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Peanuts, popularly known as groundnuts,monkey nuts, pig nuts, etc belong to theFabaceae (bean) family. Peanuts, Arachis hypogaeais a legume species, and native to South America, Mexico and Central America. An annual herbaceous plant, that grows almost to ground level, with very slender stems, leaves that are opposite and pinnate with four leaflets, flowers that are pea-shaped, and fruits (legumes) that are basically seeds that sprout and mature underground. Presently, its cultivated world over in climates that are favorable for its growth; long warm periods and plenty of rain.
As the stalks grow, they start to droop to the ground. When the pods begin to form, they slowly force their way underground, ultimately maturing under the soil, forcing the farmer to dig the netted, tan colored pods up. It is possible that peanuts developed this growth habit as a method of protection from hot tropical sun, since they have thin pods. Once the peanut pods are harvested, the plant is removed, and typically used for animal fodder.
Despite their name, peanuts are not actually nuts, they are legumes. In most culinary uses, peanuts are classified as nuts because they behave more like nuts in the kitchen than other legumes, such as lentils and beans. For people with nut allergies, the distinction is particularly important, since many individuals with nut allergies can eat peanuts safely. Conversely, people who are allergic to peanuts can often eat nuts.
In many parts of Africa, peanuts are more commonly known as groundnuts, a reference to the underground location favored by the pods. Peanuts play a vital nutritional role in many parts of Africa, since they are high in protein and healthy fats. In some parts of Africa, peanuts represent a substantial percentage of the protein available for consumption. In the American South, peanuts are called “goobers,” a variant of a Kikongo word, nguba.
There are several important roles for peanuts in many areas of the world. A large percentage of the annual peanut harvest is pressed to yield peanut oil, a pale yellow, neutrally flavored oil with a very high smoking point. Peanut oil is ideal for frying, and is widely used in many countries for this purpose. The nuts are also ground into peanut butter, a creamy spread which is popular with people of all ages. Peanuts can be found for sale whole as well, to be eaten plain, sprinkled onto food, or included in various dishes.
1. Good for Heart:
The high levels of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats in peanuts help to keep your heart healthy. Oleic acid, in particular, helps to lower the LDL or “bad” cholesterol and increase “HDL” or good cholesterol level in the blood. Thus, they prevent coronary artery disease and strokes by promoting healthy blood lipid profile.
2. Prevents Diabetes:
According to a recent study, a serving of peanut can lower the risk of diabetes by 21%. This can be attributed to the presence of manganese, a mineral that plays an important role in fat and carbohydrate metabolism, calcium absorption and blood sugar regulation.
3. Prevents Gallstones:
Consumption of peanuts can help prevent gallstones. According to studies, eating an ounce of peanuts or peanut butter can lower the risk of developing gallstones by 25%.
4. Prevents Cancer:
Legumes like peanuts have a high concentration of a form of phytosterol called beta-sitosterol (SIT). These phytosterols protect against cancer by inhibiting tumor growth. A research conducted in the United States observed that men and women who consumed peanuts at least twice a week respectively had 27% and 58% lower risk of getting colon cancer.
5. Improves Memory:
Peanuts are often called the “brain food” as they contain Vitamin B3 or niacin which improves brain functioning and boosts memory. They also contain a flavonoid called resveratrol which helps in improving blood flow to the brain by 30%.
6. Help Fight Depression:
Serotonin is one of the key brain chemicals involved in mood regulation. Inadequate secretion of serotonin by the nerve cells in the brain is responsible for causing depression. Peanuts contain an amino acid called tryptophan which aids the release of serotonin, thus helping you fight depression. It can further raise serotonin anti-depressant effects when there is an increased serotonin formation in the blood.
7. Beneficial in Pregnancy:
Peanuts are a good source of folate. Certain studies have shown that women who consumed 400 grams of folic acid before or during early pregnancy had up to 70% lower risk of having a baby born with neural tube defect. Eating peanuts during pregnancy can also lower the risk of allergic diseases, like asthma, in children.
8. Beneficial for Children:
Children require additional nutrition in their growing years to lead a healthy life thereafter. Peanuts are a good source of dietary protein composed of fine quality amino acids which are vital for growth and development.
9. Aids Weight Management:
Though it appears strange, regular consumption of nuts is associated with lower risk of weight gain. The combination of fiber, fat and protein content in peanuts makes them a high satiety food. Thus, they can keep you full for longer and thus lowering your appetite. They are also good sources of energy and help in increasing the metabolic rate. All these properties contribute to weight loss.
10. Prevents Alzheimer’s:
Studies have proved that consumption of niacin rich foods like peanuts lowers the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by 70%. A quarter cup of peanuts can provide almost a quarter of the recommended daily value of niacin.
Skin Benefits of Peanuts
The nutritional value of peanuts comprising of vitamins and monounsaturated fats makes them beneficial for your skin. The benefits of peanuts for skin on regular consumption are as follows:
11. Clear Skin:
The heart healthy monounsaturated fats and resveratrol play an important role in providing you with a glowing skin. Toxins can cause breakouts and excess oil on your skin. The high content of dietary fiber in peanuts helps in flushing out excess toxins, thus making your skin clear and flawless.
