Digging Peanuts

Peanuts (Arachis hypogaea) belong to the family Fabaceae, along with common beans (green snap beanspinto beansheirloom beansGreat Northern beansblack turtle beanskidney beans, and navy beans), edible-pod and mature peasfava beansblack-eyed peasadzuki beanslima beansjicamachickpeas, carob, and licorice. The family also includes broom, gorse, and kudzu.

Peanuts probably originated in what is now Peru or Brazil in South America. People in South America made pottery in the shape of peanuts or decorated jars with peanuts as far back as 3,500 years ago. As early as 1500 BC, the Incas of Peru used peanuts as sacrificial offerings and entombed them with their mummies to aid in the spirit life. Incas were also likely the first to grind peanuts to make peanut butter. People in central Brazil also ground peanuts with maize to make a drink.

European explorers first encountered peanuts in Brazil. Peanuts were grown as far north as Mexico when the Spanish explorers arrived in the Americas. The explorers took peanuts back to Spain.

From Spain, traders spread peanuts to Asia and Africa. Africans introduced peanuts to North America beginning in the 18th century.

Around 1800, American farmers first grew peanuts commercially in South Carolina. By 1818, they were growing in North Carolina. By the mid-1840s, they had reached Virginia. At the time, peanuts were were used mainly for oil, and as food for farm animals and the poor. They were considered difficult to grow and harvest. During this time, peanuts were still harvested by hand, leaving stems and debris in the peanuts. The poor quality and lack of uniformity kept down the demand, but peanut production steadily grew in the first half of the 19th century. During the Civil War, both armies subsisted on peanuts. Returning Union soldiers, who had developed a taste for peanuts, introduced them to the populated northern states after the war. Vendors began selling hot roasted peanuts from street carts and at baseball games and other events.

In 1892, boll weevils devastated cotton crops in the American South. Dr. George Washington Carver, who then chaired the agriculture department at Tuskeegee Institute, encouraged cotton farmers to rotate their crops in a three-year plan. Legumes like peanuts and soybeans would replenish the soil with nitrogen and minerals for two seasons, so that cotton could grow in the third year. This crop rotation produced a far better cotton crop than the farmers had seen for many years.

A St. Louis physician, Dr. Ambrose W. Straub, crushed peanuts into a paste for his geriatric patients with bad teeth. At the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, known as the World’s Columbian Exposition, peanut butter gained exposure and popularity. Dr. John Harvey Kellogg patented a “Process of Preparing Nut Meal” in 1895 and used peanuts. Kellogg served the patients at his Battle Creek Sanitarium peanut butter. Joseph Lambert worked for Dr. Kellogg and began selling his own hand-operated peanut butter grinder in 1896.

Around 1900, labor-saving equipment was invented for planting, cultivating, harvesting and picking peanuts from the plants, as well as for shelling and cleaning the kernels. With these machines, demand for peanuts grew rapidly, especially for oil, roasted and salted nuts, peanut butter, and candy. In the early 20th century, peanuts became a significant agricultural crop in the American South. Following the suggestions of Dr. Carver, peanuts served as an effective commercial crop and, for a time, rivaled the position of cotton in the South.

Peanuts became an integral part of the Armed Forces rations in World War I, along with Welch’s grape jam. Dr. Carver devised over 100 products using peanuts, including dyes, plastics, and gasoline. In 1920, he delivered a speech before the Peanut Growers Association, attesting to the wide potential of peanuts. The following year, he testified before Congress in support of a tariff on imported peanuts. With the help of Carver’s testimony, the proponents of the tariff were able to institute it in 1922.

Bagged, pre-sliced bread was created in 1928. During World War II, inexpensive but nutritious peanuts were ground into a smooth, buttery consistency, canned, and put into soldier’s rations. Somewhere, a soldier spread his peanut butter on sliced bread and added the grape jam, creating the peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Peanuts are the 12th most valuable cash crop grown in the United States. Americans eat, on average, more than six pounds of peanut products per capita each year, half of that in peanut butter. It is a popular sandwich spread, for children and adults, because it is both nutritious and economical.

Peanuts can:

