By Florencia Tagliavini, The NutraMilk Nutritionist
Peanuts are in fact not nuts. Botanically they are considered legumes, however, their nutritional properties are similar to tree nuts. They come in many varieties, but the most common are the Virginia, Spanish and Valencia. They originated in South America and today the leading producers are India, China, United States, Nigeria and Indonesia.
In addition to being every kid's (and many grownup kid's) favorite sandwich filling, peanuts pack a serious nutritional punch and offer a variety of health benefits!
Nutrition & Health
Like most nuts, peanuts are naturally cholesterol free, gluten free, low in saturated fat and are a low glycemic-index food. They are good source of protein, fiber, healthy fats, vitamins & minerals and:
Are Primarily composed of heart healthy monounsaturated fats,
similar to those found in olive oil and used in the Mediterranean diet. In numerous studies, MUFA's have been shown to promote heart health by lowering LDL or "bad cholesterol" and increasing HDL or "good cholesterol" levels in the blood.
Have the highest protein content of any nut
Composed of amino acids that are essential for growth and development. They are an excellent source of plant protein.
Contain high concentrations of antioxidant polyphenols
Primarily a compound called p-coumaric acid that lowers the risk of stomach cancer by limiting the formation of carcinogenic nitrosamines in the stomach. They are also an excellent source of resveratrol, the same polyphenolic antioxidant found in red wine which has been shown to lower the risk of cancer, heart disease, Alzheimers disease, stroke and infections.
Packed with many important vitamins of the B-complex group
Such as riboflavin, thiamin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B-6 and especially rich in niacin which provides protection against Alzheimer's disease and age-related cognitive decline and folic acid which prevents birth defects and maintains a healthy heart.
In a nutshell, the nutrition profile of peanuts is comparable to the rest of the nuts and for a lower price. Roasting peanuts enhances taste and also augments the level of antioxidants like p-coumaric. A number of studies have shown that nutrients found in peanuts, including folic acid, phytosterols such as beta-sisterol, phytic acid (inositol hexaphosphate) and resveratrol, may have anti-cancer effects. Also, offering minerals like copper, manganese, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, and selenium makes them a nutrient dense food great to include in a healthy diet.
Buying and Storage Tips for Peanuts
When selecting peanuts make sure they are free from cracks, mold and evidence of moisture, spots and free of rancid smell. If possible, pick up a peanut and shake it. Should feel heavy for its size and should not rattle since a rattling sound suggests that the peanut kernels have dried out.
Shelled peanuts should be stored in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator, they will keep for about three months and in the freezer for up to six months. Peanuts still in their shells can be kept in a cool, dry dark place, but keeping them in the refrigerator will extend their shelf life to about nine months.