Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Nutrition Debate #140: Peanuts, My Nemesis, and Why I Don’t Eat Them

My name is Dan, and I am a peanut addict. I love peanuts. I crave peanuts. I am addicted to peanuts, or at least I used to be. I gave them up almost a year ago, and do not eat them anymore. That’s why I have waited until now to write about them. I can now do it safely since I am no longer tempted by them. Why is another story, and the subject of another column – or even a book, for someone who has a better understanding of the very complex questions of why we eat and what we eat. But for this humble blogger, I will just tell you why I have concluded that I should not eat peanuts.

For the irregular reader of this column (published every Wednesday and Saturday), I am a 72 year old, 27-year type 2 diabetic who eats a Very Low Carb Ketogenic Diet (VLCKD) for weight loss and blood glucose control. I am Carbohydrate Intolerant. I treat my broken glucose metabolism just with minimal oral diabetes medications. I do not want to use injectables like insulin or incretin memetics. I also eat this way because I can do it without hunger, obtain very good improvement in blood pressure (with weight loss), and greatly improved blood lipids, especially HDL and triglycerides.

In the world of nutrition gurus that I follow, peanuts and other legumes are on many people’s lists of foods not to eat. I have been trying for years to stop eating them. So, now that my body is “happy” with the way I eat and what I eat, I finally decided to just do it – stop eating peanuts altogether, “cold turkey.” For convenience (mine) the page references that I provide here are all from a very good book that I recommend as a shelf reference in good Paleo nutrition principles and practices: “Perfect Health Diet” (Scribner 2012), by Paul and Shou-Ching Jaminet. To be clear, I do not recommend this book for its approach to eating for full-blown Type 2 diabetics. They have, sadly, missed the mark there.

First of all, peanuts are not nuts. They are legumes. Peanuts grow in the ground, not in trees as with true nuts. The peanut plant grows above ground with a pea-like flower. The long flower stalk then bends to the ground and continues to grow. The mature fruit develops there into a legume pod, the peanut, containing 1 to 4 dry seeds. Other common above-ground legumes include soy beans (edamame), fava, kidney, pinto, garbanzo, and lima beans, black-eyed peas, and lentils, and unfortunately for those with a legume allergy, sweet peas and green beans. As a type 2 diabetic, with the exception of cooked young green beans, I avoid legumes, peas and sugary vegetables (corn, beets, and carrots).

Legumes are “almost grains” (pg 209),” just as dangerous as grains when eaten raw and still risky after cooking.” They are on the short list of “DO NOT EAT” foods (pg xix): grains and cereals, sugars, beans and peanuts, and Omega-6-rich vegetable seed oils (soybean oil, corn oil, safflower oil, peanut oil, and canola oil). That’s pretty “exclusive” company. It gets a grade of “F” (pg 172) in the list of “The Best Plant Food Energy Sources,” listed after wheat, corn and other grains.

But what’s the problem with legumes, you ask? The Jaminets say, “Many legumes are highly toxic in their raw state: raw kidney beans at 1% of diet can kill rats in two weeks.” (All the Jaminets’ references are on their Perfect Health Diet website.) “Legumes are toxicologically similar to grains. Like grains, they are eaten by herbivores and have developed toxins against mammals, including humans.” Plants can’t run away from grazing animals, so toxins are their defense system. Of course, ruminants then developed a way to circumvent the plant’s defense: the four-compartment stomach.

The Jaminets offer a “sample of known toxicity effects from legumes”: “1) leaky gut, bad digestion, diarrhea, bloating; 2) retarded body growth and shrinkage of organs; and 3) heart disease and tendon damage.” Leaky gut (demonstrated in rats) allowed bacteria and toxins to enter the body, block production of stomach acid and thus prevent proper digestion of proteins. In the gut, the kidney bean lectin PHA induced immature gut cells that were “easily exploited by diarrhea-inducing bacteria such as E. coli” (pg 210). “Feeding rats the alpha-amylase inhibitor found in kidney beans leads to extreme gut bloating,” which lead occasionally to a ruptured intestine.” It gets worse from there. Read Chapter 20.

