Peanuts are actually a legume edible seeds related to beans. They are enclosed in a pod that grows underground. Peanuts provide healthy fats, vitamins, minerals and other compounds that can help manage your risk of developing chronic diseases.
peanut, (Arachis hypogaea), also called groundnut, earthnut, or goober, legume of the pea family (Fabaceae), grown for its edible seeds. Native to tropical South America, the peanut was at an early time introduced to the Old World tropics. The seeds are a nutritionally dense food, rich in protein and fat. Despite its several common names, the peanut is not a true nut. As with other legumes, the plant adds nitrogen to the soil by means of nitrogen-fixing bacteria and is thus particularly valuable as a soil-enriching crop.
The peanut is an annual and can either be an erect shrubby plant, 45–60 cm (18–24 inches) high with short branches, or have a spreading form, 30–45 cm (12–18 inches) high with long branches that lie close to the soil. The stems are sturdy and hairy and bear pinnately compound leaves with two pairs of leaflets. The flowers are borne in the axils of the leaves and feature golden-yellow petals about 10 mm (0.4 inch) across. The oblong pods have rounded ends and are most commonly 25–50 mm (1–2 inches) long with two or three seeds; the pods are contracted between the seeds and have a thin, netted, spongy shell. The seeds vary from oblong to nearly round and have a papery seed coat that ranges in colour from whitish to dark purple.
Peanut legumes have the peculiar habit of ripening underground, a phenomenon known as geocarpy. After pollination and the withering of the flower, an unusual stalklike structure called a peg grows from the base of the flower toward the soil. The fertilized ovules are carried downward in the sturdy tip of the peg until the tip is well below the soil surface, at which point the peg tip starts to develop into the characteristic pod. The pegs sometimes reach down 10 cm (4 inches) or more before their tips can develop fruits. These unusual fruits appear to function as roots to some degree, absorbing mineral nutrients directly from the soil. The pods may not develop properly unless the soil around them is well supplied with available calcium, regardless of the nutrients available to the roots.
Peanut growing requires at least five months of warm weather with rainfall (or irrigation equivalent) of 60 cm (24 inches) or more during the growing season. The best soils are well-drained sandy loams underlain by deep friable (easily crumbled) loam subsoils. At harvest the entire plant, except the deeper roots, is removed from the soil. The pods are often cured by allowing the harvested plants to wilt for a day, then placing them for four to six weeks in stacks built around a sturdy stake driven upright into the soil. The pods are placed toward the inside of each stack to protect them from weather.
Benefits of using Peanuts
Peanuts are sold boiled or roasted and are commonly used to produce an edible oil with a high smoke point. In the United States the seeds are also ground into peanut butter and widely used in candy and bakery products. The peanut is used extensively as feed for livestock in some places; the tops of the plants, after the pods are removed, usually are fed as hay, although the entire plant may be so used. The development of some 300 derivative products from peanuts—including flour, soaps, and plastics—stems mainly from research conducted in the early 20th century by George Washington Carver.
Peanuts contain unsaturated fats and a number of nutrients that protect you against heart disease, including magnesium, folate, vitamin E, copper and arginine. A study in the "Journal of Nutrition" published in July 2009 found that regular consumption of 16 g of peanut butter reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease in women with Type 2 diabetes. This study, from the Harvard School of Public Health, examined more than 54,000 people for 22 years. Another study, in the "Journal of the American College of Nutrition" published in 2003 found that peanut consumption reduced triglyceride levels by as much as 24 percent after just eight weeks. Elevated triglycerides correlate with higher incidences of heart disease.
The polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats in peanuts help keep blood sugar levels even, possibly helping to keep incidences of Type 2 diabetes under control. In a study published in a 2002 issue of the "Journal of the American Medical Association," researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health studied more than 83,000 women and found that those who consumed peanut butter or nuts five or more times per week were less likely to develop Type 2 diabetes. Eating peanuts instead of a refined flour snack, such as snack crackers, or as a protein source instead of red or processed meat, are ways to use peanuts for reducing diabetes risk and to manage blood sugar levels in people with diabetes.
Protein and Fiber
Peanuts contain 7 g of vegetarian protein per ounce. Protein is an essential part of any diet as it supports lean muscle mass retention and is a component of every cell in the body. Peanuts also provide 2 g of fiber per ounce. Fiber prevents constipation and protects your colon's health. Fiber also plays a role in reducing cholesterol levels, helping to promote heart health
Peanuts contain 159 calories per ounce, which may seem hefty if you are watching your calorie intake. The fiber, protein and fat in peanuts can help you feel full, however, so when you add peanuts to your diet you eat fewer calories at other sittings. Researchers from Purdue University found in 2002 that adding 500 calories of peanuts per day for eight weeks did not result in significant weight gain. They also found that you may not fully absorb the calories in peanuts because you do not chew them fully and that peanuts trigger a slight increase in metabolism, resulting in a higher calorie burn.
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