As winter arrives in the country, the smell of roasted peanuts fills the air. This versatile nut can be added to both sweet or savoury dishes. It can be eaten in its original form or converted into peanut butter or peanut oil. It can be put into salads, main courses and desserts. This little nut has power and the responsibility to go with it as every single peanut is jam-packed with anti-oxidants, minerals, vitamins and proteins.
Contrary to popular belief, the peanut or groundnut is not a nut at all! It is in fact a legume like gram or mung. It grows on the flower of the plants but due to its weight, gravity pulls the flowers towards the ground, making the ‘groundnut’ mature under the soil. Peanuts originated in South America and were spread by the Spanish and Portuguese explorers all over the world. Currently India, China, Indonesia, the United States and Nigeria are its largest producers.
There are many benefits to eating peanuts. People shy away from them fearing weight gain but what consuming peanuts does is exactly the opposite. Studies have shown that peanuts helped regular consumers by actually preventing weight gain. Oftentimes the reason for weight gain is slow metabolism and having a handful of peanuts or two tablespoons of peanut butter daily helps stimulate metabolism and regulate BMI, which essentially means people who add a daily dose of peanuts in their diet are less prone to obesity and weight gain that people who avoid it.
Peanuts, when taken in the right proportion, can help keep the heart healthy. Peanuts contain mono-unsaturated fatty acids, which sound bad, but are actually much better than the saturated fatty acids that are present in junk food. The main difference between the two is the type of cholesterol they raise in the blood. While the mono-unsaturated fats increase HDL or ‘good cholesterol’, the saturated ones raise the number on LDL or ‘bad cholesterol’. LDL clogs the arteries and causes heart problems, including cardiac arrests and failures.
It is now a known fact that any food that has quantities of anti-oxidants in it is good. Peanut is on that list too. It contains poly-phenolic anti-oxidants that prevent cancer, nervous and cardiac disorders. It helps sharpen memory and keep diseases affecting the mind (like Alzheimer’s) at bay. The amount of anti-oxidants present in an ounce of peanut surpasses the amount present in known anti-oxidant rich fruit like strawberries, apples, blackberries, carrots and beetroot. Studies have shown that by boiling or roasting peanuts, the potency of these anti-oxidants is increased by at least 22 per cent.
Peanuts contain the elusive vitamin E, which is hardly ever present naturally in food items. Most people have to take supplements to achieve the desired levels of Vitamin E in their bodies and as most already know, it is the best vitamin for good skin, hair and nails. Other vitamins amply available in this tiny legume are the B complex vitamins like riboflavin, niacin, thiamine, pantothenic acid, vitamin B-6, and folates. These help improve blood flow and brain function. As pointed out earlier, minerals are also present aplenty in this powerhouse — copper, manganese, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, and selenium. Each of these minerals is required by the body to perform essential functions — calcium for good bone growth and density, magnesium for the blood vessels to perform their duties without a hitch and copper for the growth and functioning of all organs. Manganese helps control blood sugar and iron is required so that the blood can provide the body with much required oxygen adequately. One ounce of peanut can provide you with so much and also keep you full so that you don’t indulge in empty calories. For those afraid of the amount of calories peanuts contain, it is an established fact that the body requires calories as a fuel for energy. At least the little peanut provides you with a bundle of goodness and health along with those calories.