“Many legume toxins can be destroyed with overnight soaking and thorough cooking, but not all.” “Traditional cuisines that make heavy use of legumes, such as Indian cuisine, used very long cooking times as well as lengthy detoxification methods – overnight soaking, sprouting, and fermentation. Even with such methods, not all toxins are removed. But at the hasty pace of modern lives, few people soak their beans overnight or cook them for hours. It may be no coincidence that with India’s modernization, its rates of diabetes and obesity have soared.” (pg 212).

“Peanut and soybean allergies are among the most common allergies” (pg 212). And “People with celiac disease who aren’t healed by removal of wheat often turn out to have antibodies to soybeans or other legumes and need to remove legumes from their diet as well.” “Significantly raised antibody titres were found frequently in the coeliac group, particularly those patients showing a suboptimal response to a gluten-free diet,” according to the Jaminet source cited.
The Jaminets’ conclusion: “(W)e believe there is little reward and much risk to eating toxin-rich legumes such as beans and peanuts. The only legumes we eat are peas and green beans.” I concur, and I no longer eat peanuts.


  1. I found one problem with peanuts is that you can't just eat one or two. When I first became diabetic, I was told that peanut butter was a good thing to eat. I went a step further and made my own peanut butter, to be sure there was no salt or sugar in it. Then I found out there was nothing acceptable to smear it on except celery. When I found myself wanting to go to the refrigerator and scoop a spoonful of PB three or four times a day, I finally decided it was addictive and I needed to do without it. Then I discovered low carb and it just didn't work, anyway. Even the good nuts are difficult for me to deal with because they're too handy and a small amount of them here and there can add up to a lot during the day. Even so, is there anything better than a fresh crop of walnuts? It's almost that time of the year.

    1. So true, so true. (sigh) I once ate about half a jar of peanut butter, only to discover after I ate it (how convenient for me, huh?) that the 2nd ingredient was sugar! Anyway, that is all history for me now. I love peanuts, but I've decided they are no good for me.

      BTW, I used to like peanut butter on celery. I used to eat walnuts as a snack before dinner maybe 10 years ago, as suggested in one of the 1st books I read on low-carbing: "You on a Diet" by a Canadian author. The idea was the fat would cut my appetite for dinner. For portion control, I filled a 2 ounce jigger with 10-12 halves. But, I don't snack anymore.

      Today I had my usual breakfast (3 fried eggs and 1 strip of bacon, plus a large cup of coffee with a heaping tsp. of Anchient Organics ghee), and worked in the garden all day until 5PM. I forgot to stop for lunch. I wasn't hungry.

      I avoid walnuts now too because of the high Omega 6s. It would just defeat my efforts to get a good balance by taking 2g of fish oil and eating wild salmon once a week for dinner and a can of sardines for lunch on most days.

      I've never had the pleasure of "fresh walnuts." Where do you live that you get to eat them at harvest time?

  2. I live in California, in a river valley that has just the right soil to grow a grand assortment of fresh vegetables and also has almond and walnut orchards. Aged walnuts have a musty taste, fresh ones are divine. Fresh almonds are also quite nice.

  3. Peanuts contain alfatoxins because they are very prone to them and succumb quickly.
    They can be harmful.
    Alarming situation but great tips.

    1. I know. Isn't it a bummer? Giving up peanuts (almost entirely) is one of the hardest things I have ever done -- even harder than ice cream, Chunkies and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups! But now that I eat so very few carbohydrates, I am 'never' hungry and have no cravings for sweets at all. That doesn't mean that I don't steal a spoonful of ice cream out of the freezer once in a while, or eat a few peanuts if they are put out at a party. It's better than eating CARBS! (I tell myself).

  4. This is so opportune (for me). I just completed reading, from a low complain source, how women might benefit from fruit, particularly a banana.


    My gauge tells me bananas are poison.

    1. Hi Monica,
      I checked out the 'nutrition' link you left, specifically her 'Heart Healty Foods' post (9/29/13), and note that the blogger echos the 'conventional wisdom.' If you are one of my readers who has a compromised metabolism (blood sugars, lipids, a weight issue, etc.), you would be wise to seek and follow another Way of Eating, as your comment about 'my gauge' apparently signals. Congratulations on taking charge of your own health...and finding a better way.

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