Why aren’t peanuts considered nuts? From a botanical perspective, peanuts (Arachis hypogaea) are legumes (Fabaceae or Leguminosae), not nuts, and have a high calorie content because of the protein and fat they contain. Although they are in the legume family, peanuts can be eaten raw — the peanuts sold at the grocery store are very rarely raw!1
Peanuts with shells are usually roasted. Click here to read a text on roasted peanuts. Peanuts bought in their shell are easily cracked open by hand. You can often find peanuts without their shell, with or without their brownish purple skin. In many parts of the world, including Europe, there are probably no fresh, raw peanuts available — the closest thing to raw peanuts you will find are peanuts dried at a lower heat, for example, sun-dried peanuts. The same goes for wild peanuts and organic peanuts.
Raw peanuts taste similar to peas or beans, but with the disadvantage that they contain a phytic acid that binds their minerals. When dried, they have a more intense flavor and are also less susceptible to mold with aflatoxin, which is a carcinogen. Dried peanuts can be eaten raw but you should be very cautious because of the unhealthy nutrients that they contain.
Peanuts are a popular ingredient in Asian wok dishes, curries, and sauces. The food industry uses peanuts in some sweets, but their primary use is as the main ingredient in peanut butter and peanut oil.
Healthy vegan peanut recipe: Christmas Eve Salad with Red Beets, Arugula, and Jicama.
Vegan recipe with few peanuts, but nonetheless a delicious taste: Homemade Yolos (caramel pralines) with Medjool Dates.
Peanuts can be found in all major supermarkets including Walmart, Whole Foods Markets, Kroger, and Safeway (United States); Extra Foods, Metro, and Freshmart (Canada); Asda, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Aldi, and Lidl (Great Britain); and Woolworths, Coles, Aldi, and Harris Farm (Australia). You can usually find unroasted and unsalted peanuts (usually in their shell) from late autumn until the end of winter. Roasted and salted peanuts can be found year-round.
If you are looking for organic or raw peanuts, you should try health food stores, organic shops, organic supermarkets, and online retailers. Raw peanuts that you find will usually be wild peanuts without their shell or skin and will have a speckled appearance. However, keep in mind that these peanuts are often blanched to increase their shelf life. Raw peanuts can be treated with toxic fungicides. If a raw food diet is important to you, you should conduct a sprouting test to check whether the nuts are raw. Peanuts are typically blanched or heated to dry the nuts out.
Today, peanuts can be found in many subtropical and tropical areas, and even in parts of Europe such as Cyprus. See below for details.
Standard dried peanuts should be stored in a cool, dry, and dark place, while fresh, undried peanuts should be kept in an airy place. However, the chance of finding fresh peanuts is small. The ideal storage temperature for peanuts is between 8 and 10 °C. A good cellar or a dark corner in a cool pantry is therefore ideal. You can also store peanuts in the refrigerator. You should store the nuts in a closed container so that the oil of the nuts does not absorb other flavors. However, a dry location is the most important factor for keeping peanuts fresh, as they will otherwise go moldy and taste rancid. How long can peanuts be stored for? Ideally, you should not store them for more than four weeks. Can you freeze peanuts? If you freeze peanuts and keep them in well-sealed, airtight packaging, they will keep for up to a year.
Far from being a superfood, peanuts are full of fat (50 %). Nonetheless, at first glance, the amount of saturated fatty acids (6.3 g per 100 g) is not that bad in proportion to the total fat content. The sugar content of 4.7 g is also good in proportion to the total amount of carbohydrates (16 g).2 A serving of 100 g of peanuts covers half of the recommended daily intake of protein, and peanuts have a good combination of the eight classic essential amino acids. Unfortunately, 100 g peanuts contain 70 % of the daily requirement of fatty acids and they have a poor ratio of these (omega-3 to omega-6). With an energy density of 6.2 calories per gram, peanut butter is comparable to cured bacon, which has the same density. Not even chocolate or low-fat butter have this density, and only oil is denser, with 9 calories per gram.
What cashews and peanuts have in common is that they both have a very poor LA to ALA ratio. Peanuts have 16 g of omega-6 linoleic acid (LA), which promotes inflammation, and only 0.1 g of the healthy omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). This is a ratio of 160:1, which far exceeds the recommended maximum ratio of 5:1. Cashews contain 7.8 g of LA and 0.06 g of ALA, which is a ratio of 102:1. See the nutritional information tables below the text.2
Most websites will nonetheless tell you how healthy peanuts and cashews are, either because they don’t write critically or because they want to sell peanuts.
