Peanuts or groundnuts are a common, eatable legume crop grown mainly in the tropical and subtropical areas. Owing to high oil content, it is a crop of great benefit for both small and large commercial producers. It is classified as both a grain and a legume.
In 2014, the annual world production of shelled peanuts was 42 million tons. Peanut pods develop underground rather above the ground. Due to this characteristic, the botanist Linnaeus assigned peanuts a specific name “Hypogaea” which means under the earth.
Scientifically known as Arachis hypogaea, peanuts go by a variety of names. They are popular as earthnuts, groundnuts, and goobers. However, peanuts are technically not nuts. They are actually a member of the legume family and are therefore related to beans, lentils, and soy etc.
Peanuts are rarely eaten raw in the US. A majority of the American population consumes roasted or salted peanuts. Peanut butter is also a popular food paste and is rich in proteins as compared to many of the plant foods. Peanut oil, peanut flour, and peanut protein are other by-products of peanuts. These products are a part of variety of foods including desserts, cakes, snacks, confectionery, and sauces etc.
Nutritional status of peanuts
Not only do peanuts taste good, but they are also rich in proteins, minerals, fats, and various healthy nutrients.
The table below enumerates detailed information about the nutrients in whole peanuts.
Fats in Peanuts
Peanuts are high in fat. In fact, they are categorized as oil-seeds. A large proportion of the peanuts harvested in the world are used for making peanut oil. It is also popular as Arachis oil.
The fat content ranges between 44-56% and is mainly monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fat. Most of the fat content (around 40-60%) of peanuts comprise of linoleic acid and oleic acid.
Peanuts are a very good source of proteins. The protein content in peanuts ranges from 22-30% of calories, making peanuts a rich plant-based protein source. The most abundant proteins in peanuts are “Arachin” and “Conarachin”. Some people can be extremely allergic to these proteins which may also cause life-threatening reactions.
Vitamins and Minerals
Peanuts are an excellent source of various vitamins and minerals too. Peanuts have the following vitamins and minerals, present in high amounts,
Peanuts are one of the richest dietary sources of biotin, which is chiefly important during pregnancy.
Copper is a dietary trace mineral that is often low in the Western diet. Deficiency of copper may have adverse effects on heart health.
It is also known as vitamin-B3. Niacin has various key functions in the body including reduced risk of heart diseases.
Folate/folic acid or vitamin-B9 has many important functions and is specifically important in pregnancy.
It is often found in fatty foods which is an excellent antioxidant.
Carbohydrates are converted into energy by the body cells with the help of thiamin. It is essentially important for the functioning of the heart, muscles and nervous system.
Peanuts are a good source of phosphorus. It is a mineral that plays an important role in the maintenance and growth of body tissues.
It is an essential dietary mineral with numerous important functions. Magnesium intake is believed to protect against heart diseases.
Health Benefits of Peanuts
Peanuts are linked with plenty of health benefits. Peanuts find extensive importance in increasing cognitive functions, providing defense from Alzheimer’s, and keeping your heart healthy.
Research says people who eat a significant amount of peanuts may have a lower risk of mortality and developing chronic diseases including respiratory disease, diabetes, neurodegenerative disease, cancer, and heart disease. This respective research was published in the International Journal of Epidemiology.
Here are some health benefits associated with peanuts,
Peanuts prevent Diabetes
Type-2 is the most common type of Diabetes in adults. It occurs due to an impaired response of the corporal cells towards the insulin hormone. While it is possible to treat the disease, a better method is to prevent it in the first place.
Peanuts comparatively have low carbohydrate and sugar content. It is a rich source of manganese which promotes fat and carbohydrate breakdown, allowing more glucose to enter the muscles and cells. This way, peanuts normalize the blood sugar levels. These conditions are ideal for maintaining insulin sensitivity and conserving normal function for the years to come.
Reduce Stroke Risk
A few researches report peanuts to decrease the risks associating with strokes. This is just because of Resveratrol. The respective compound is also found in red wine and grapes. It helps to avoid damages to the blood vessels because of angiotensin. Angiotensin is a hormone-like substance that causes blood vessels’ constriction. However, it is necessary when the body has suffered life-threatening dehydration or blood loss, but at the same time, it is just a burden in keeping the blood pressure normal.
Moreover, peanuts can help to increase levels of nitric oxide, helping blood vessels to dilate with greater comfort.
Peanuts prevent the development of Gallstones
Gallstones are a common health complication. They are actually not stones but a semi-solid accumulation of bile acid with a large amount of cholesterol in it. This is, by now, the most common cause of bile stones.
Peanuts are well composed to help out with the situation. They have a high amount of healthy MUFA (mono-unsaturated fatty acids), which help to reduce the level of “bad” cholesterol or LDL in our blood. MUFA also raise the amount of good cholesterol or HDL in our body.
HDL reduces the chance of production of cholesterol-rich bile acid and with it decreases the risk of developing of gallstones.
Peanuts prevent stomach cancer
Although any food with sufficient amounts of anti-oxidant compounds can play a vital role in preventing cancer, peanuts stand separately in their ability to reduce stomach cancer risks. Peanuts possess a wide range of compounds known as polyphenols. Polyphenols are anti-oxidants and reduce the oxidative stress exerted on the body by reactive species.
Peanuts also contain nitrosamines e.g. “P-comuric acid.” It is a compound that reduces the formation of toxic nitrogen-based compounds in the stomach, keeping tumors at bay.
Though peanuts themselves are full of calories, the good news is that eating a reasonable amount of peanuts is not that bad and promotes weight loss. Besides calories, peanuts are a rich source of proteins and fibers. Both of these nutrients have hunger suppressing effects. Having a few peanuts in between meals can actually fill your sweet tooth and kill any other longings for food.
Peanuts promote healthy skin
Peanuts are rich in vitamin B and various E vitamins, which help to preserve skin health. In addition, the fat content of peanuts also helps to nourish the skin cells and their membranes. Healthy membranes avoid excessive water loss and ensure enough hydration of the skin cells. Instead of opting for that classy moisturizer, you can try a handful of peanuts.