Peanut butter included.

Having access to a steady stream of healthy snacks has always been the key to staying (mostly) sane throughout the day, but in recent months, it seems like the stakes have gotten higher. As many of us continue to work from home, spending day in and day out attached to our various screens and simultaneously carrying what feels like the weight of the world, the more necessary it is to have easy access to noshes that we know will keep our energy levels—and our moods—up

"The word 'snacking' can sometimes get a bad reputation," says Melissa Rifkin, MS, RD, CDN. "But when you're munching on a healthy food that's chock-full of nutrition, snacking can actually ward off late night hunger, which could ultimately assist with overall health, wellness, and prevent overeating." The key, according to Rifkin? Plant-based protein. Her favorite healthy snack—peanuts—hits this nail on the head. "A 1-ounce serving of peanuts has 7 grams of plant protein that keeps you very well-satiated," she says. "I also love how peanuts and peanut butter are shelf stable, and they can be wonderful accompaniments to so many dishes. Not to mention the fact that a bag of peanuts can fit perfectly in a purse, backpack, or pocket."  

peanuts-nutrition: peanuts in a shell
Credit: Getty Images

She's right—when it comes to the peanut, it's true that big things come in small packages. The peanut is a nutrient-rich powerhouse. In fact, based on a mountain of research, this mighty legume deserves superfood status. In addition to protein, a serving of peanuts contains 19 vitamins and minerals, many of which fight heart disease (such a vitamin E, folic acid, niacin, magnesium, vitamin B6, zinc, copper, and potassium), antioxidants, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats that help decrease "bad" LDL cholesterol and increase "good" HDL cholesterol, and heart-healthy fiber.

"Wellness has never mattered more than it does now. Improving or maintaining health is imperative these days, and finding an easy, transportable snack that is also affordable can have a huge impact with beneficial effects on one's health," Rifkin adds. When it comes to peanuts, chronic disease prevention is the name of the game—here's what science has shown so far.

1 Reduced Risk of Cancer

Results from the Netherlands Cohort Study published in 2018 found that eating peanuts daily was associated with a decreased risk of a hard-to-treat type of breast cancer in postmenopausal women. Another Netherlands Cohort Study found that men who consumed a teaspoon or more of peanut butter a day had a lower risk of pancreatic cancer.

2 They Help Boost Heart Health

A study published in the Current Atherosclerosis Reports in 2018 found those who consumed peanuts regularly had a reduced risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. A 2017 study that examined more than 200,000 participants showed that regular peanut consumption was associated with a 15 percent reduced risk of coronary heart disease.

3 Peanuts and Peanut Butter Help Prevent the Onset of 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. Another landmark study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association had previously shown that peanut butter consumption reduced type 2 diabetes risk by 21 percent in women.

4 They Help Preserve Cognition and Mental Clarity Over Time

Peanuts have high levels of niacin and are a good source of vitamin E, two nutrients that have long been known to protect against Alzheimer’s disease and age-related cognitive decline. One study showed that, in almost 4,000 people 65 years or older, niacin from food slowed the rate of cognitive decline. Another study highlighted that vitamin E intake could delay functional decline in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.