Every food has its good nutrients. For example, the most prevalent mineral in peanuts is phosphorus (388 mg/100 g). However, compared with hemp seeds (1677 mg), wheat bran (1013 mg), chia seeds (860 mg), dried porcini (642 mg), flaxseed (642 mg), and oats (523 mg), for example, this quantity is rather small.2
Take manganese as another example, the second highest mineral concentration in peanuts (188 mg/100 g). Compared to hemp seeds (700 mg), wheat bran (611 mg), raw cocoa beans (500 mg), celery (440 mg), flaxseed (392 mg), and chia seeds (335 mg), the presence of manganese in peanuts is also rather low. Nonetheless, manganese is advertised as a health benefit of peanuts.2
One positive health aspect of peanuts is their relatively high levels of L-arginine, which regulates a number of hormones. Pumpkin seeds have about 5300 mg arginine per 100 g, peanuts 3460 mg, almonds 2750 mg, pine nuts 2400 mg, and lentils 2240 mg.
Are peanuts healthy or unhealthy? It is problematic to consume peanuts without having reservations. We can only warn: “uninformed and misinformed vegans and vegetarians generally have worse diets than normal eaters — a study will surely be published mercilessly uncovering this reality” (see the link above). This would stop vegan hype, which is so important for animal welfare and the environment, and discredit healthy, informed vegans. This has been our fear since 2014! Click on this link to see what happened with raw food diets (The Giessen Raw Food Study).
In 2003, the EEK was commissioned by the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH), which was established in 1992, to update its position on the health significance of fats and oils based on the latest scientific findings. We have described their recommendations in more detail on the page about olive oil; here are the most important points:
Polyunsaturated fatty acids are essential and are divided into two main groups (there are others): linoleic acid and its derivatives, known as omega-6 fatty acids (LA) and alpha-linolenic acid and its derivatives, often just referred to as linolenic acid or ALA (omega-3 or n-3). The main sources of pro-inflammatory LA are vegetable oils3, but nuts and seeds are also pro-inflammatory! Some main sources of healthy, anti-inflammatory omega-3 (ALA) include canola oil, flaxseed, walnuts, and leafy vegetables.3
People who are conscious about their health obtain polyunsaturated fatty acids from flaxseed, chia seeds, walnuts, macadamia nuts, fresh herbs, and leafy vegetables because they have a particularly good LA:ALA ratio. You will find detailed tables under practically all of our ingredients and can also access these nutrition tables through our recipes. Our recipes also often summarize the LA:ALA ratio. Erb Muesli, for example, has an ideal ratio of 1:1 (LA to ALA).
A direct quote (translated) from the EEK: “Too high a consumption of omega-6 fatty acids can promote thrombosis and inflammation. It therefore makes sense to reduce the ratio of omega-6:omega 3 to 5:1. The current average ratio is approximately 10:1, and there is evidence that reducing this ratio may lead to benefits such as fewer atherosclerotic diseases and a reduction of inflammation.”3 Atherosclerotic disease (also known as arteriosclerosis) is the technical term for cardiovascular diseases, primarily coronary heart disease, but it is also used to describe vascular diseases.
Contrast this information with the program at Zentrum der Gesundheit titled: “Peanuts — Superfood for the Vessels”: “Numerous scientific studies have long shown that peanuts, when consumed in the right quantities, are anything but potential fatteners … Participants who had high cholesterol levels at the beginning of the study showed a lowered total cholesterol level at the end of the study as well as reduced LDL cholesterol levels after having eaten 56 g of peanuts daily for four weeks.” If you read the FASEB study on this (“Adding peanuts to a meal benefits vascular health”), then it quickly becomes clear how this result was achieved: the peanut institute “supported” the study. There were only 15 people tested in the study and one can assume that the participants received an alternative that likely contained harmful substances. The center shows an advertisement for such products and advertises further courses to become a holistic health consultant.
Wikipedia on peanut allergies4: “A representative survey in the United States in 2003 found that about 1.2 % of the population is allergic to parts of the peanut.” This is consistent with other studies. Peanuts have numerous allergens (proteins) known as “ara h” — see the Wikipedia page on peanut allergies.