12. Anti-ageing Benefits:
Peanuts contain Vitamin C and Vitamin E which can prevent signs of ageing like wrinkles, spots and fine lines. They also contain resveratrol, a potent anti-ageing phytochemical also found in grapes and red wine. Being a powerful antioxidant, it is great for your skin, providing anti-ageing benefits as well.
Hair Benefits of Peanuts
The nutrients in peanut make it a great choice for hair health. Eating peanuts can be beneficial for your hair in the following ways.
13. Good Source of Biotin:
Biotin is a B-vitamin that is vital for hair growth and overall scalp health. It is produced by our bodies themselves in the intestines and also found in many food items. Deficiency of biotin can lead to hair loss. Peanuts are good sources of B vitamin and folate which contribute to healthy hair. Those who suffer from excessive hair loss are advised to take biotin supplements along with a balanced diet comprising of biotin rich foods.
14. Prevents Hair Loss:
Peanuts contain Vitamin C which assists in the production of collagen that keeps the tissues of our hair together. Besides, they contain I-arginine which is used in the treatment of male pattern baldness while omega-3 fatty acids strengthen our hair follicles and promote hair growth.
Peanuts Health Benefits
The shell or pod of the peanuts contains two, rarely three kernels in individual case like pods. The nuts are egg shaped, and the size depends upon the type of cultivar. Although each peanut is small in size, do not get fooled by its appearance, as you read further down, you will see why.
Heart Healthy Fats: Peanuts contain monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats that keep the heart healthy. A good level, of both; monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats results in lowering blood cholesterol levels, and thereby reducing the risk of coronary heart diseases.
Proteins: Protein is essential to the health of our cells. The cells in our body are constantly being replaced and repaired. To ensue that the new cells are healthy, and the damaged ones are repaired well, we need protein. Peanuts are an extremely high source of plant protein. It should be regularly incorporated in diet for children, vegetarians and protein deficient people.
Antioxidants: Peanuts contain high concentrations of the antioxidantpolyphenols, primarily a compound called p-coumaric acid and oleic acid, that not only protect the heart but inhibit the growth of free radicals, keeping infection at bay.
Minerals: A rich source of minerals like magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, calcium, sodium, etc, so needed by our body to function well, is ensured by a regular consumption of peanuts. Adequate supply of these minerals ensure a healthy heart, and ensure minimized risk of mineral deficient diseases.
Vitamins: Vitamins are important for overall growth and development. Vitamins ensure vital health for cells and tissues, and for fighting infections, etc, that in return ensure smooth functioning of our organs. Peanuts provide our body with essential vitamins, that also help in regulating metabolism, converting fat and carbohydrates into energy, and facilitating bone and tissue formation. A good source of folate, peanuts reduce the incidence of birth defects, and anemia related conditions.
The number of peanuts health benefits match the number of ways it can be consumed; shelled nuts can be eaten fresh, roasted, or boiled, salted peanuts are often sold in packets or cans, the peanut oil extracted from this legume is used as a cooking medium, and broken peanut is used to make candy bars, and yes, let’s not forget the creamy, crunchy peanut butter!
Peanuts Side Effects
Excessive peanuts intake may lead to gas, heartburn, and a suddenly developed food allergy to peanuts.
A peanut allergy is perhaps the most serious food allergy you can develop. Peanut allergy sufferers are at high risk of serious allergic reactions that can actually be life threatening, even if the first episode of peanut sensitivity was not severe. If you suspect you have a peanut allergy, you need to get tested by an allergist immediately and avoid all nut products until the allergy is determined as legitimate or not.
Most people who have peanut allergies will experience a reaction within minutes of touching or eating a peanut or a product that is made from peanuts. The reaction typically starts with a tingling sensation in the mouth followed by swelling of the face, throat and mouth. It can result in difficulty breathing, an asthma attack, anaphylactic shock and death. Less severe reactions include rash, hives and upset stomach. If you have a peanut allergy, you will want to carry an Epinephrine pen to counter any episodes while waiting for emergency assistance.
If you have a peanut allergy, there is a good chance you also have a nut allergy that extends to all nuts. You will want to avoid all nut products, including pressed nut oils and any products processed on the same equipment as nuts. This allergy is so severe that even a tiny amount of peanut product can trigger a serious allergic reaction.
Some people outgrow peanut allergies, but most do not. If you were diagnosed with a peanut allergy as an infant, you have a better chance of outgrowing the allergy than if you developed the allergy after age three. Most children and adults with peanut allergies have the allergy for life. This allergy is becoming increasingly common and has become the subject of much research due to the serious nature of the condition.
Cautions on Use
Peanuts are susceptible to contamination of aflatoxin produced by a fungus, aspergillus flavus, which is very toxic and carcinogenic (causing malignant new growths that are found in skin or the lining of body organs), especially a risk factor to liver carcinoma. Once the peanut reveals a greenish yellow appearance, it is dangerous and can no longer be consumed.
Also, those who suffer from stagnancy of dampness-cold and lingering diarrhea should not eat it.
Alpha-linolenic acid is a fatty acid found in many foods. Most, but not all, studies have found that high dietary or blood levels of alpha-linolenic acid correlate with an increased risk of prostate cancer. Concentrations of alpha-linolenic acid are high in peanuts and other nuts such as almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, flaxseed, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios, and walnuts.