In many day-care centers and school cafeterias across North America, the legume is strictly taboo. Thats because peanut allergies have tripled since 1997. (Around 1.4 percent of kids in the U.S. are allergic to them.)
But what accounts for that dramatic increase? Well, perhaps, like Charlie Brown repeatedly trying to kick a football that Lucy inevitably pulls away, its because weve been fooled into trying to kick the allergy by doing exactly what makes it more likely to occur.
Although in 2008 the American Academy of Pediatrics rescinded its recommendation to avoid peanuts while pregnant (saying there was no evidence to support the fear that eating them could trigger a peanut allergy in a child), pregnant women have continued to avoid eating peanuts. And that has made children more, not less, likely to become allergic to them.
A new study shows that if women who are not allergic to peanuts or tree nuts eat them five or more times a month while pregnant, their child is far less likely to develop the allergy. It appears some kind of immunotherapy is at work and exposing the fetus to potential allergens is a way to help the baby become allergy-resistant.
So moms-to-be take note: Peanuts are inexpensive and a great source of protein (with 7 grams per ounce), plus fiber, niacin, manganese, magnesium, vitamin E, folate, copper and phosphorus. And while walnuts are the only nut loaded with healthy omega-3 fatty acids, peanuts do have other good-for-you, unsaturated fats.
Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of The Dr. Oz Show, and Mike Roizen, M.D., is chief medical officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. To live your healthiest, visit sharecare.com. Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.