In our nutty world, peanuts and almonds are among the most popular, each with its own devoted fan base. These crunchy and nutritious snacks are popular not only for their delicious taste but also for their nutritional benefits.
But when it comes to choosing between peanuts and almonds, which nut truly deserves the title of the healthier option?
In this blog, we’ll take a look at the nutritional differences, health advantages, and potential downsides of both peanuts and almonds to help you make an informed decision about which nut suits your nutty preference.
Nutritional Profile of Peanuts vs Almonds
For starters, we should all be clear that peanuts are not technically a nut but a legume – just like beans, lentils, peas, chickpeas and soybeans.
Peanuts grow underground like other legumes while most nuts like walnuts and almonds grow on trees or bushes. But, because peanuts look like a nut and have a similar nutritional profile they are often categorized as a nut.
Now that we got that out of the way, let’s compare nutrition!
When comparing macronutrients (protein, fat, carbs), there’s actually not a big difference between peanuts and almonds. They contain pretty much the same amount of calories with peanuts (raw, all types) having 161 and almonds (unroasted) providing 164 calories per 1 oz.
The general recommendation is keeping your daily servings of nuts to 1 oz (30g) daily. What does 1 oz look like? You’re usually told “a handful” or 1/4 cup which would be around 35 peanuts or 23 almonds or 2 Tablespoons of peanut/almond butter.
When comparing protein, peanuts take a slight edge containing 7g protein per 1 oz with almonds containing 6g. Because peanuts are actually a legume, they contain more protein than any other nut.
While nuts do contain protein, a majority of the calories do come from fat. Peanuts and almonds contain pretty much the same amount of fat: 14g per 1 oz (~77-78% of the total calories).
Even though the fat content is high, most of the fat is coming from healthier unsaturated fats with only a small amount of saturated fat.
1 oz of peanuts contain 6.9g monounsaturated fat (which is what olives, olive oil mainly consist of), 4.4g polyunsaturated fat and 1.8g saturated fat.
In comparison, 1 oz of almonds contain a higher amount of monounsaturated fat with 9g, 3.5g polyunsaturated fat and only 1.1g saturated fat.
Since the majority of calories in nuts come from fat and a little protein, they contain very little carbohydrates. Peanuts contain 4.6g carbs while almonds contain 6.1g per oz.
An important part of these carbs is fiber! Peanuts offer 2.4g of fiber while almonds provide a slight edge with 3.5g fiber per 1 oz serving.
When comparing the vitamin and mineral content of peanuts and almonds there are a lot of similarities but a few noteworthy differences.
Both peanuts and almonds contain B vitamins, but peanuts are a richer source particularly niacin (vitamin B3), which plays a role in energy metabolism, and folate (vitamin B9), important for cell division and DNA synthesis.
Almonds contain more riboflavin (vitamin B2), which plays a role in energy production. Both peanuts and almonds contain vitamin E, but almonds take the lead as an excellent source of vitamin E which is a fat-soluble antioxidant that helps protect cells from oxidative damage.
Both peanuts and almonds contain potassium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, iron, calcium and a good amount of magnesium. However, almonds are the winner with larger amounts of these minerals especially iron and magnesium.
Magnesium helps support muscle and nerve function, bone health, regulates blood sugar levels and blood pressure.
Iron is a vital mineral for transporting oxygen in our bodies, important for growth and development, hormone synthesis, and muscle metabolism.
Health Benefits of Peanuts & Almonds
Besides the benefit of their nutritional value, both peanuts and almonds offer other nutrients and antioxidant compounds that aid in inflammation and prevention of certain diseases.
Antioxidants & Heart Health
Peanuts are an excellent source of antioxidant compounds called resveratrol (also found in red grapes) and are also a good source of coenzyme Q10 which have both been shown to be heart protective.
On the other hand, almonds are naturally abundant in vitamin E and flavonoids, which are antioxidants linked to improving heart health and reducing oxidative stress and inflammation in the body3.
Both peanuts and almonds contain phytosterols which help block the absorption of cholesterol from the diet2. In addition, both nuts contain fiber and healthy fats which are also beneficial for heart health.