  1. Fight free radicals. Peanuts are an excellent source of manganese and a good source of copper, two trace minerals that are essential cofactors of a key antioxidant enzyme called superoxide dismutase, which disarms free radicals produced within your mitochondria (the energy production factories within your cells). Vitamin E in peanuts protects your skin from ultraviolet light and prevents cell damage from free radicals. Peanuts contain oleic acid, an omega-9 fatty acid that promotes the production of antioxidants, which can eliminate harmful free radicals from your body. Roasted peanuts actually rival the antioxidant content of blackberries and strawberries, and are far richer in antioxidants than apples, carrots, or beets. Peanuts contain high concentrations of antioxidant polyphenols, primarily a compound called p-coumaric acid. Roasting can actually increase peanuts’ p-coumaric acid levels, boosting their overall antioxidant content by as much as 22%. Saponins in peanuts neutralize free radicals to prevent disease.
  2. Promote cardiovascular health. The high antioxidant content of peanuts may be key to their heart-protective benefits. You can reduce your risk of cardiovascular and coronary heart disease by eating a handful of peanuts or other nuts, or a tablespoon of nut butter, at least four times per week. Peanuts are rich in monounsaturated fats, which can decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease. Niacin in peanuts helps lower cholesterol levels. The magnesium in peanuts acts as a calcium channel blocker, which relaxes veins and arteries, reducing blood pressure and improving the flow of blood, oxygen and nutrients throughout your body. The folate in peanuts helps lower levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that is an intermediate product in an important metabolic cycle. Elevated blood levels of homocysteine are a risk factor for heart attack, stroke, or peripheral vascular disease. Phosphorus in peanuts helps maintain a steady heartbeat. Peanuts are also good sources of other nutrients that promote heart health, including manganeseprotein, and vitamin E. In addition, peanuts contain resveratrol, the phenolic antioxidant that reduces risk of cardiovascular disease. Resveratrol is a flavonoid first studied in red grapes and red wine, but now also found to be present in peanuts. Resveratrol improves blood flow in your brain by as much as 30%, thus greatly reducing the risk of stroke. Resveratrol may exert this very beneficial effect by stimulating the production and release of nitric oxide (NO), a molecule made in the lining of blood vessels (the endothelium) that signals the surrounding muscle to relax, dilating the blood vessel and increasing blood flow. An ounce of peanut butter provides about 50 micrograms of resveratrol. Saponins in peanuts lower blood cholesterol and decrease risk of cardiovascular disease. Salicylic acid in peanuts helps prevent the formation of dangerous blood clots.
  3. Protect against Alzheimer’s and age-related cognitive decline. Just a quarter cup of peanuts provides about a quarter of the daily recommended intake for niacin, which provides protection against Alzheimer’s disease and age-related cognitive decline. People aged 65 or older who get the most niacin from foods (22 mg per day) are 70% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than those consuming the least (about 13 mg daily), and their rate of age-related cognitive decline was significantly less. Vitamin E in peanuts helps protect against Alzheimer’s disease.  Folate in peanuts also helps prevent dementias including Alzheimer’s disease. Resveratrol in peanuts may help protect against Alzheimer’s disease.
  4. Build strong, flexible bodies. One quarter cup of peanuts provides 19% of the Daily Value for proteinMagnesium in peanuts helps maintain normal muscle and nerve function and keeps bones strong. Folate in peanuts acts as a co-factor for enzymes involved in the synthesis of DNA, supports cell production, especially in your skin, allows nerves to function properly, helps prevent neural tube defects in fetuses, and helps prevent osteoporosis-related bone fractures. Phosphorus helps in the formation of bones and teeth, synthesis of protein, and muscle contraction. Saponins in peanuts stimulate your immune system by increasing the production of antibodies, fight bacterial and fungal infections, reduce inflammation, prevent dental caries, protect against bone loss, and increase the effectiveness of certain vaccines. Salicylic acid in peanuts helps to reduce pain and inflammation.
  5. Give you energy while stabilizing your blood sugar. Peanuts provide steady, slow-burning energy, and their high fiber content prevents blood sugar levels from rising too rapidly after a meal. Niacin in peanuts stabilizes your blood sugar and helps your body process fats.  Magnesium helps maintain normal muscle and nerve function, helps regulate blood sugar levels, and is involved in energy metabolism and protein synthesis. Folate in peanuts supports red blood cell production and helps prevent anemia. Phosphorus helps you efficiently use carbohydrates and fats. Saponins in peanuts lower blood glucose responses. Resveratrol in peanuts may help protect against diabetes, and prevent age-related problems such as and insulin resistance.
  6. Eliminate toxins. Peanuts are a good source of the trace mineral, molybdenum, an integral component of the enzyme sulfite oxidase, which is responsible for detoxifying sulfites. Sulfites are a type of preservative commonly added to prepared foods like delicatessen salads and salad bars. People who are sensitive to sulfites may experience rapid heartbeat, headache, or disorientation if they consume sulfites. If you have ever reacted to sulfites, it may be because your molybdenum stores are insufficient to detoxify them. Vitamin E and resveratrol in peanuts are phytochemicals with chemopreventative and antioxidant abilities that also activate an essential detoxification protein and directly increase the activity of detoxification enzymes. Resveratrol also helps transport toxins out of your body. Isothiocyanates in peanuts also assist in producing detoxification enzymes.
  7. Fight cancer. Vitamin E in peanuts helps protect against bladder cancer and prostate cancer. Folate in peanuts lowers your risk of cancer by preventing build-up of homocysteine in your blood. Other nutrients in peanuts, including phytosterols (including beta-sisterol), phytic acid (known as inositol hexakisphosphate, or phytate when in salt form), and resveratrol, may have anti-cancer effects, especially against colorectal cancer, the second most fatal malignancy in developed countries and the third most frequent cancer worldwide. Eating peanuts just 2 or more times each week is associated with a 58% lowered risk of colon cancer in women and a 27% lowered risk in men. Saponins in peanuts potentially reduce your risk of colorectal cancer. Resveratrol in peanuts may help protect against cancer. Isothiocyanates in peanuts stop carcinogens in three different ways: 1) They don’t allow carcinogens to be activated; 2) they counteract the poisonous effects of carcinogens that have been activated; and 3) they speed up their removal from your body.
  8. Help prevent gallstones. Women who eat least 1 ounce of nuts, peanuts, or peanut butter each week have a 25% lower risk of developing gallstones.
  9. Reduce risk of weight gain. People who eat nuts or peanuts at least twice a week are 31% less likely to gain weight than people who never or almost never eat nuts.

