Nuts for Peanuts

The Folklore. The peanut is more than just a tradition at baseball games, pubs, and in a good, old-fashioned PB & J sandwich—it’s an expectation. This all-American champ dates back to 2500 BCE in South America, where it was an important staple. It was also used medicinally by the Aztecs, who mixed ground peanuts and water to cure fever and applied peanut paste to soothe sore gums. Also known as goober, ground pea, and pinder, the peanut is beloved around the world as both a culinary and a nutrient powerhouse.

The Facts. Contrary to its name, the peanut (Arachis hypogaea) is not a nut, but a legume related to peas, chickpeas, lentils, and beans. The peanut begins as a flower whose weight bends it down, so it can burrow underground, where the peanut matures. Each brown, veined pod (or shell) houses two or three kernels encased in a reddish skin. Of the many peanut varieties, Virginia, Spanish, and Valencia are most common in markets. A one-ounce serving, about a handful, packs a filling 13% DV (percent Daily Value, based on 2000 calories per day) of protein, 29% DV of bone-building manganese, a healthy dose of monounsaturated fatty acids, and powerful antioxidant compounds, including heart-healthy resveratrol.

Notable Nutrients: Peanuts
1 ounce (28 g), dry roasted, no salt

Calories: 164

Protein: 7 g (13% DV)

Vitamin E: 2 mg (10% DV)

Niacin: 4 mg (19% DV)

Folate: 41 mcg (10% DV)

Magnesium: 49 mg (10% DV)

Phosphorus: 100 mg (10% DV)

Manganese: 1 mg (29% DV)

Note: c=cup, g=gram, mg=milligram, mcg=microgram, DV=Daily Value, based on 2,000 calories/day

The Findings. Eating nuts, particularly peanuts, is good for the heart and longevity, according to a study published in JAMA (2015) that found an association between nut and peanut consumption and decreased overall and cardiovascular disease mortality in several ethnic groups and among those from low socioeconomic groups, notable because of peanuts’ affordability. In addition, higher peanut and tree nut consumption is associated with less risk of metabolic syndrome and lower prevalence of obesity (PLOS, 2014).

The Finer Points. Available as butter, oil, flour, flakes, raw, roasted, shelled, and unshelled (in a variety of flavors), peanuts come with options. Store whole peanuts in the shell in a cool, dry place or refrigerated for longer freshness. Shelled and raw peanuts should be refrigerated or frozen and will keep up to six months. Snacking on peanuts out of the shell is hard to beat, but try tossing peanuts into a veggie sauté, salad, or yogurt parfait. Or blend them into a smooth butter to make vegetables, whole grain crackers, and sauces even more delish.

—Lori Zanteson

Sweet and Spicy Peanut Granola

3 ½ c oatmeal, dry

8 oz dry-roasted peanuts

1⁄3 c honey

¼ c molasses

¼ c peanut oil

1 Tbsp peanut butter, smooth

1 Tbsp cinnamon, ground

¼ tsp allspice,

1⁄8 tsp red or cayenne pepper

1 ½ c dried cranberries

Makes 10 servings

Nutrition Information Per Serving: 288 calories, 12 grams (g) fat, 40 g carbohydrate, 8 g protein, 5 g dietary fiber, 7 milligrams sodium.

Recipe adapted courtesy National Peanut Board

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