Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits of Peanuts
Do you know that peanuts do not belong to the family of nuts? Yes, surprisingly peanuts belong to legume family along with chickpeas, beans, lentils and peas. True to its germination, peanuts carried their controversy into its nutrition and health benefits making it among the top ten controversial foods listed by WH foods. Keeping the debate aside, peanuts undoubtedly make the most crunchy and delicious among nuts alongside almonds. The peanuts as nuts make them a popular companion as cocktail snack. Mediterranean diet is generally rich in peanut based preparations. Peanuts also form as important source of vegetable oil for the mankind for over centuries.
Peanuts and its Descriptors
Growing of peanuts is associated with interesting phenomenon. As the peanut plant starts flowering, it gets bent due to heavy weight of the flower and leans down and eventually pushed into the ground. It here the real peanuts grow and mature. Possibly peanuts take the name groundnut because of this fact. The peanuts grow in a veined brown shell as seed comprising of two half lobes covered with thin pinkish skin. Peanuts are grown in many varieties and the most the commonest are Spanish, Velencia and Virginia. Among the most common processed conditions peanuts are found in the form of peanut butter, groundnut oil, peanut flour and even the peanut flakes.
Peanuts existed in South America for several centuries. It was part of staple diet of Aztecs, Native Indians of South America and Mexico. The explorers from European Countries carried the plant to Europe and Africa spreading across the continents. The popularity of peanuts can be attributed to George Washington Carvar who cajoled and supported farmers into growing peanuts during 19th Century and a physician in Missouri who introduced peanut in the form of paste which later transformed into today’s popular peanut butter. Today, peanut crop is taken up commercially by several Asian, African, European and American countries.
Peanut nutritional facts
The peanuts are rich in minerals and vitamins and about a quarter cup of peanuts (approx. 30 to 40gms) gives about 35% of Manganese, 21% of Copper, 18.8% of protein , 28% of Tryptophan, 22% of Vitamin B3, 22% of folate of Daily Value of nutrition requirements and contributes to about 11% of daily calorie intake at about 206 calories absolute. It is also known as an acknowledged source of monounsaturated fatty acids. A complete nutrition profile showed the presence of over 80 different nutrients. It gets counted just about “Good” under World’s rating for healthiest foods.
You can accrue the following health benefits over a daily intake of about a quarter cup of peanuts.
- Peanuts help to reduce the bad cholesterol known as LDL and enhance HDL, or good cholesterol. (Know more about LDL and HDL cholesterol) The typical monounsaturated fatty acid content of peanuts helps in the prevention of heart diseases and strokes by enhancing lipid profile of the blood.
- Peanuts are proven to contain dietary protein in the form of good quality amino acids which are required for overall growth.
- Stomach cancer caused by carcinogenic nitrosamines can be reduced with the consumption of peanuts which are good sources of poly-phenolic antioxidants in p-coumaric acid.
- Resveratol is a polyphenol antioxidant found in abundance in peanuts protects the body against degenerative nerve disease, fungal infections, heart disease and cancers. Resveratrol is beneficial in reducing the risk of stroke by enhancing the formation of nitric oxide, a vasodilator hormone.
- Antioxidants can be increased in peanuts by the simple process of boiling. Boiled peanuts shown four fold increase in genistein and biochanin, which are known as isoflavone antioxidants.
- Peanuts contain Vitamin E at the rate of 8 g for every 100 g. Vitamin E is said to beneficial in protecting the cell membrane and the skin from oxygen free radicals which are harmful.
- B-complex vitamins like niacin, riboflavin, thiamin, folates, vitamin B-6, pantothenic acid are present in peanuts. Niacin is important to maintain good brain health and promote free blood flow to the brain. In 100 g of peanuts, almost 85% of RDI of niacin is present.
- A handful of peanuts every day give the recommended levels of minerals, protein, vitamins and phenolic anti-oxidants.
How to choose good quality peanuts and store them?
The outer shell of the peanuts should be intact and free from any damage. They should be firm to touch, free of any rancid smell, mold and cracks. It is better to buy unshelled peanuts. Shelled peanuts should be off-white in color and there should be uniformity in size.
Unshelled peanuts remain in good condition for several months whereas shelled peanuts have to be preserved in an airtight container and should be kept in the fridge.
Different ways to consume peanuts
Peanuts taste good in their natural form. They can be boiled, roasted, salted and sweetened for easy digestion.
- By roasting the peanuts, toxic substances like aflatoxin can be removed, taste and flavor will be improved.
- Boiling of peanuts will enhance their antioxidants and nutritional profile.
- Peanuts are used in the preparation of peanut butter which is popularly used as a bread-spread. Peanut milk is free from lactose and can be used as a health drink.
- Peanut oil is used in several south Indian states and Sri Lanka as a cooking medium. Its aromatic flavor is suitable for cooking purposes.
- Peanuts are also used in desserts, salads and other ice cream products.
Peanut Allergy: Concern about the usage of peanuts
Peanuts are mentioned in the list of 10 most controversial WH foods. They are seen in the list because though they are rich in nutrients, some people may be allergic to their usage. Symptoms like vomiting, swollen lips, pain in the abdomen may be seen in persons who have peanut allergy may experience difficulty in breathing, and there may be chest congestion.
Peanuts contain oxalates, which are naturally occurring and also present in animals, human beings and plants. When peanuts are consumed these oxalates and the oxalates present in the body add up and become concentrated and pose health problems. Persons with kidney and gall bladder problems should avoid the consumption of peanuts.
Persons who want to consume peanuts should be careful and be aware of the implications it may show. In the US food labels carry the required information to alert the consumers.