Many people aim for a healthy lifestyle, which includes eating nutritious foods. However, common food allergies can make mealtime challenging. One of the most prevalent allergies is to peanuts. Surprisingly, peanuts are not actually nuts, despite being a good source of protein and other nutrients.
The confusion likely arises from their high-fat content and similarities with other things commonly referred to as nuts. In reality, peanuts are legumes, not nuts.
Peanuts Aren't Nuts, And Neither Are A Lot Of Other Things
Let's clarify some nut-related definitions. Nuts are a type of fruit with hard, inedible shells. Examples of true nuts include acorns or hazelnuts. On the other hand, almonds and pistachios are also fruits, but they are drupes, not nuts. Drupes have a fleshy exterior surrounding a hard shell containing a seed. Some drupes, like peaches, cherries, olives, and plums, are consumed for their fleshy fruit, while others, like pistachios or almonds, are eaten for their seeds. And lastly, as mentioned earlier, peanuts are legumes, and for culinary purposes, they are technically classified as vegetables.
Other Members Of The Peanut Family
The classification of legumes is surprisingly interesting. It turns out that all legumes, such as soybeans, lentils, and peas, belong to the same family of trees called the Fabaceae Family. Some countries even use raw legume materials to make certain types of plastic.
Another significant difference is the cost. True nuts and drupes are generally more expensive than peanuts. One reason for this is water usage; peanuts require less water, making them more cost-effective to grow. This also means they have a lower environmental impact, which is a positive aspect.
Despite being different from true nuts, peanuts share nutritional similarities. They are rich in protein and healthy polyunsaturated fats when eaten raw or without added sugar and sodium. Peanuts are also a good source of fiber, biotin, folate, niacin, and magnesium, similar to true nuts like hazelnuts and chestnuts.
Symptoms Of Peanut Allergies
Unfortunately, peanut allergies are common, and they limit people from enjoying many dishes. Those affected need to be cautious when eating out or buying processed foods like chips and cereal. In severe cases, peanut allergies can lead to life-threatening anaphylaxis. Symptoms may vary for different individuals.
- Rash or Hives
- Shortness of Breath
- Swelling of the eyes and throat
- Digestive Issues
Meal Ideas With Peanuts
For families without peanut allergies, peanuts offer great versatility in the kitchen. They can be added to salads for texture and flavor, used as on-the-go snacks with protein and fiber, spread on toast, or added to oatmeal for breakfast. Peanuts also play a significant role in Thai cuisine, showcasing their versatility in various dishes.
So, even though peanuts are not true nuts, they provide a wide range of culinary options and nutritional benefits for those who can enjoy them safely.
Other Misunderstood Nuts
The actual classification of peanuts can surprise people, and it's not just peanuts that can be a bit confusing. Almonds and cashews also fall into this category. Fortunately, understanding their classification is straightforward. Almonds and cashews are both drupes, which are a type of fruit that we consume. Other "nuts" that are actually drupes include Brazil nuts, pecans, macadamia nuts, and pine nuts. So, the only true nuts with hard wood-like shells are hazelnuts, chestnuts, and acorns. It's important to note that both drupes and true nuts are considered fruits.
Just like peanuts, cashews and almonds are high in unsaturated fats when eaten raw or without added sugars and sodium. Cashews are also rich in Vitamin K, while almonds are incredibly high in Magnesium.
Regardless of their classification, peanuts, other legumes, tree nuts, and fruits all provide various nutrients essential for our bodies to function healthily and happily. It's always recommended to "eat a rainbow" throughout the day, ensuring that our bodies receive a well-rounded range of essential vitamins and minerals.