Instead of snacking on cheese or other foods that are high in saturated fat, give nuts like cashews and peanuts a try. Not only will you fill up on something delicious, you may also lower your cholesterol and limit your risk for heart attacks, since you are trading unhealthy saturated fats for healthy unsaturated fats, according to MayoClinic.com. Cashews slightly edge out peanuts when it comes to nutrition and health benefits, although both are nutritious choices.
While both of these yummy nuts have about the same amount of calories, peanuts have slightly more protein and fat than cashews, which are a bit higher in carbs. Eating an ounce of dry-roasted cashews adds 163 calories, 4 grams of protein, 9 grams of carbs and 13 grams of fat, including 2.6 grams of saturated fat, to your diet. This is 20 percent of the daily value for fat and 13 percent of the DV for saturated fat. The same amount of dry-roasted peanuts provides 166 calories, 7 grams of protein, 6 grams of carbs and 14 grams of fat, including 2 grams of saturated fat.
Peanuts give you more essential vitamins than cashews. Cashews are a good source of vitamin K, with 12 percent of the DV. Peanuts provide 19 percent of the DV for niacin, as well as 10 percent of the DV for both folate and vitamin E. Your blood wouldn't clot without vitamin K, and you need niacin for turning the food you eat into energy and keeping your skin and nerves healthy. Folate helps create DNA, and vitamin E is an antioxidant that helps keep substances called free radicals from damaging your cells.
You'll boost your daily intake of minerals a bit more if you opt for cashews instead of peanuts. Each serving of cashews gives you 19 percent of the DV for magnesium, 14 percent of the DV for phosphorus and 11 percent of the DV for zinc. Eating an ounce of peanuts gives you only 13 percent of the DV for magnesium, 10 percent of the DV for phosphorus and 6 percent of the DV for zinc. You need magnesium for keeping your immune system, muscles and nerves working properly. Phosphorus strengthens your bones and helps form DNA, and zinc is necessary for smelling and tasting, as well as for healing wounds.
Some of the health benefits of nuts like cashews and peanuts are due to the large amount of antioxidants they contain. Nuts provide about 19 percent of a type of antioxidant called polyphenols in the typical American diet, according to an article published in "Food and Function" in 2012. While cashews and peanuts have similar amounts of total polyphenols, cashews have a much higher percentage of free polyphenols, which increases the effectiveness of these antioxidants.
You need to eat about 1.5 ounces of nuts per day to get the potential heart-health benefits, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Snack on unsalted cashews or peanuts, sprinkle a few of these nuts into your oatmeal or onto a salad or stir-fry chicken or shrimp along with vegetables and a handful of nuts for a delicious and nutritious main dish. Spread peanut butter or cashew butter onto celery or apples for a quick snack, or have a sandwich of nut butter spread on whole-wheat bread and topped with sliced bananas for a filling lunch.
- MayoClinic.com: Nuts and Your Heart: Eating Nuts for Heart Health
- USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory: Nuts, Cashew Nuts, Dry Roasted, Without Salt Added
- USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory: Peanuts, All Types, Dry-roasted, Without Salt
- Food and Function: Nuts, Especially Walnuts, Have Both Antioxidant Quantity and Efficacy and Exhibit Significant Potential Health Benefits
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Calculate the Percent Daily Value for the Appropriate Nutrients
Based in Massachusetts, Jessica Bruso has been writing since 2008. She holds a master of science degree in food policy and applied nutrition and a bachelor of arts degree in international relations, both from Tufts University.