Peanuts are one of the most popular and widely consumed snacks in the world. But did you know that peanuts are not actually nuts? They are legumes, like beans and lentils, and they grow underground as the fruit of the peanut plant.
Peanuts have a long history of cultivation and consumption in South America, where they originated. They were introduced to other parts of the world by European explorers and traders, and became a staple crop in many countries, especially in Africa and Asia. China is the largest producer of peanuts followed by India, Nigeria, and Sudan. The overall production share of peanuts by Asian countries is 55.9%, African countries is 34.1% followed by Americas 9.9%.
Nutritional Profile of Peanuts:
Peanuts pack a powerful punch of nutrients, making them a valuable addition to a balanced diet. They are rich in plant-based protein, healthy fats, and dietary fiber. Peanuts also provide an array of essential vitamins and minerals, including vitamin E, B vitamins, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. Furthermore, they contain phytochemicals like resveratrol, phytosterols, and flavonoids, which contribute to their potential health benefits. Here is a breakdown of the nutrients in 100 grams of peanuts:
- Calories: 567
- Fat: 49 grams
- Protein: 25 grams
- Carbohydrates: 16 grams
- Fiber: 8 grams
- Sugar: 4 grams
- Potassium: 422 milligrams
- Magnesium: 163 milligrams
- Phosphorus: 373 milligrams
- Manganese: 1.9 milligrams
- Selenium: 107 micrograms
- Vitamin E: 37 milligrams
- Potential Health Benefits:
Health Benefits of Peanuts:
Peanuts are often associated with being unhealthy. However, the truth is that peanuts are actually a very nutritious food that can offer a number of health benefits when consumed in moderation. One of the main reasons why peanuts are often thought of as being unhealthy is because they are high in fat. However, the majority of the fat in peanuts is unsaturated fat, which is actually good for you. Unsaturated fat can help to lower cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of heart disease.
The consumption of either peanuts or processed peanuts has been shown to be beneficial to health, due to their desirable lipid profile, which is higher in unsaturated fatty acids than in saturated fatty acids. Peanut oil is naturally trans- fat-free, cholesterol-free, and low in saturated fats. It shows many positive biological effects, which are mostly connected with its high oleic acid content.
Many studies have revealed that consumption of peanuts or peanut oil is associated with reduced cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk and may improve serum lipid profiles, decrease LDL oxidation, and exert a cardio-protective effect.
Research data show that peanut and peanut butter consumption improved the feeling of fullness and satisfied the consumers better than the carbohydrates snacks like rice cakes in equal quantities. Another study showed that peanut consumption curbed the appetite due its fullness effect. Emerging evidence is also showing that the type of healthy monounsaturated fat in peanuts may stimulate a hormone that helps to feel satisfied after consumption.
Studies have shown that despite being energy dense, peanuts have a high satiety value and hence Peanut and peanut butter eaters tend to have a lower body mass index (BMI). In another research exclusively on school children it was found that there was weight loss in peanut fed group whereas the control group gained weight in a span of 2 years.
Peanuts contain various antioxidants, which help combat oxidative stress and reduce inflammation in the body. Resveratrol, specifically found in peanuts, has been associated with potential anti-aging and anti-cancer effects. Frequent intake of peanut and its products may reduce the risk of colorectal cancer.
As much as 40 % reduction in mortality due to any factor has been reported when peanuts were included as an integral part of the routine diet. Reduction in deaths due to cardio vascular diseases in particular was found in population who consume peanut or peanut butter regularly. It has been reported that peanut consumption reduces the risk factors of heart diseases amongst all ages, across both genders and even in patients who have multiple risk factors including diabetes. High blood pressure is associated with greater risks of heart disease and stroke. Scientists have learned that the dietary choices we make can have an impact on the blood pressure. Peanuts and peanut butter contain health monounsaturated fatty acids, plant proteins, magnesium, potassium , fiber arginine , and many bioactive components, each of which could be contributing to lowering blood pressure. Population studies consistently showed the risk of heart disease when peanuts were consumed in small amounts on a daily basis.
Some studies have reported reduced risks of diabetes by a quarter when peanuts were incorporated in diet on a daily basis. Magnesium and dietary fibers have been attributed as the main contributory factors for improved health status.
Also, Peanuts are low in carbohydrates and have a low glycemic index, which means that they do not cause a spike in blood sugar levels. Eating peanuts can help lower the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Certain fats, antioxidants, dietary fiber, arginine, and magnesium are components that have been showed to help regulate inflammation. Peanuts are a good source of fiber, which can help reduce inflammation throughout the body and improve digestion.
