There are a lot of reasons why peanuts can be considered a healthy food. Which is why in honor of March being National Nutrition Month as well as National Peanut Month, we decided to write a blog about the peanut, its nutritional benefits as well as the best ways to eat it.
3 Fun Facts About Peanuts
1. Peanuts are actually not “nuts” and are in fact a legume, meaning they grow on vines, not trees. Therefore people with nut allergies can partake in peanuts and use them as part of their balanced diet to help with their overall nutrition. Also, the difference between a tree nut and legume can be seen on the plant before harvesting. Legumes contain a soft shell with multiple seeds where a nut has a hard outside and contains one seed (the “nut” we eat).2
2. Peanuts are composed of two parts, the pod and the kernel. Although the pod shell itself is edible and digestible, it provides no nutritional value.1 They are made up mostly of fiber but should not be eaten in large quantities. In fact, peanut pods can build up in your intestines causing a blockage.
3. Peanuts are for more than just eating! Even though we don’t eat the peanut pod doesn’t mean that there aren’t several other applications in which they can be used. In fact, shells are commonly used in wallboard, fireplace logs, food for livestock feed and kitty litter!6
3 Nutritious Things You Didn’t Know About Peanuts
1. Peanuts are an excellent source of vitamins such as Vitamin E, Vitamin B-complex and minerals such as copper, manganese, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, and selenium.7 Vitamins and Minerals are important for proper nutrition because they help boost the immune system, support normal growth and development, and help cells and organs do their jobs properly.4 Below is a chart that contains the % Daily Value (the recommended intake of a particular nutrient per day) of some vitamins and minerals you can find in a quarter cup of raw peanuts.3
According to the chart, 88% of the daily value for Biotin (part of the Vitamin B complex) can be found in just ¼ cup of raw peanuts. Biotin helps improve hair health and helps maintain proper function of the nervous system.5
2. Peanut contains oleic acid, which helps lower LDL (bad cholesterol) levels and helps raise HDL (good cholesterol) levels.7 Oleic Acid (OA) is a monounsaturated fatty acid that is found in lots of different animals and plants. In fact for every 1% of energy (calories) added to a diet, oleic acid has been shown to lower total cholesterol 2.7 mg/dl.8
3. Peanuts also are a good source of anti-oxidants such as p-coumaric acid and resveratrol.7 Anti-oxidants help by claiming free radicals that might be floating around in your body. But p-courmatic has also been known reduce the risk of cancer because it helps destroy nitrates that are sometimes found in food.9 Resveratrol has been in clinical trials for its potential to help protect the body from diseases such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.10
3 Best Ways To Eat Peanuts
1. Raw11 – You can eat peanuts that are already in the shell (need to be cracked) or unshelled raw peanuts. Raw peanuts usually last longer if they are unshelled. Raw peanuts are high in protein and low in carbohydrates making them a perfect snack for people on protein-rich diets. It’s recommended to eat unshelled peanuts because peanut shells are susceptible to growing mold that produces toxins such as aflatoxin.7 Aflatoxin has been known to cause liver cirrhosis and cancer.
2. Roasted7 – Roasting brings out the flavor of the peanut. Since it’s more flavorful, it eliminates the need to add salt (adding unnecessary sodium into your diet). Roasting peanuts also helps reduce any toxins (such as aflatoxin) found in the peanuts and helps release more anti-oxidants.
3. Boiling7 – Similar to roasting, boiling peanuts in the shells helps pull more anti-oxidants into the seed. Perfect for in-between meals, they have a unique texture and taste. Many famous chefs have recipes for boiled peanuts such as this one from Alton Brown of Food Network.
2 pounds in-shell raw Virginia or Valencia peanuts
3 ounces kosher salt
3 gallons water
Wash the peanuts in cool water until the water runs clear. Soak in cool water for 30 minutes to loosen any remaining dirt.
Drain and rinse the peanuts. Add the peanuts to a 12-quart pot along with the salt and 3 gallons of water. Stir well. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours. Check the texture of the peanut at this point for doneness. When done, boiled peanuts should have a similar texture to a cooked dry bean. It should hold its shape, but not crunch when bitten. Add more water throughout the cooking process, if needed. If necessary, continue cooking for 3 to 4 hours longer.
For more information view the full recipe here!
But What About Peanut Butter?
Peanut Butter isn’t necessary unhealthy, but it’s not as healthy as eaten peanuts in the three aforementioned ways. For example the nutritional value in ¼ cup of peanuts (about 36 peanuts) is 207 calories, 8.192g of monounsaturated fat, and 9.42 grams of protein. The equivalent amount is 4 tablespoons of peanut butter, which has a nutritional value of 376 calories, 15.16g of monounsaturated fat and 16 grams of protein. But the main difference between peanuts and peanut butter is the amount of saturated fat. In ¼ cup of raw peanuts the amount of saturated fat is 2.49g where as in 4 tablespoons of peanut butter the amount of saturated fat is almost tripled with 6.56 grams.12 It’s recommended to take your time and enjoy 36 peanuts rather than having 4 spoonfuls of peanut butter.
In conclusion, peanuts are healthy for you and should be included in your diet. Besides obvious nutritional value such as being a high protein and low carb food, they also provide hidden health benefits because they are rich in anti-oxidants, vitamins, minerals and fatty acids. If you are looking to create a new diet regimen and need help, feel free to reach out to the health and wellness experts at AgeFocus by giving us a call at 631-243-3628 or filling out the contact form.