Alzheimer’s & Brain Health
As previously mentioned, peanuts contain a high amount of niacin (vitamin B3) and are a good source of vitamin E. Almonds also provide an excellent source of vitamin E.
Both niacin and vitamin E have been shown to protect against Alzheimer’s disease and age-related cognitive decline2.
Resveratrol, found in peanuts, has also been shown to be helpful in reducing the risk of neurodegenerative disorders, especially Alzheimer’s disease3.
Incorporating almonds and peanuts into your diet can be a strategy for weight management. These nuts are packed with satiating fiber, healthy fats, and protein, all of which work together to promote a feeling of fullness and reduce the likelihood of overeating.
Additionally, the combination of protein and fiber helps stabilize blood sugar levels, preventing sudden spikes and crashes in energy, which can lead to cravings for high-calorie, sugary snacks.
However, that does not mean you can add nuts and nut butter to everything! The key is consuming both peanuts and almonds in moderation. That is hard for some people including my husband. Eating too many nuts and nut butters can lead to weight gain.
My advice is to try to stick to the recommended daily serving of 1 oz or 2 Tbsp of either peanut or almond butter.
Potential Downsides of Peanuts & Almonds
Although allergies to peanuts affect less than two percent (1.8%) of the United States population it is one of the most prevalent food allergies and can have serious consequences.
Peanut allergies are often lifelong and can trigger severe reactions, including anaphylaxis, which requires immediate medical attention.
Due to the potentially severe consequences of these allergies, those affected must take precautionary measures to avoid exposure, and public awareness about allergen labeling and safety measures is critical.
In 2015 the LEAP trial was the first randomized trial to study early allergen introduction as a preventive strategy. It is now recommended to introduce peanuts as early as 4 to 6 months of age to help them better sensitize to peanuts and avoid onset of allergies6.
Almond allergies, though less common than peanut allergies, are still a concern. Tree nut allergy is one of the eight most common food allergies, affecting roughly 0.5 to 1% of the U.S. population.
Cross-contamination risks can also be high, as peanuts and almonds are sometimes processed in the same facilities. Although tree nut allergy usually starts in childhood and are often lifelong, roughly 10% of people may outgrow tree nut allergy over time7.
Omega 3 to 6 Fat Ratio
I have been seeing a lot of misinformation out there about this topic, so I thought it should be addressed.
What Are Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids?
First off, what are omega-3’s and omega-6’s? They are both polyunsaturated fats which are considered essential fatty acids. This means your body cannot make them so you need to get these fats from your diet.
You find omega-6 fats primarily in nuts and seeds and seed and vegetable oils (safflower, grape seed, canola, sunflower, palm, hemp, corn, sesame, soybean). It’s pretty easy to get enough omega-6 in your diet, especially if you eat a lot of packaged/processed foods.
Omega 3 sources are more limited. Primary sources (besides fatty fish) are walnuts, flaxseed, chia seeds, hemp seeds and soy foods in addition to flaxseed oil, canola oil, and soybean oil.
Ideal Omega 3 to Omega 6 Ratio
Ideally, you would want to aim for a ratio of approximately 1:1 to 1:4 (omega-3 to omega-6). The Western diet, however, often contains a much higher ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids (more like 1:20). This is due to all the oils added in processed/fast foods1.
A higher omega 6 to omega 3 ratio affects your health due to the potential for promoting inflammation and chronic disease such as heart disease. For more on the absorption of plant-based omega 3s and why achieving a more balanced ratio is desired, refer to my previous blog on Best Vegan Omega 3 Sources.
High Omega 6 content in Peanuts and Almonds
It’s important to note that neither peanuts nor almonds are considered significant sources of omega-3 fatty acids. The only nut that is a good source of plant omega-3s is walnuts. Pecans and pistachios get an honorable mention but walnuts reign supreme as far as omega-3s go.
If you’re looking to increase your plant omega-3 intake, it’s better to focus on adding in more flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, and soy foods.
I’ll often see statements like “peanuts contain 5,000 times more omega 6 than omega 3!”. While peanuts contain a higher amount of omega-6 fatty acids (primarily in the form of linoleic acid), so do most nuts, including almonds.