Unsaturated fats, certain vitamins and minerals, and the bioactive components have shown to have cancer-preventive effects, which are all packaged into a peanuts. In particulars, the phytosterols in peanuts that have been studied in regard to cancer have been reported to reduce prostrate tumor growth by over 40 % and cut the occurrences of cancer spreading to other parts of the body by almost 50 %. Like phytosterols, resveratrol has also been shown to cut off the blood supply to growing cancers and to inhibit cancer cell growth.
Peanuts have a high content of niacin and are an excellent source of vitamin E, both of which have been shown to protect against Alzheimer’s disease and age-related cognitive decline. It has also been found that the consumption of vitamin E from supplements had no effect on the incidence of Alzheimer’s. In those who were in the top fifth of intake, incidence of Alzheimer’s disease was reduced by 70 %. Resveratrol has also been recognized as beneficial in Alzheimer’s disease and other nerve degeneration disease. It has been found that those who eat peanuts and peanut butter five times a week or more have a reduced risk of gallbladder disease by as much as 25 %.
Improved gut health:
Peanuts are a good source of fiber, which is important for gut health. Fiber helps to keep the digestive system healthy by promoting regular bowel movements and preventing constipation. Peanuts also contain prebiotics, which are a type of fiber that feeds the good bacteria in the gut. A healthy gut microbiome is important for overall health, and it can help to protect against a variety of diseases.
In addition to fiber and prebiotics, peanuts also contain other nutrients that are important for gut health, such as magnesium, selenium, and vitamin E. Magnesium helps to regulate gut motility, selenium helps to protect the gut lining, and vitamin E is an antioxidant that can help to protect the cells in the gut from damage.
There is some research that suggests that eating peanuts may be beneficial for gut health. For example, one study found that people who ate peanuts regularly had a higher diversity of gut bacteria than people who did not eat peanuts. Another study found that eating peanuts may help to reduce the risk of inflammatory bowel disease.
How to Eat Peanuts:
Apart from the daily nutrition peanut consumption leads to long term health benefits. Compared to well-known foods like green tea and red wine, peanuts have higher antioxidant capacity. Peanut skins contain potent rich antioxidants. It has been noted that the when peanuts are consumed with their skins, their antioxidant capacity doubles and roasting can at times actually increase this capacity as well. Recent research studies suggest that boiling enhances antioxidant concentration in the peanuts. It has been found that boiled peanuts have two-and-four folds increase in isoflavone antioxidants biochanin A and genistein content, respectively.
The Risks of Overeating Peanuts:
Peanuts if not taken in moderate quantity also have some potential drawbacks that should be considered before eating them. Some of these include:
Peanuts are one of the most common food allergens, especially among children. Some people may have severe allergic reactions to peanuts or peanut products. If you have a peanut allergy or suspect that you do, you should avoid peanuts and consult your doctor.
While peanuts may provide good nutrition, they are also highly prone to contamination with mycotoxigenic fungi. The high nutritive value of peanuts makes them a perfect substrate for fungal growth and potential aflatoxin contamination. Aflatoxins are highly carcinogenic and mutagenic mycotoxins. To minimize the risk of aflatoxin exposure, you should buy fresh peanuts from reputable sources and store them in a cool and dry place.
Peanuts are high in calories and fat, which can lead to weight gain if eaten in excess. A serving size of peanuts is about 1/4 cup or a handful, which contains about 200 calories and 18 grams of fat. You should limit your intake of peanuts to no more than one serving per day.
Eating too many peanuts can cause indigestion, bloating, and constipation. Processing of peanuts using methods like pressure cooking or boiling might help in reducing the allergenic response.
How much is too much?:
The appropriate daily intake of peanuts can vary depending on factors such as individual health, dietary goals, and overall calorie needs. As a general guideline, the American Heart Association suggests consuming about 1.5 ounces (42.5 grams) of nuts, including peanuts, as part of a healthy diet. This recommendation applies to most adults.
It’s important to note that the recommended intake is for the entire nut category, so it includes other nuts like almonds, walnuts, and cashews. If you specifically want to determine the safe daily intake of peanuts, you can consider that peanuts make up a portion of the recommended 1.5 ounces (42.5 grams) of nuts. However, individual needs may vary, and it’s always advisable to consult with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian who can provide personalized guidance based on your specific circumstances.
Peanuts are a great source of nutrition. They can be abundantly utilized especially in a country like India which is one of the leading producers of peanut. Peanuts are affordable snack that can provide many health benefits when eaten in moderation. They can help lower the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and premature death, as well as promote weight loss and reduce inflammation. However, they can also cause allergic reactions, aflatoxin contamination, and weight gain if consumed too much or too often. Therefore, you should enjoy peanuts as part of a balanced diet and consult your doctor if you have any concerns about your peanut consumption.
Disclaimer: Tips and suggestions mentioned in the article are for general information purposes only and should not be construed as professional medical advice. Always consult your doctor or a dietician before starting any fitness programme or making any changes to your diet.