Properties and Benefits of Peanuts: On the contrary to what their name suggests, peanuts (Arachis hypoagea) are not genuine nuts. They are actually related to legumes (Leguminosae) such as beans, peas, chickpeas and lentils. Nonetheless, they are used as culinary nuts and labelled as such as well. Regardless of their classification, peanuts are a truly healthy food choice. Not only are they a wonderful source of B vitamins and vitamin E, but they also boast a high protein content as well as contain a variety of antioxidant compounds.
Some studies suggest that peanuts outrank the antioxidant power of strawberries, carrots and blackberries. And there is more. Many people believe peanuts, like most other nut varieties, grow on mighty trees. However, they actually grow underground, just like potatoes, hence the name groundnut. I must admit I was a bit dumbfounded when I first found out about this. The fruit is protected by a hard, creamy-white shell, known as a peanut pod, hence the kinship with the legume family.
Studies conducted over the years reveal that this darling pseudo-nut is an incredibly rich source of healthy monounsaturated fats, which promote cardiovascular health. In addition to this, its high protein content (1/4 of their mass) makes it ideal for vegetarian recipes and diets. Interesting fact: because of their over-the-average nutritional value, peanut-based foods are used to combat severe malnutrition.
Peanuts also supply us with generous amounts of vitamins and minerals. About 100 g of peanuts provide us with significant amounts of niacin, folate, thiamine, pantothenic acid and pyridoxine. Eating foods rich in B vitamins supports normal metabolism, digestive and nervous activity and ensures the proper synthesis of carbohydrates, fats and proteins from food and their subsequent conversion into energy to meet our body’s energetic demands.
Moreover, peanuts are a rich source of vitamin E. This fat-soluble vitamin helps increase the absorption of nutrients from food, protects the skin from UV rays and prevents digestive problems and immune system disorders. Peanuts are pretty impressive, right?
As far as minerals are concerned, peanuts provide more than generous amounts of copper (127%), manganese (84%), iron (57%), phosphorus (54%), magnesium (42%), zinc (30%) and selenium (13%). Copper, for instance, supports the production of melatonin, a hormone which, among other things, improves the quality of one’s sleep and prevents premature aging.
Magnesium increases the absorption of calcium in bones and supports muscle activity, heart included. Zinc strengthens the immune system and offer better protection against future microbial threats. For more information on minerals and their activity within the body, you can go to this page.
Last but not least, peanuts boast an impressive antioxidant content. Antioxidants are basically natural substances capable of protecting us from reactive oxygen molecules known as free radicals and of inhibiting their disease-inducing activity. Peanuts contain p-coumaric acid, also found in garlic, carrots, beans and pollen.
This powerful antioxidant is believed to have potent anticancer properties and can be used as a natural method of prevention against stomach cancer in particular. What is even more interesting is the fact that roasting can increase the general antioxidant content of peanuts by 20%.
However, remember not to add salt. If you roast or toast your peanuts at home, leave them simple. Salt is detrimental for human health because it causes water retention and cardiovascular problems. Whenever possible, it is best to choose unsalted products, peanuts included. They already have everything our body needs to stay in good health.
If you have or plan on taking up a sport that requires physical strength or drains you of your energy, you could include peanuts into your diet. Their high protein content will surely help keep your energy levels high, which will surely motivate you to achieve your goals.