Peanut scientifically known as Arachis hypogaea is a species in the legume or bean family (Fabaceae). Peanuts are also commonly known by many other local names like earthnuts, ground nuts, goober peas, monkey nuts, pig nuts, moongphali in Hindi, Verkadalai in Tamil, Nilakadalai, and veru senaga pappu in Telugu.
Existing since more than about thousand years, peanuts originated in South America and played an important role in the diet of Aztecs and other Native Indians in South America and Mexico. The Spanish and Portuguese explorers found peanuts growing in the New World brought them on their voyages to Africa. They flourished in many African countries and were incorporated into local traditional food cultures. Since they were revered as a sacred food, they were placed aboard African boats traveling to North America during the beginning of the slave trade, which is how they were first introduced into this region.
In the 19th century, peanuts gained a great popularity in the U.S. with the efforts of two specific people. The first was George Washington Carver, who not only suggested that farmers plant peanuts to replace their cotton fields that were destroyed by the boll weevil following the Civil War, but also invented more than 300 uses for this legume. At the end of the 19th century, a physician practicing in St. Louis, Missouri, created a ground up paste made from peanuts and prescribed this nutritious high protein, low carbohydrate food to his patients. Peanut butter since peanut paste had probably used by many cultures for centuries, his new discovery quickly caught on and became, and still remains, a very popular food. Today, India, China, Nigeria, Indonesia and the United States are the leading commercial producers of peanuts.
Peanuts grow in a very fascinating manner. They actually start out as an above ground flower that, due to its heavy weight, bends towards the ground. The flower eventually burrows underground, which is where the peanut actually matures. The veined brown shell or pod of the peanut contains two or three peanut kernels. Each oval-shaped kernel or seed is comprised of two off-white lobes that are covered by a brownish-red skin. Peanuts are hardy, buttery and have a “nutty” taste. Technically, peanuts are not nuts. They are, in botanical fact, legumes and are related to other foods in the legume family including peas, lentils, chickpeas and other beans. Due to their high protein content and chemical profile, peanuts are processed into a variety of different forms, including butter, oil, flour, and flakes. The pods act in nutrient absorption. The fruits have wrinkled shells that are constricted between pairs of the one to four (usually two) seeds per pod.
Peanuts or ground nuts are used in various culinary purposes. They can be eaten as a straight food or roasted or salted peanuts can be made as peanut butter and used in sandwiches, candy bars and cookies. Peanuts are fresh and ready to be roasted for adding in many of the Indian, Chinese, Thai and Asian dishes. Peanuts as whole are used in various flavored mixed rice, salads, vegetable curries and in soups. In India peanuts are also roasted and ground with spices to make delicious chutney are also used as a spice or seasoning in vegetable gravies. In Thailand, peanuts are a necessary ingredient in Papaya Salad (sohm tohm), Pork Satay, Satay Peanut Sauce (nam jim), and often are added to Masamam Curry. Another favorite hearty Thai dish is Pork Leg boiled with Whole Peanuts. Chinese Hakka Noodles are topped with a flavorful dressing and served with a peanut and vegetable garnish, Chinese noodles with peanuts is also a popular dish.
Peanuts are often eaten as snacks, served at cocktail parties and are sometimes added as a balanced and nutritional side dish with lunch. Dry roasted, salted peanuts are also marketed in significant quantities. Peanuts are often a major ingredient in mixed nuts because of their inexpensiveness compared to Brazil nuts, cashews, walnuts, and so on. Although peanut butter has been a tradition on camping trips and the like because of its high protein count. In India most Indians use mustard, sunflower and ground nut oil for cooking. Peanuts mixed with jaggery or sugar is prepared into a popular little dessert or sweet snack pieces called the Chikki.
Peanuts have a variety of industrial end uses. Paint, varnish, lubricating oil, leather dressings, furniture polish, insecticides, and nitroglycerin are made from peanut oil. Soap is made from saponified oil, and many cosmetics contain peanut oil and its derivatives. The protein portion of the oil is used in the manufacture of some textile fibers. Peanut shells are used in the manufacture of plastic, wallboard, abrasives, fuel, cellulose (used in rayon and paper) and mucilage (glue). Rudolf Diesel ran some of the first engines that bear his name on peanut oil and it is still seen as a potentially useful fuel.
Peanuts like other legumes and nuts are rich in nutrients, providing over 30 essential nutrients and phytonutrients. Peanuts are a good source of niacin, folate, fiber, magnesium, vitamin E, manganese and phosphorus. They also are naturally free of trans-fats and sodium, and contain about 25% protein (a higher proportion than in any true nut). While peanuts are considered high in fat, they primarily contain “good” fats also known as unsaturated fats. One serving of peanuts contains 11.5 g unsaturated fat and 2 g of saturated fat. Peanuts are a good source of niacin, and thus contribute to brain health and blood flow.
Some people have mild to severe allergy reactions by eating peanuts. Normally peanut allergy has been associated with skin allergies. Hence eating in small amount of peanut is best.
Peanuts contain monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats that keep the heart healthy and a good level of both results in lowering blood cholesterol levels which reduces the risk of coronary heart diseases. Peanuts are an extremely high source of plant protein. It should be regularly incorporated in diet for children, vegetarians and protein deficient people. A rich source of minerals like magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, calcium, sodium, etc, so needed by our body to function well!
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. So the number of peanuts you eat you will acquire that much of health benefits from this legume and roasted peanuts, candy bars are always a yes yes to most of the snack munchers, let’s not forget the creamy, crunchy peanut butter!
The nutritional values for 28 g or one ounce of shelled peanuts are:
Protein: 7.8 g
Calcium: 17.1 mg
Potassium: 203 mg
Magnesium: 49.3 mg
Phosphorous: 111 mg
Sodium: 89.6 mg
Folate: 33.6 mcg
Carbohydrates: 4.3 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.6 g
Total Fat: 14.7 mg