With the advent of winter, it’s time to enjoy some delicious and crunchy peanuts. Known by several names like groundnut, earthnut, monkey nut, pygmy nut, pignut or goober peas, peanut is a member of the legume family along with beans and peas. Thus, unlike its name, peanut is not really a nut but a legume and like most legumes, an excellent plant based source of protein. However, it is often classified as a nut because it possesses all the qualities of true nuts, like almonds. These nuts are enclosed in a hard wrinkled outer shell or pod which contains two or sometimes, three kernels. The seeds are egg shaped and their size depends upon the cultivar type. The shell has to be broken to eat the seed inside. Today shelled peanuts are also available in packed form. These seeds have a thin brown skin and can be split into two parts like other legumes.
Being rich in a variety of nutrients like Vitamin E, folate, niacin, manganese and protein, peanuts are considered a cheaper substitute for other nuts like almonds, pistachios, cashews, pine-nuts and walnuts. They are available in salted, dry roasted, boiled and raw forms. Being extremely versatile, they are often used as an ingredient in peanut butter, candy bars, chocolates or even sold in the form of ‘chanas’ and ‘chikkis’ by roadside vendors. The best part is that they can be safely consumed by people who are allergic to nuts since peanuts are not nuts but legumes.
Health Benefits of Peanuts:
These nuts (or rather legumes) are a super food when it comes to their health benefits. In fact, they are an important source of nutrition in underdeveloped countries. Their various health benefits are as follows.
1. Good for Heart:
The high levels of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats in peanuts help to keep your heart healthy. Oleic acid, in particular, helps to lower the LDL or “bad” cholesterol and increase “HDL” or good cholesterol level in the blood. Thus, they prevent coronary artery disease and strokes by promoting healthy blood lipid profile.
2. Prevents Diabetes:
According to a recent study, a serving of peanut can lower the risk of diabetes by 21%. This can be attributed to the presence of manganese, a mineral that plays an important role in fat and carbohydrate metabolism, calcium absorption and blood sugar regulation.
3. Prevents Gallstones:
Consumption of peanuts can help prevent gallstones. According to studies, eating an ounce of peanuts or peanut butter can lower the risk of developing gallstones by 25%.
4. Prevents Cancer:
Legumes like peanuts have a high concentration of a form of phytosterol called beta-sitosterol (SIT). These phytosterols protect against cancer by inhibiting tumor growth. A research conducted in the United States observed that men and women who consumed peanuts at least twice a week respectively had 27% and 58% lower risk of getting colon cancer.
5. Improves Memory:
Peanuts are often called the “brain food” as they contain Vitamin B3 or niacin which improves brain functioning and boosts memory. They also contain a flavonoid called resveratrol which helps in improving blood flow to the brain by 30%.
6. Help Fight Depression:
Serotonin is one of the key brain chemicals involved in mood regulation. Inadequate secretion of serotonin by the nerve cells in the brain is responsible for causing depression. Peanuts contain an amino acid called tryptophan which aids the release of serotonin, thus helping you fight depression. It can further raise serotonin anti-depressant effects when there is an increased serotonin formation in the blood.
7. Beneficial in Pregnancy:
Peanuts are a good source of folate. Certain studies have shown that women who consumed 400 grams of folic acid before or during early pregnancy had up to 70% lower risk of having a baby born with neural tube defect. Eating peanuts during pregnancy can also lower the risk of allergic diseases, like asthma, in children.
8. Beneficial for Children:
Children require additional nutrition in their growing years to lead a healthy life thereafter. Peanuts are a good source of dietary protein composed of fine quality amino acids which are vital for growth and development.
9. Aids Weight Management:
Though it appears strange, regular consumption of nuts is associated with lower risk of weight gain. The combination of fiber, fat and protein content in peanuts makes them a high satiety food. Thus, they can keep you full for longer and thus lowering your appetite. They are also good sources of energy and help in increasing the metabolic rate. All these properties contribute to weight loss.
10. Prevents Alzheimer’s:
Studies have proved that consumption of niacin rich foods like peanuts lowers the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by 70%. A quarter cup of peanuts can provide almost a quarter of the recommended daily value of niacin.
Skin Benefits of Peanuts
The nutritional value of peanuts comprising of vitamins and monounsaturated fats makes them beneficial for your skin. The benefits of peanuts for skin on regular consumption are as follows:
11. Clear Skin:
The heart healthy monounsaturated fats and resveratrol play an important role in providing you with a glowing skin. Toxins can cause breakouts and excess oil on your skin. The high content of dietary fiber in peanuts helps in flushing out excess toxins, thus making your skin clear and flawless.
12. Anti-ageing Benefits:
Peanuts contain Vitamin C and Vitamin E which can prevent signs of ageing like wrinkles, spots and fine lines. They also contain resveratrol, a potent anti-ageing phytochemical also found in grapes and red wine. Being a powerful antioxidant, it is great for your skin, providing anti-ageing benefits as well.
Hair Benefits of Peanuts
The nutrients in peanut make it a great choice for hair health. Eating peanuts can be beneficial for your hair in the following ways.
13. Good Source of Biotin:
Biotin is a B-vitamin that is vital for hair growth and overall scalp health. It is produced by our bodies themselves in the intestines and also found in many food items. Deficiency of biotin can lead to hair loss. Peanuts are good sources of B vitamin and folate which contribute to healthy hair. Those who suffer from excessive hair loss are advised to take biotin supplements along with a balanced diet comprising of biotin rich foods.
