DEAR DR. BLONZ: You have written before about the nutrients in nuts and their value as a snack. For the last several months, I have been researching the fat content in peanuts still in the shell. From everything I have read, peanuts contain lots of monounsaturated fat, but there is no mention of saturated fat. But when I check packaged unshelled peanuts, the Nutrition Facts labels reveal a different story. The packages list 2 grams of saturated fat per serving, which is about half a cup (with shells). There is no mention of monounsaturated fat. This difference is important, since saturated fat can form cholesterol. Could you shed some light on this mystery? -- J.B., New Orleans
DEAR J.B.: Peanuts are predominantly monounsaturated fat (48 percent), but there are a bunch of polyunsaturated fatty acids (33 percent) and some saturated fats (19 percent) as well. This is usually how it is: Foods often contain a mixture of all the different types of fat, but tend to have more of one type than the others. The food then becomes known as a source of that type of fat. There is a chart providing the breakdown of typical food fats at tinyurl.com/cbwrox.
I would not be concerned with the little saturated fat found in peanuts. Saturated fat does not turn into cholesterol, and small amounts of it should not be an issue. It can contribute to problems when it becomes the predominant fat in your diet, AND when the rest of your diet is missing the variety of healthful foods that empower your body to handle the fats you eat. The reason that monounsaturated fats are not always present on food labels is that there is no requirement to list them. The only items mandated are total fat and saturated fat. Stay well.
DEAR DR. BLONZ: I wanted your take on xanthan gum and guar gum. They may not be harmful or toxic, but they do cause constipation in me, which has been proven time and time again. Since their purpose seems to be to bind things together, this would make sense. I avoid them like the plague. -- I.J., via email
DEAR I.J.: Not much of a plague here. Although they are called gums, they do not really "gum up" the digestive system. These additives are used in relatively small amounts, as evidenced by the fact that they are toward the end of many food ingredient lists. They can act as thickeners, texturizers, emulsifiers and/or stabilizers. Xanthan gum, for example, is often found in salad dressings and sauces for these purposes. It is also finding more uses these days in gluten-free foods.
There is no evidence, or reason to believe, that the small amounts of xanthan or guar gum would contribute to constipation. At levels higher than their normal usages, they might actually do the opposite, because they would add more bulk to the foods traveling through the digestive tract. That being said, we are all individuals; regardless of what might be a typical response, if you are convinced that these substances cause problems for your body, then by all means avoid them. There is certainly nothing essential that you would be missing.
Send questions to: "On Nutrition," Ed Blonz, c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO, 64106. Send email inquiries to email@example.com. Due to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.