There are very different acute symptoms of peanut allergies, with common reactions including hives, watery eyes, and breathing difficulties. More rarely, serious reactions occur, which can even trigger anaphylactic shock.5
When peanuts are stored improperly, the mold Aspergillus flavus may develop, which produces toxic aflatoxins.6 In addition, peanuts contain lectins that tend to clump red blood cells and consuming over a certain amount may induce symptoms. Trypsin inhibitors are another protein found in peanuts that are a problem as they hinder protein metabolism in humans. However, these inhibitors are no longer active after heating processes. Peanuts accelerate blood clotting. Gout patients should note that legumes have a high content of purines.
Peanuts are believed to originate in the Andes. The oldest evidence of peanuts in former human settlements comes from Peru. In 2007, 840-year-old remains of peanuts were discovered.7 Parts of peanuts (Arachis hypogaea) that were 5000 years old were previously found in the Huarmey valley in Peru. However, other peanut species were collected by indigenous populations well before that and were also cultivated. Today, peanuts are spread throughout the tropics and subtropics. According to Wikipedia, the main areas of cultivation are West Africa, China, India, North America, and South America.
China is the largest producer of peanuts in the world and produces 17 million tons of peanuts per year, or about 36 % of the total world production. China produces almost exclusively for its own needs.8 India is the second largest peanut producer at 9 million tons per year, followed by the US at 3.2 million tons (in 2017). The main exporters of peanuts are the US, Argentina, Sudan, Senegal, and Brazil. Together, the exports of these five countries account for 71 % of total world peanut exports.
To grow peanuts: Peanut seeds germinate after a few days; however, the peanut plant needs a tropical to subtropical climate to grow. Here, a warm living room or greenhouse is sufficient. In midsummer, a sunny balcony protected from the wind works well. Peanuts thrive in loose, sandy soil with a low peat content. At the beginning of its "growing", the plant needs a lot of water. And toward the end of this phase, you should keep the plant dry so that the peanuts ripen well.
Based on reports by “Umweltnetz-Schweiz”: The peanut plant requires between 500 and 600 millimeters of rain. If it rains more than this or is grown in a constantly moist environment, you should use chemicals (e.g., pesticides) to combat leaf diseases. If you cultivate the plant in areas that are too dry, which is often the case, you have to irrigate the plant. Cultivating and processing peanuts requires about 2800 liters of water per kilogram of nuts. “According to a study published in the journal ‘Nature,’ the cultivation of peanuts in Senegal, Gambia, and Nigeria led to a sharp increase in erosion in the Sahel in the nineteenth century.” Cultivation led to large forest clearance. The patchy vegetation left behind is more susceptible to erosion and creates dust from good soil, which eventually reaches the Atlantic Ocean by wind.
Furthermore, pesticides are used to protect peanut plants from insects, fungi, and threadworms, as well as to destroy weeds growing between peanut plants. These pesticides destroy the food base of birds, mammals, and fish, or even kill them directly. Pesticides have a major impact on wildlife populations, particularly in the case of granular pesticides, which birds and other creatures may confuse with food. These pesticides are often applied over large areas by aircraft.
The peanut (Arachis hypogaea) is a plant species in the subfamily Faboideae (Papilionoideae) and in the family of legumes (Fabaceae or Leguminosae). This means that the peanut belongs to the same subfamily as peas and bean species; however, unlike other species in the subfamily, peanuts can be eaten raw. The peanut plant is an annual plant that grows to be 30–50 cm tall. After flowering, the lower part of the ovary extends to a long, stalk-like fruit carrier and curves downward, penetrating the soil about 5 cm deep. The peanut develops there.
Most peanuts are produced for extracting peanut oil. Peanuts are also used to produce soap and paints. Other peanut products include peanut butter, peanut butter puffs, cosmetics, and an oil-based feed additive used in agricultural animal fattening, which is produced in significant quantities. According to the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization), 47 million tons of peanuts (weight with shell) were produced worldwide in 2017.1 The water content of the harvested crops is reduced from 40 % to 5 to 10 % as soon as possible after harvest. In warm countries, this water content reduction is done outdoors; in temperate climates, it is achieved through an artificial heat supply. After drying, the nuts are crushed, shelled, and in many cases the skin is removed.
Peanuts are also known as goobers, groundnuts, earthnuts, pindars, and monkey nuts.