Mitzi Parker: March is National Peanut Month
“Eat more peanuts.” Chances are you have seen this slogan before either on T-shirts, websites or on vehicle tags and decals. Peanuts are one of Georgia’s top commodities, and with March being National Peanut Month, it is the perfect time to explore these healthy legumes. That’s right; peanuts aren’t nuts at all. They are actually legumes along with beans and peas. Here in Southwest Georgia, the self-proclaimed peanut capitol of the world, everyone loves boiled peanuts, but many often forget about the health benefits they offer.
Peanuts contain more protein than any other source in the plant kingdom; one 1-oz. serving of raw peanuts contains just over 13 percent of the recommended daily amount. They are also a good source for healthy fats — yes, there is such a thing. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are recognized throughout the health community for their role in promoting cardiovascular health. These include the Omega fatty acids, and more specifically oleic acid, which are found in peanuts. Peanuts also contain antioxidants which have been shown to aid in cancer prevention, and they are also rich in a number of other essential nutrients such as vitamin E, niacin, and folate.
According to the Peanut Institute, Americans consume over 1.5 billion pounds of peanut butter and peanut products each year. More than half of the peanuts grown are eaten in the form of peanut butter — Americans consume 700 million pounds each year. Did you ever wonder about how peanut butter is made? At the peanut butter plant, the nuts are roasted, fast-cooled and blanched. During blanching, the peanuts are rubbed between rubber belts to remove the outer skin. Then the kernels are split, the “hearts” are removed, and the peanuts are cleaned and sorted a final time. Finally, the peanuts are ground in two stages. In the first stage, the peanuts are ground alone. In the second stage, salt, sweetener and stabilizer (to keep the peanut butter oil from separating) are added. One long grinding would produce too much heat and damage the flavor or the peanut butter.
Given the nutritional value of peanuts and their significant economic impact on the state of Georgia, there is no doubt that everyone should “eat more peanuts.”
Mitzi Parker is Sumter County Extension agent/Family and Consumer Sciences, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service. Contact her at 229-924-4476.