Love 'em tender, roast 'em quick

LIVING IN THE KITCHEN

Love 'em tender, roast 'em quick

NUT CRACKER: The astronaut Allen B Sheppard took the humble peanut with him to the moon.  PIC GETTY IMAGESThe expression “for peanuts” means, “for virtually nothing or very little”. But the peanut actually happens to be a most beneficial food item and worth a great deal, healthwise. According to recent research, a diet rich in peanut and peanut products reduces one’s cholesterol, lowers one’s risk of heart disease and provides protection against cancer, among other things.

Actually, the peanut is not a ‘nut’ at all and belongs to the pea or legume family. Its botanical name is Arachi Hypogaea and it is said to have originated in South America. Peanuts are also called groundnuts, goober peas, jack nuts and monkey nuts.

They are high in proteins and unsaturated fats. Other important nutrients include calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, niacin, folic acid and vitamin E. Magnesium helps maintain normal muscle and nerve function, steady heart rhythm and makes the bones strong. Niacin (also known as vitamin B3) is an essential nutrient, which helps release energy from food and helps the body’s skin, nervous and digestive systems stay healthy. Folic acid helps make red blood cells and prevent anaemia.

Heart-friendly  
Peanuts also contain a wide variety of antioxidants. Peanuts contain resveratrol, the phenolic antioxidant also found in red grapes and red wine and phytosterols. Phytosterols lower the cholesterol by blocking the absorption of dietary cholesterol that is circulating in the blood. And they also reduce the re-absorption of cholesterol from the liver which the body naturally produces.
  
In fact, peanuts have zero cholesterol. So including peanuts and peanut products in one’s diet (provided it is a healthy one) not just lowers cholesterol but can also prevent type 2 diabetes and help one lose weight. Many people avoid nuts altogether for fear of weight gain but studies have shown time and again that people who eat peanuts at least twice a week are much less likely to gain weight than those who never eat them.

Peanuts are as rich in antioxidants as many fruits. Roasted peanuts are even more beneficial because roasting increases their overall antioxidant content by more than 20 per cent. They also provide a variety of cardio-protective benefits. To lower your risk of cardiovascular and coronary heart disease you should enjoy a handful of peanuts or a tablespoon of peanut butter, at least 4 times a week. But some people are allergic to peanuts so you would need to check if you are one of them.

 When you buy peanuts look carefully to guard against moisture or insect damage. Also, the shells should be free from cracks and dark spots.
Crunch factor
You could add peanuts to your diet in a variety of ways:
*Spread peanut butter on your breakfast toast.
*Make sandwiches with peanut butter and banana/ pear/ apple/ pineapple.
*Sprinkle a handful of roasted peanuts in your salad or steamed vegetables.
*Or just enjoy a handful of roasted peanuts with a glass of your favourite fruit juice.

 Peanut or groundnut oil is used extensively in Asian cuisine. It is used for medicinal purposes too. Combined with fresh lime juice and applied on the face, it is said to work wonders in protecting the skin from acne marks and black heads. Peanut oil massage is also beneficial for people suffering from arthritis.

For trivia buffs
Peanut oil was originally used as a source of fuel for the diesel engine because of its high content of palmitic acid, oleic acid and linoleic acid.

Did you know that astronaut Allen B Sheppard took a peanut with him to the moon?
You must have heard the term, ‘Peanut Gallery’. It referred to the cheapest and uppermost seats in a theatre, from where the audience threw peanuts at the live performers on stage to express their displeasure with the performance!

 

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