14. Prevents Hair Loss:
Peanuts contain Vitamin C which assists in the production of collagen that keeps the tissues of our hair together. Besides, they contain I-arginine which is used in the treatment of male pattern baldness while omega-3 fatty acids strengthen our hair follicles and promote hair growth.
Nutritional Value of Peanuts
Peanuts are a nutritious punch comprising of proteins, monounsaturated fats, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. They possess the nutritive qualities of both the legumes and nuts, and hence, offer several benefits for skin, hair and health as given above. The nutritional profile of these crunchy legumes is evident from the table and explained below.
|See the table below for in depth analysis of nutrients: Groundnuts (Arachis hypogaea),All types, Nutritional value per 100 g. (Source: USDA National Nutrient data base)|
|Principle||Nutrient Value||Percentage of RDA|
|Total Fat||49.24 g||165%|
|Dietary Fiber||8.5 g||22%|
|Pantothenic acid||1.767 mg||35%|
|Vitamin A||0 IU||0%|
|Vitamin E||8.33 mg||55.5%|
Calories: Calories in peanuts are high, where one cup serving of raw peanuts provides about 828 calories. It contains 72 grams fat, 37 grams protein and 24 grams carbohydrates. 78% of the calories in raw peanuts is provided by fat. The total fat content comprises of 81% monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, and 19% saturated fats. The low carbohydrate to protein ratio of peanuts makes them an ideal choice for low carb and high protein diet. Raw peanuts are cholesterol free and have negligible amount of sodium.
Dietary Fiber: A cup of raw peanuts contains about 17 grams of dietary fiber.
Vitamins: Peanuts are a rich source of vitamins A and C as well as various B vitamins. A one cup serving of raw peanuts provides about 110% of the Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) of niacin, 88% RDI of folate, 81% RDI of Vitamin E, 78% RDI of thiamine, 30% RDI of Vitamin B6 and 15% RDI of riboflavin.
Minerals: Peanuts are also good sources of several minerals. A one cup serving of raw peanuts contributes 58% of the RDI for magnesium, 44% for phosphorus, 43% for zinc, 37% for iron, 22% for potassium and 10% for calcium. These minerals offer several health benefits.
Antioxidants: Peanuts have high concentrations of poly-phenolic antioxidants, particularly p-coumaric acid and oleic acid which protect the heart and inhibit the growth of free radicals, thus keeping infection at bay. P-coumaric acid has been found to reduce the risk of stomach cancer by inhibiting the formation of carcinogenic nitrosamines in the stomach. They are also an excellent source of resveratrol which has a protective function against various diseases.
Peanut butter is widely gaining popularity as a healthy and filling snack. It is basically a paste prepared from dry ground roasted peanuts. The amazing combination of fiber and protein in peanut butter makes it filling and beneficial for weight loss. Thus, if you want to lose weight, you can try replacing your regular butter with peanut butter in sandwiches and other dishes. This butter boasts of the nutrition of peanuts and hence, provides additional health benefits. The monounsaturated fat in this butter is beneficial for your heart while the poly-phenolic antioxidants can reduce the risk of stomach cancer by inhibiting the formation of carcinogenic nitrosamines. It also contains resveratrol, an antioxidant that prevents cancers, degenerative nerve disease, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease and viral or fungal infections.
If you think that peanut butter is not easily available, you easily prepare it at home using peanuts. Given below is a simple recipe for peanut butter.
- 1 cup shelled, skinned, roasted and unsalted peanuts
- 1 to 1½ tablespoons peanut or safflower oil
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Sugar or honey to taste (optional)
Blend the peanuts in a blender or food processor, adding oil that is just enough to make it smooth. If you want, you can use the salted peanuts and omit the salt or you can do away with salt entirely by using unsalted peanuts. You can sweeten the mixture by adding honey or sugar if desired. Process for 1 minute and then scrape down the sides of the bowl. Cover the bowl with the lid and continue to process, while drizzling slowly, until the mixture is smooth. This will take about 1 ½ to 2 minutes. Place the butter in an airtight container in the refrigerator. This can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.
There are several variations of peanut butter. You can prepare chunky peanut butter by adding chopped peanuts after preparing the smooth paste. You can also blend the peanuts with chocolate or almonds for a different taste.
Peanuts are great sources of energy which come with a variety of benefits. However, they should be consumed in moderation as excessive consumption may lead to gas, heartburn and sudden food allergy. Peanut allergy is one of the most serious food allergies and the allergic reactions can actually be life threatening. Those having peanut allergies experience a reaction within a few minutes of eating or touching a peanut or a product made from peanut. Allergic reaction includes a tingling sensation in the mouth followed by swelling of the face, throat and mouth which can even result in difficulty in breathing, asthma attack, anaphylactic shock or death. Other less severe reactions include rash, hives or stomach upset. If you suspect that you have a peanut allergy, it advisable to get tested by an allergist and avoid peanuts, and other peanut products of the allergy is confirmed.
Peanuts are also prone to contamination of aflatoxin produced by a fungus, aspergillus flavus which is highly toxic and carcinogenic and can contribute to liver carcinoma. A peanut having a greenish yellow appearance is dangerous and hence, should be avoided.