Nuts are a popular and convenient raw vegan snack. Most nuts are an excellent source of protein, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. If you need a filling snack, an ounce of raw nuts is a portable, tasty, and mostly healthy option.
There are dozens of varieties of edible nuts, and most are available raw. One of the most popular nuts in the world is peanuts. Does that mean you should eat them? In this article, we lift the lid on raw peanuts so that you can decide if they are right for you.
What are peanuts?
Peanuts go by several names, including groundnuts, earthnuts, and goobers. They originated in South America, and their scientific name is Arachis Hypogaea. Peanuts can be safely eaten raw, but most are consumed after roasting. Needless to say, roasted peanuts are not raw, so you shouldn’t eat them. In fact, roasting peanuts renders them unhealthy.
Peanuts are also used to make peanut butter, peanut flour, peanut oil, and used as ingredients in confectionery and sauces. If you choose to eat these types of products, make sure they only contain raw peanuts and not the roasted kind.
Despite their name, peanuts aren’t actually a nut at all. Instead, they are a legume, which means they are more closely related to beans, soy, and lentils. Because of this, and despite being raw vegan, raw peanuts should not be consumed if you are following the 80 10 10 eating plan. For other raw vegans, peanuts could be an acceptable source of calories and nutrients.
If you eat raw peanuts, it’s useful to know a little about their nutrient content. That way, you can decide how they fit into your diet. One hundred grams or 3 ½ ounces of raw peanuts contains:
- Calories: 567
- Protein: 25.8 grams
- Carbs: 16.1 grams, of which 4.7 grams are sugars
- Fiber: 8.5 grams
- Total fat: 49.2 grams (Saturated: 6.28 grams, Monounsaturated: 24.43 grams, and Polyunsaturated: 15.56 grams)
Because raw peanuts are high in fat, they are also high in calories. This is not unique to peanuts; all nuts are similarly high in fat and calories. Because of this, to avoid weight gain, you should practice proper portion control when you eat peanuts. Instead of free-feeding from a large bag, pre-portion your peanuts into one-ounce or 28-gram servings. This will stop you from accidentally eating more nuts than you realize.
Raw peanuts also contain lots of beneficial nutrients. The main vitamins and minerals in raw peanuts include:
- Niacin (Vitamin B3)
- Folate (Vitamin B9
- Vitamin E
- Thiamine (Vitamin B1)
In addition, raw peanuts contain antioxidants. Antioxidants help prevent free radical damage. Free radicals are unstable molecules with unpaired electrons in their outer shells. They wreak havoc on your cells and DNA and are thought to be responsible for a wide range of medical conditions, including cancer. High levels of antioxidants will also accelerate the aging process. The main antioxidants in raw peanuts are:
- p-Coumaric acid
Raw peanut benefits
Eating raw peanuts may be good for you. They are free from harmful additives, contain no sodium, and no trans fats. The same cannot be said for roast peanuts, which often contain additives, preservatives, colors, and even animal bone-derived gelatin.
Their high nutrient and healthy fat content mean that they have many general and several specific health benefits, including:
Reduced risk of heart disease: Peanuts are high in antioxidants, fiber, and mono and polyunsaturated fats. These nutrients are linked to improved heart health.
Reduced risk of cancer: The antioxidants resveratrol and phytosterol are linked to a reduced risk of cancer, especially ovarian cancer. Interestingly, roasted peanuts may increase cancer risk.
Reduced risk of gallstones: Eating raw peanuts is linked to a reduced risk of developing gallstones. Raw peanuts lower levels of bad cholesterol, which, when allowed to accumulate in your gallbladder, can result in the formation of stones.
Is eating raw peanuts safe?
Unless you have a peanut allergy, eating raw peanuts should be reasonably safe. Raw peanuts are also less likely to trigger allergic reactions than roasted peanuts. Approximately one percent of Americans are allergic to peanuts, and in some cases, that reaction can be life-threatening.
On the downside, raw peanuts may contain a mound called aflatoxin, which is usually destroyed during roasting. Aflatoxin affects your liver, and long-term exposure could lead to hepatitis and even liver cancer. While this may sound very alarming, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has taken steps to prevent peanuts with aflatoxin being consumed or used in food manufacture. Also, eating small amounts of aflatoxin is not linked to an increased risk of disease.
You can also take steps to avoid this problem by:
- Consuming raw peanuts in moderation
- Buying the freshest raw peanuts you can find
- Only buying raw peanuts in their shells
- Discarding peanuts with cracked shells
- Discarding any peanuts that are damp or smell rancid
- Shaking and discarding any peanuts that rattle inside their shells
Raw peanuts also contain the anti-nutrient phytic acid. Phytic acid prevents the digestion and absorption of iron and zinc. This should not be much of a concern if you only eat raw peanuts occasionally. Still, because grains and other legumes also contain phytic acid, if you eat a lot of peanuts, you could be at risk of developing an iron and zinc deficiency.
Conclusion: Should you eat raw peanuts?
Because raw peanuts are a legume, they are not part of the 80 10 10 diet. However, you can still eat them as part of a raw vegan diet if you wish. They contain valuable nutrients and offer several health benefits too. However, because of the risk of allergy, their high-calorie content, anti-nutrients, and the potential presence of aflatoxin, if you do eat raw peanuts, you should only do so in moderation – 3-4 one-ounce servings per week at most.