The overall health benefits of nuts come from their various nutrients and not just their fatty acid profiles. You don’t get this extreme imbalance of omega-6 to omega-3 by eating naturally occurring fat in real food.
Try to include rich sources of ALA plant sources of Omega-3s in your diet (supplement as needed to ensure adequate DHA). In addition, cut back on your added oils, especially in prepackaged, processed and fast foods. This will help solve the problem of getting too much omega 6 in your diet.
Oxalate, also known as oxalic acid, is a naturally occurring compound found in a variety of plant foods. It’s a normal part of many plant-based diets, but for some individuals, consuming high-oxalate foods can cause problems.
Oxalate can combine with calcium in the body to form crystals, which can lead to the development of kidney stones or worsen certain medical conditions such as kidney disease.
While most people don’t need to worry about oxalates, individuals with a history of calcium oxalate kidney stones may need to limit high-oxalate foods to help reduce their risk of stone formation.
If you do include high-oxalate foods, pair it with a calcium-rich food source. Another important key to prevention is cutting back on the sodium in your diet
Both almonds and peanuts are considered high in oxalates. One ounce of almonds contains 122 mg of oxalates whereas 1 oz peanuts contains around 30mg.
Afla-what? Aflatoxins are a type of mycotoxin produced by molds or fungi (primarily Aspergillus species) which can contaminate certain crops including corn, rice, peanuts, cottonseed, nuts, almonds, figs, spices, and other foods.
This potent mycotoxin can also contaminate food at harvest and during storage. The risk of contamination depends on the soil and the temperature. It tends to grow in warm and humid climates which is what I have here in Hawaii.
Milk, eggs, and meat products can be contaminated when the animal consumes aflatoxin-contaminated feed. However, crops with the highest risk of aflatoxin contamination are corn, peanuts, and cottonseed.
The concern is that chronic exposure to aflatoxins are known to cause liver cirrhosis and liver cancer. So, does this mean you should avoid peanuts and all these other foods at potential risk of contamination?
What Level of Aflatoxin is Considered Safe?
The safe limit for Aflatoxins is considered to be within the range of 4–30 μg/kg for human consumption8. The maximum acceptable limit set in the United States by the FDA is 20 μg/kg.
Apparently the USDA is responsible for sampling, inspecting, and testing each lot of raw peanuts for total aflatoxins. The USDA limit for domestic edible raw peanuts is 15 parts per billion (or 15 μg/kg) total aflatoxins or less9.
What You Can Do
To limit your exposure to aflatoxins I would buy only reputable brands of nuts and nut butters. I would also store them in the refrigerator especially if you live in humid environments.
I will admit I love peanut butter, so after doing research on this I found a brand called MaraNatha. They produce quality peanut and almond butters which they claim are virtually aflatoxin-free.
A direct quote from their website: “We employ state-of-the-art protocols for handling, sorting, storage and climate control that strictly control the development of aflatoxin. As a result, we can proudly assert that every MaraNatha nut butter is virtually aflatoxin free.”
At the end of the day, the benefits of nut consumption seem to outweigh the risk10.
Final Verdict: Peanuts or Almonds?
So, which nut is the healthiest? Let’s summarize what we’ve learned so far.
Peanuts are higher in protein, B vitamins (especially niacin and folate). They also contain important antioxidants resveratrol and coenzyme Q10 which are known to protect heart health.
Almonds are richer in monounsaturated fats, fiber, and important nutrients like magnesium. They also contain an abundant amount of vitamin E and flavonoids which are powerful antioxidants.
We’ve addressed some of the potential downsides for both almonds and peanuts and I think we can agree, unless you have allergies, the benefits of eating nuts seem to outweigh any downsides. Just store them properly and remember that portion size does matter.
To maintain the health benefits, I would look for raw or dry roasted. Avoid peanuts or almonds with a lot of added oils, sugar and salt (including m&ms!).
Both nuts offer nutritional value and health benefits. The verdict really falls on you, your personal preference, and if you have any allergies or intolerances. For me personally, I vote for both!