Nutrients in 1 Ounce Dry-Roasted Peanuts



Daily Value


0.6 mg



14 g



3.8 mg


vitamin E

3.04 mg



6.6 g



49.3 mg



8.37 µg



40.06 µg



100 mg



2.2 g



0.2 mg



0.1 mg






0.9 mg



184 mg



0.4 mg


vitamin B6

0.1 mg


pantothenic acid

0.4 mg



15.5 mg



6 g



15.1 mg



0.028 mg



4.91 mg



1.7 mg



0 mg


Peanuts are generally available in packages and in bulk bins. Make sure that the bins containing the peanuts are covered and that the store has a good product turnover to ensure maximum freshness. Make sure that there is no evidence of moisture or insect damage. Smell the peanuts, if possible, to ensure that they do not smell rancid or musty. If the peanuts are still in their shells, pick up a peanut and shake it. The peanut should feel heavy for its size, and it should not rattle, because a rattling sound suggests that the peanut kernels have dried out. The shells should also be free from cracks, dark spots, and insect damage.

If you purchase peanut butter, read the label. Manufacturers often add Hydrogenated (trans-) fats and sugar to peanut butter. Buy organic and choose brands that contain only peanuts (and salt, if you like) and nothing else. You can also find fresh peanut butter grinders in some stores and grind your own fresh, or you can grind it at home in a food processor or blender. To make your own peanut butter, place the peanuts in the food processor and grind until you have achieved the creaminess you want.

Peanuts are susceptible to fungal infections, particularly by Aspergillus flavus, a fungus that produces aflatoxin. A known carcinogen that is twenty times more toxic than DDT, aflatoxin has also been linked to intellectual disabilities. A. flavus grows when the temperature is between 86-96°F and when the humidity is high. Improved storage and handling methods, along with USDA inspection, have virtually eliminated the risk of consuming aflatoxin in the US. If you purchase raw peanuts, ensure that they have been stored in a dry, cool environment. Roasted peanuts are thought to offer more protection against aflatoxin, plus roasting peanuts improves their digestibility and antioxidant content.

Peanut kernels should be stored in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator or freezer, because excess exposure to heat, humidity, or light will cause them to become rancid. They will keep in the refrigerator for about three months and in the freezer for up to six months. Do not chop them prior to storage; chop them right before eating them or using them in a recipe. Peanuts still in their shells can be kept in a cool, dry dark place, but keeping them in the refrigerator will extend their shelf life to about nine months.

You can chop peanuts by hand using a chef’s knife and a cutting board, or in a wooden bowl with a mezzaluna, the curved knife that has a handle on top of the blade. You can also chop them in a food processor, but take care not to grind them too much, or you may end up with chunky peanut butter instead of chopped peanuts. The best way to chop peanuts in a food processor is to place a small amount in at a time and carefully use the pulse button until you have achieved the desired consistency.

Here are some ideas for using peanuts:

  • Enjoy a handful of lightly dry roasted peanuts with a glass of tomato juice as a healthy snack.
  • Sprinkle peanuts onto sautéed or steamed vegetables.
  • Make a simple southeast Asian salad by tossing sliced green cabbage, grated ginger, Serrano chiles, and peanuts with a soy sauce dressing.
  • Make a sandwich of peanut butter with jelly, banana, molasses, chopped apple, pear, or raisins.
  • Sprinkle a handful of peanuts over cereal.
  • Spread peanut butter on whole grain waffles, toast, bagels, or crackers.
  • Add a tablespoon of peanut butter to a smoothie.
  • Combine peanut butter, coconut milk, and ready-to-use Thai red or green curry paste for a quick sauce to pour over sautéed vegetables or tofu.
  • Toss cooked brown rice with chopped peanuts, scallions, sweet red pepper, parsley, and currants.
  • Fill a celery stick with peanut butter for a snack.

This blog uses the latest nutritional data available from the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), and the FDA (United States Food and Drug Administration), as well as nutritional data provided by food growers and manufacturers about their products. We believe the information on this blog to be accurate. However, we are not responsible for typographical or other errors. Nutrition information for recipes is calculated by Living Cookbook based on the ingredients in each recipe based on statistical averages. Nutrition may vary based on methods of preparation, origin and freshness of ingredients, and other factors.

This blog is not a substitute for the services of a trained health professional. Although we provide nutritional information, the information on this blog is for informational purposes only. No information offered by or through this blog shall be construed as or understood to be medical advice or care. None of the information on this blog should be used to diagnose or treat any health problem or disease. Consult with a health care provider before taking any product or using any information on this blog. Please discuss any concerns with your health care provider.

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