Peanut or groundnut, scientifically known as Arachis hypogea, belongs to the botanical family Leguminosae. It is used in lowering cholesterol level and preventing heart diseases, improving skin and hair health, preventing diabetes, and lowering the risk for cancer.
The peanut is a legume, and as happens with plants of this botanical family, the fruit is a pod within which seeds (the edible portion) grow. It is one of the most important oil-bearing nuts in the world. It is similar to other nuts such as walnut and almond both in taste and nutritional composition.
The peanut oil is often used in cooking in almost all parts of the world. It is preferred to most oils because it has a mild taste, resistant to rancidity, and has high content of monounsaturated fats. There are several types of peanut oil, ranging from aromatic roasted peanut oil, extra virgin peanut oil, to refined peanut oil.
Apart from its oil, peanut is also consumed as flour. Its flour has a lower fat content than peanut butter and more protein content. Many people around the world including the United States, China, India, China, and West Africa enjoy eating boiled peanuts as a popular snack. Others find it more palatable when dried and roasted.
Properties of Peanut
Groundnuts are a highly nutritious food that are concentrated in terms of nutrients. They are not just simple snacks used to complement other foods, as they can be eaten alone to fulfill most of our body’s nutritional needs.
Fat constitute almost half of peanut’s weight, at 48 g per 100 grams. The fat content of this wonderful legume can be extracted as oil. It contains a significant amount of unsaturated linoleic and linolenic fatty acids which are essential to the body. These fatty acids cannot be synthesized by the body, thus, the peanut is important in supplying our bodies with these compounds. Fatty acids present in the peanut play a vital role in the formation and restoration of the skin, as well as brain tissue. The heart also “burns” fatty acids to obtain the energy necessary for its beat, in the same way it needs glucose to maintain its activity.
Groundnuts contains protein in about 25% of their weight. They contain most amino acids, but are poor in lysine, methionine, and threonine. Thus, in order to supply all necessary amino acids required to complete the proteins, peanuts should be eaten with other foods such as legumes (rich in lysine and threonine), whole grains (very rich in methionine), brewer’s yeast (rich in methionine and threonine).
Peanuts contains significant amount of carbohydrates (21 g per 100 grams), mainly starch and maltose. Starch is somehow hard to digest. This is why it is important to chew this nuts properly while eating, so that the ptyalin in the saliva can begin their digestion.
Peanuts are rich in thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, folates, and vitamin E. Niacin, a very important coenzyme within the body, stands out in the peanut. It facilitates the numerous chemical reactions necessary for carbohydrate and fat metabolism, allowing these nutrient to provide energy to the cells. Lack of niacin manifests as dry and cracked red skin, as well as muscular weakness and dyspepsia (indigestion). Serious niacin deficiency produces a disease known as pellagra.
The peanuts are particularly rich in manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc. They also contain significant amounts of calcium, iron, and potassium.
- Vegetable fiber
Peanuts are relatively poor in cellulose carbohydrate (vegetable fiber), and as a result, when eaten in large amounts without being accompanied by whole grains or fruits, they can cause constipation.
Here’s a quick list of some benefits and uses of peanut:
- Skin conditions
- Prevents cardiovascular diseases
- Prevents diabetes
- Prevents cognitive disorders
- Boosts immunity
- Prevents gallstones
- Good for pregnant moms
Regular consumption of peanut promotes good health for both the skin and the mucosa due to its high levels of niacin and unsaturated fatty acids. Both niacin and unsaturated fatty acids are essential for skin cell regeneration and health.
These nuts are also rich in vitamin E, which is important in maintenance of healthy skin through the prevention of free radicals formation that can cause wrinkles, and blemishes. They also contain resveratrol, which is a potent anti-ageing phtyochemical also found in grapes. As a great antioxidant, it reduces skin ageing.
Prevents Cardiovascular diseases
Due to the richness of peanuts in essential fatty acids, it is recommended for heart patients. These fatty acids are the essential energy source for the cells of the heart. They also help lower cholesterol levels, thus improving blood circulation in the coronary arteries. Peanuts are low in sodium, and contains significant amounts of potassium, a combination which helps protects against hypertension and fluid retention in the tissues.
A research published in the Journal of American college of Nutrition evaluated the effect of peanut against cardiovascular disease (1). The results found its consumption to reduce the risk of these diseases in 15 healthy adults.
Resveratrol in peanuts are also associated with a decreased blood pressure, thus relieving tension on our vascular tissues.
It’s no longer news that eating nuts daily including peanuts can help control type 2 diabetes and prevent its complications. Its consumption has been associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease which is a major cause of death for the diabetics.
To test the anti-diabetic activity of peanut, a research substituted it as a source of fat and vegetable protein to replace carbohydrate foods in the diet of patients with type 2 diabetes (2). Interestingly, the results showed improved blood glucose and serum lipids in these patients with diabetes.
As a diabetic, taking peanuts may help regulate your blood sugar. However, salted nuts must be avoided. Increased salt intake can cause hypertension. Remember that diabetics are more likely to have high blood pressure.
Prevents Cognitive disorders
A research published in 2017 has showed how resveratrol (found in peanuts) was able to improve cognitive performance, mood, and cerebrovascular function in post-menopausal women (3). The study suggested the regular consumption of resveratrol dose in post-menopausal women to reduce their heightened risk of accelerated cognitive decline.
Remember that resveratrol is a great antioxidant. Its presence in the body can fight free radical formation which are responsible for the breakdown of neural pathways. Therefore, peanut consumption can be very beneficial to those at risk of cognitive disorders such as alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Resveratrol again! Its antioxidant effect explains it all. Adding peanut to your diet can help your body in many ways, and one of those ways is to boost your immunity.
With peanut consumption, you can cut your chances of developing those small, hardened deposits of bile in your gallbladder. This claim is of course backed by a scientific research, which evaluated the effect of nut consumption (especially peanuts) on the risk of gallstone disease in men (4). The results were positive, as peanut consumption significantly reduced the risk of gallstones disease.
Good for Pregnant moms
Peanuts are very rich in folates. This vitamin has been associated with reduced risk of neural birth defects. So, if you are capable of getting pregnant or you know you will be getting pregnant soon, then consumption of folic acid in moderated amounts is highly important. Peanut is one food that can increase your body’s supply for this vitamin.
It is important to note that neural birth defects occur even before knowing you are pregnant, at first month of pregnancy. Thus, you should have enough folic acid in your body, as a prospective mom.