Latin name: Arachis hypogaea
Other names: earthnuts, goober peas, ground nuts, monkey nuts, pig nuts, pygmy nuts
What is a Peanut?
Contrary to what the name would suggest, peanuts are not actually nuts at all, but a member of the legume “bean” family Fabaceae that includes peas, lentils, and chickpeas. Peanuts begin growing as a ground flower that becomes so heavy, the weight bends it toward the ground, burying the peanut underground where it matures.
Peanuts originated in South America where they have existed for thousands of years. The Spanish and Portuguese explorers “discovered” peanuts growing in the New World and brought them on their voyages to Africa, where they were subsequently grown; they made their way to the United States by ways of the African boats traveling to North America at the inception of the slave trade.
Peanut oil is often used in cooking for its mild flavor and fairly high smoke point. High in monosaturated fat, peanut oil is considered healthier than saturated oils, although it is considered by many to be a less heart-healthy choice than olive or canola oil.
What are the health benefits of Peanuts?
Considered neutral in traditional Chinese medicine, peanuts are used to improve appetite, regulate blood flow, alleviate insomnia, promote diuresis, treat edema, and aid lactation.
Peanuts are a very good source of monounsaturated fats, the type of fat that is considered to provide cardiovascular protection. Peanuts are also a good source of other famous heart-healthy nutrients, including vitamin E, niacin, folate, magnesium, manganese, and more protein than any true nut. As a good source of niacin, peanuts contribute to brain health and blood flow, giving protection against Alzheimer’s disease and age-related cognitive decline.
Recent research shows that peanuts rival the antioxidant content of many fruits and vegetables, especially when roasted. Additionally, peanuts are a major source of resveratrol, the chemical in red grapes and red wine that has been studied for its potential anti-aging effects, reduced cardiovascular disease, and reduced cancer risk.
Are there any precautions for Peanuts?
Peanuts can cause an allergic reaction in vulnerable individuals, even fatal anaphylactic shock. Also, peanuts are among a small number of foods that contain measurable amounts of oxalates, which when they become too concentrated in body fluids, can crystallize and cause health problems; the most common symptoms are an unpleasant itching and soreness of the mouth. For this reason, individuals with already existing and untreated kidney or gallbladder problems may want to avoid eating peanuts.
Peanuts are susceptible to molds and fungal invasions, including aflatoxin, a poison produced by the Aspergillus flavus fungus. Better storage and handling methods have mostly eliminated the risk of aflatoxin ingestion, but one should still take precautions to find out about their peanut source. Roasting peanuts is thought to minimize risk of aflatoxin to a large extent.
Where can I find Peanuts?
Peanuts can be found raw, roasted, shelled, or unshelled in grocery stores and specialty food markets.
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