Diabetes Diet

The Trouble with Peanuts in Managing Diabetes

If you have diabetes, beware of peanuts, peanut butter, and peanut oil.

Some people think that because most tree nuts, like almonds, are so healthy, that peanuts should also be good for us. But peanuts aren’t nuts at all. They are a legume, and unlike most nuts we can’t eat them raw.

Actually, we can’t eat them at all if we want to avoid some of the side effects that we can get from them. Some of these side effects can be quite serious.

I can think of only nine reasons why we have to avoid peanuts or anything made from them. Maybe you can think of more, but these eight might be enough to give anyone pause:

1. Peanuts have a lot of carbohydrates, which raise our blood sugar level. Take a look at the US Department of Agriculture’s National Nutrient Database, which is the gold standard of nutrient facts and is fortunately back online today now that the government shutdown has ended. When you exclude the water content in peanuts, they are 37 percent carbohydrate, 39 percent fat, and 24 percent protein.

“One tablespoon of natural, unsweetened peanut butter contains 3 grams of carbohydrate and will raise my blood sugar 15 mg/dl,” writes Dr. Richard K. Bernstein in the 2011 edition of his book Dr. Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution. “Imagine the effect on blood sugar of downing 10 tablespoons!”

2. Peanuts are the source of one of the most common food allergies. “They have the potential to provoke acute allergic reactions (e.g., hives or anaphylaxis) that can be dangerous in the susceptible, even fatal in rare instances,” writes Dr. William Davis in his 2011 book, Wheat Belly.

3. Peanuts “contain lectins and other ant-inutrients that can adversely affect your health, particularly if you are suffering from an autoimmune disorder,” writes Loren Cordain in his 2002 book, The Paleo Diet. These lectins “are known to increase intestinal permeability and allow partially digested food proteins and remnants of resident gut bacteria to spill into the bloodstream….Usually, special immune cells immediately gobble up these wayward bacteria and food proteins. But lectins are cellular Trojan horses. They make the intestines easier to penetrate, and they impair the immune system’s ability to fight off food and bacterial fragments that leak into the bloodstream.”

4. Peanuts quickly and easily go stale, according Harold McGee in his 2007 book,On Food and Cooking. That’s because of their high polyunsaturated fat content.

5. The polyunsaturated fats in peanuts are all from the pro-inflammatory omega-6 oils. Peanuts have no anti-inflammatory omega-3. One ounce of peanuts has 4,450 mg of omega-6 and no omega-3, according to Evelyn Tribole in her 2007 book,The Ultimate Omega-3 Diet.

6. Peanuts are acidic and able to disrupt the body’s acid-base balance, writes Dr. Cordain in The Paleo Diet. Unless you balance them “with healthful alkaline fruits and vegetables, you will be out of acid-base balance — and at increased risk for many chronic diseases.”

7. Many peanut butters are loaded with trans fats, which everyone agrees is bad for us (see my article “Trans Fatty Acids.” “Trans fats are found in margarine, shortening, and most peanut butters — foods that definitely were not part of humanity’s original diet,” writes Dr. Cordain.

8. Peanut oil “has turned out to be one of the most atherogenic (artery-clogging) of all oils,” writes Dr. Cordain. “In fact, it is routinely used to induce coronary artery atherosclerosis in monkeys and other laboratory animals. It’s not clear exactly why this happens. Some scientific evidence suggests that peanut lectins (proteins that bind to carbohydrates) may be responsible for this effect.”

9. Peanuts and particularly peanut butter tastes so good that we can easily eat too much of it. Like potato chips or french fries, they must in some sense be addicting. After all, who can stop at one?

This article is based on an earlier version of my article published by HealthCentral.

Never Miss An Update

Subscribe to my free newsletter “Diabetes Update”

I send out my newsletter on first of every month. It covers new articles and columns that I have written and important developments in diabetes generally that you may have missed.

Previous Post Next Post

You Might Also Like These Articles


  • Reply Leo December 9, 2013 at 5:06 pm

    If peanuts raise your Glucose so much, why do they have a low Glycemic Index value?

    • Reply David Mendosa December 9, 2013 at 6:56 pm

      Dear Leo,

      What an excellent question! This is one that puzzled me for many years. The only answer can be is that the glycemic index measures the area under the curve (of increase of blood sugar) during the next two or three hours after eating, and peanuts must have what they call “a long tail,” that is that they continue to raise blood sugar for a longer time.



  • Reply Ana November 19, 2013 at 11:28 am

    I know “Paleo” folk object to legumes, but for those not following paleo, peanuts (if you are not allergic to them) are nutritious and easy.
    There are many other things that contain carbs, and 1TBS of peanut butter can be a good snack or used to make peanut sauce over shiritake noodles. 3grms of carbs, IMHO is not huge as long as you remember to add up ALL the carbs you are getting that day. Blueberries, yogurt, and even salad greens all contain carbs.

    As for stale…keep it in the fridge.

    Peanuts are next highest in resveratrol, compared to red wine.

    Buy natural and you get no trans fats.

    I don’t eat peanut butter on a regular basis, but I do use it to make some asian meals…combined with other low carb foods, this is not a big deal, IMHO.

  • Leave a Reply