I’ve always liked peanuts, be they in the shell or not, plain, lightly salted or honey roasted. Thank goodness no food allergies run in my family. My heart goes out to everyone who fears that accidentally eating some form of peanut product will cause a severe skin outbreak, restricted breathing, even anaphylactic shock.
If you are sensitive to peanuts, you will have to take my word that, for the rest of us, they are delicious and nutritious.
Although called a peanut (Arachis hypogaea), the plant is actually a legume variously known as a groundnut, an earth nut or a goober. Peanuts are related to beans, lentils, and soy.
Americans almost never eat a raw peanut. By the time we buy them at the grocery, the legumes have been roasted, toasted, and often salted. Of course, ground peanuts make peanut butter, the mainstay of every kid’s school lunch box. (Do they still have them these days?)
Of course, many people continue their love affair with peanut butter into adulthood. Why not? Peanuts are full of protein – 22%-30% of calories – and fill you up.
In the kitchen, many cooks use peanut oil and peanut flour in their recipes. Health nuts – so to speak – may opt to get some peanut protein for snacking without too much remorse later.
If you want to get technical, peanuts fall into the classification of oilseeds. The fact that you can press peanuts and extract enough oil to fill bottles with it tells us that these yummy treats are high in fat. The fat content in peanuts ranges from 44-56%, composed of oleic acid (40%-60%) and linoleic acid.
However, the fats in peanuts are mainly the mono- and polyunsaturated kinds which are considered extremely heart-healthy.
The other good news is that they contain very little sugar: 13%-16% of total weight so they are a diabetes-friendly food.
“The Reference Daily Intake (RDI) is the daily intake level of a nutrient that is considered to be sufficient to meet the requirements of 97–98% of healthy individuals in every demographic in the United States,” according to Wikipedia. “The RDI is used to determine the Daily Value (DV) of foods, which is printed on nutrition facts labels (as % DV) in the United States and Canada, and is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Health Canada.”
Wikipedia also revealed something I did not know about food labeling which you might also find interesting:
“The labels ‘high,’ ‘rich in,’ or ‘excellent source of’ may be used for a food if it contains 20% or more of the RDI. The labels ‘good source,’ ‘contains,’ or ‘provides’ may be used on a food if it contains between 10% and 20% of the RDI.”
Here’s how 1/4 cup (36.5 grams) of peanuts break down for nutritional value with percentages of RDI / DV (Daily Value):
- Calories: 207
- Copper: 47% RDI/DV
- Manganese: 31% RDI/DV
- Vitamin B3: 28% RDI/DV
- Molybdenum: 24% RDI/DV
- Folate: 22% RDI/DV
- Biotin: 21% RDI/DV
- Phosphorus: 20% RDI/DV
- Vitamin E: 20% RDI/DV
- Protein: 19% RDI/DV
- Vitamin B1: 19% RDI/DV
Peanuts also provide resveratrol, “the phenolic antioxidant also found in red grapes and red wine that is thought to be responsible for the French paradox: the fact that in France, people consume a diet that is not low in fat, but have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease compared to the U.S.”
The beneficial oleic acid present in olive oil, highly prized in Mediterranean diets, is also found in peanuts. New research has shown that these proteinous, oily legumes are as loaded with antioxidant agents as many fruits. In fact, they are on a par with blackberries and strawberries, and actually are far more antioxidant than apples, carrots or beets.
University of Florida researchers concluded that peanuts have high concentrations of antioxidant polyphenols, mainly a compound called p-coumaric acid. Roasting can chemically increase the p-coumaric acid levels within peanuts, raising their total antioxidant content by as much as 22%.
On the cautionary side, peanuts are the cause of many severe allergic attacks, requiring immediate medical intervention and treatment.
It is the main two proteins present in peanuts (arachin and conarachin) that are strong allergens for some people. Eating even a small amount of this legume can trigger a serious medical reaction, generally within minutes after exposure.
Peanut allergies often emerge in childhood. Knowing the symptoms of an allergic response to peanuts could save a life as quick action is required to prevent further complications or even death:
- Runny nose
- Skin reactions, such as hives, redness or swelling
- Itching or tingling in or around the mouth and throat
- Digestive problems, such as diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea or vomiting
- Tightening of the throat
- Shortness of breath or wheezing
CALL 911 or your local emergency services number at the first signs of a bad reaction to peanuts.