regular peanut consumption improves plasma lipid levels in healthy GhanaiansInt J Food Sci Nutr. 2007;58(3):190–200. doi:10.1080/09637480701198067.
  5. Moreno JP, Mohammed A, Moore CE, Johnston C. Benefits of a snacking intervention as part of a school-based obesity intervention for Mexican American children. Journal of Applied Research on Children: Informing Policy for Children at Risk 2015;6(2).
  6. Malik, V.S., et al., Dietary Protein Intake and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes in US Men and Women. Am J Epidemiol, 2016. 183(8): p. 715-28.
  7. Chang Cao, Xinyan Gan, Yan He, Shiqi Nong, Yonglin Su, Zheran Liu, Yu Zhang, Xiaolin Hu & Xingchen Peng(2023) Association between nut consumption and cancer risk: a meta-analysis, Nutrition and Cancer, 75:1,82-94, DOI: 10.1080/01635581.2022.2104880
  8. Sharif Y, Sadeghi O, Benisi-Kohansal S, Azadbakht L, Esmaillzadeh A. Legume and Nuts Consumption in Relation to Odds of Breast Cancer: A Case-Control Study. Nutr Cancer. 2021;73(5):750-759. doi: 10.1080/01635581.2020.1773874. Epub 2020 Jun 1. PMID: 32475175.
  9. Hashemian M, Murphy G, Etemadi A, Poustchi H, Sharafkhah M, Kamangar F, Pourshams A, Malekshah AF, Khoshnia M, Gharavi A, et al. Nut consumption and the risk of oesophageal squamous cell carcinoma in the Golestan Cohort Study.Br J Cancer. 2018 Jul;119(2):176-181. doi: 10.1038/s41416-018-0148-0. Epub 2018 Jun 28. PubMed PMID: 29950612; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6048068.
  10. Nieuwenhuis L, van den Brandt PA. Nut and peanut butter consumption and the risk of lung cancer and its subtypes: A prospective cohort study. Lung Cancer. 2019 Feb;128:57-66. doi: 10.1016/j.lungcan.2018.12.018. Epub 2018 Dec 18. PMID: 30642454.
  11. Falasca M, Casari I, Maffucci T. Cancer chemoprevention with nuts. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2014 Sep 10;106(9). pii: dju238. doi: 10.1093/jnci/dju238. Print 2014 Sep. Review. PubMed PMID: 25210199.
  12. Awad AB, Fink CS. Phytosterols as anticancer dietary components: evidence and mechanism of action. J Nutr. 2000 Sep;130(9):2127-30. doi: 10.1093/jn/130.9.2127. PMID: 10958802.
  13. Woyengo TA, Ramprasath VR, Jones PJ. Anticancer effects of phytosterols. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2009 Jul;63(7):813-20. doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2009.29. Epub 2009 Jun 3. Review. PubMed PMID: 19491917.
  14. Buhrmann C, Shayan P, Goel A, Shakibaei M. Resveratrol Regulates Colorectal Cancer Cell Invasion by Modulation of Focal Adhesion Molecules. Nutrients. 2017 Sep 27;9(10). pii: E1073. doi: 10.3390/nu9101073. PubMed PMID: 28953264; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5691690.
  15. Chen YA, Lien HM, Kao MC, Lo UG, Lin LC, Lin CJ, Chang SJ, Chen CC, Hsieh JT, Lin H, Tang CH, Lai CH. Sensitization of Radioresistant Prostate Cancer Cells by Resveratrol Isolated from Arachis hypogaea Stems. PLoS One. 2017 Jan 12;12(1):e0169204. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0169204. PMID: 28081154; PMCID: PMC5231355.
  16. Alayev A, Salamon RS, Schwartz NS, Berman AY, Wiener SL, Holz MK. Combination of Rapamycin and Resveratrol for Treatment of Bladder Cancer. J Cell Physiol. 2017 Feb;232(2):436-446. doi: 10.1002/jcp.25443. Epub 2016 Jun 10. PubMed PMID: 27225870.
  17. Kiskova T, Kubatka P, Büsselberg D, Kassayova M. The Plant-Derived Compound Resveratrol in Brain Cancer: A Review. Biomolecules. 2020 Jan 19;10(1):161. doi: 10.3390/biom10010161. PMID: 31963897; PMCID: PMC7023272.