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Peanuts & Peanut Butter

Peanuts & Peanut Butter

The PeanutThere is no food that speaks to the American childhood experience more clearly than the peanut, the source of that quintessential piece of culinary Americana, peanut butter. Peanuts were originally cultivated in South America by Peruvian Indians who are considered to be the first indigenous groups to domesticate the legume and archaeologists have traced the original specimens to around 5000 BC. From South America the Spanish brought the humble bean to Europe and to their colonies and outposts in what is today the south eastern part of the United States.

Peanuts really caught on during the civil war because they considered to be good, cheap protein. Farmers in the South had pretty much depleted their land of vital nutrients over farming cotton the lowly peanut had come to the rescue as an alternative crop. During and after the civil they ended up in the Northern states where they were sold, freshly roasted by street vendors in NYC and Boston and Philadelphia and a new American love affair was born.

Farming peanuts was a limited and labor intensive affair until the industrial revolution began to change agriculture around the turn of the 20th century. Right around that time George Washington Carver was developing all kinds of stuff from the peanut. All told, Carver, who was the head of the agricultural department at Tuskegee Institute, developed 300 different products with the peanut including various types of soaps and cleansers and milk and even ink! The reason Carver could make so many things out of the peanut is because there are so many incredible chemical active compounds in the plain old peanut.

Their complex nature is also is why peanuts can be such a problem food. In addition to the potentially thyroid suppressing compounds in peanuts, along with grains, dairy, and eggs are one of the most important of all food allergens. While peanut allergies are not as pervasive as as significant as dairy or grain the affect up to 6 million Americans and they be potentially life threatening. I remember when I was a pharmacy student working at an asthma hospital, a kid got an injection that was made with peanut oil and had an allergic reaction that was so severe it killed him. Peanuts can also be source of a toxic mold called aflatoxin that’s been associated with cancer. And unfortunately, peanuts are also a source of really problematic compounds called lectins that trigger various immune and autoimmune reactions.

One of the more common yet underappreciated reactions to peanuts involves the skin. For some sensitive folks, dermatitis can occur by simply by touching or breathing in peanut dust. And ingestion of peanuts has been linked to acne in susceptible children and teenagers.

If you’re looking for concentrated nutrients however, and you’re not concerned with allergic reactions, you’d be wise to add a handful or two of peanuts to a meal a couple of times a week. You can also throw some into a smoothie to enhance its nutritional value. Peanuts are a good source of protein and vitamins, including hard to find vitamin E (one ounce of peanuts contains 29% of the Reference Daily Intake level) as well as minerals like copper, phosphorous, magnesium, iron, potassium, selenium, zinc and calcium. All told, a couple of tablespoonfuls of peanuts contains nearly half of the 13 vitamins necessary for the body's growth and maintenance and more than one third of the 20 minerals needed! Peanuts are even a good source of resveratrol; one ounce contains approximately 73 mg. A naturally occurring plant compound resveratrol intake is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease and increased longevity.

About the author

Ben Fuchs I'm Ben Fuchs, a nutritional pharmacist from Boulder CO. I specialize in using nutritional supplements where other healthcare practitioners use toxic pharmaceutical drugs. I look at the human body as a healing & regenerating system, designed divinely to heal & renew itself on a moment to moment basis. "Take charge of your biochemistry through foods and supplements, rather than allow toxic prescription drugs to take charge of you."

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