Problems With Peanuts

January 23rd, 2009

I’m sure you’ve heard about the recent peanut butter scare. According to NBC Nightly News, about 500 people have come down with salmonella poisoning within 43 different states and over 100 peanut based products have been recalled.

Peanut Concerns

Peanut butter and peanut based products have practically become a staple of the American diet. Most people consider peanuts to be nuts, but they’re really legumes. Either way, nuts and legumes both tend to be considered healthy foods. However, even though peanuts are natural and whole, they still present a few risks that you should be aware of.

Mold: Peanut crops are highly susceptible to mold growth, especially in warm and damp climates. This mold produces a toxic byproduct called aflatoxin which is associated with cancer and other health issues.

Fatty Acids: While we need both types of essential fatty acids, omega-3 and omega-6, peanuts have a high amount of omega-6. Any diet that is high in processed foods, particularly the typical American diet, is likely to already contain far too much omega-6. Consuming excessive amounts of omega-6 promotes inflammation and can lead to cancer, heart disease, and other serious health problems.

Pesticides: Partly because of the mold issue, pesticides are used more heavily on peanut crops than most other crops. Like most synthetic chemicals, pesticides are toxic and are associated with cancer and other health issues.

The Ubiquitous PBJ Sandwich

Another big problem with many modern diets is that they contain far too much sugar and refined carbohydrate. Peanut butter and jelly, a very popular sandwich in America, might as well be called peanut butter and sugar. Jelly is full of sugar and so is white bread. While darker breads are better, they’re still refined and contain a lot of carbohydrates.

Aside from causing you to gain weight, excessive consumption of refined carbohydrates suppresses your immune system and causes drastic blood sugar fluctuations that can lead to type 2 diabetes. Furthermore, grains are a common source of refined carbohydrates, and because many people don’t digest them well, they can cause serious gastrointestinal issues.

Moderation is Key

I’m not suggesting that peanuts are an absolutely awful food that you need to avoid at all costs. While I wouldn’t recommend making peanuts a staple of your diet, they’re probably fine in moderation. However, if you choose to eat peanuts, I recommend you make sure that they’re from a quality source, particularly one that tests thoroughly for aflatoxin.

Buy Organic

Conventionally grown crops, including peanuts, are often grown in depleted soil and sprayed with all kinds of chemicals. As a result, they’re less healthy and less resistant to problems such as salmonella contamination. If the chemicals don’t kill the germs, there’s very little chance that the weakened plant will be able to.

Conversely, organic crops are typically grown in rich soil which helps them to grow strong and resist germs and other invaders on their own. As such, they’ll be more resistant to things like mold growth and salmonella contamination. Unfortunately, this common sense is overshadowed by the increased potential for profit that conventional farming practices bring.

Most importantly, this applies to all your food, not just peanuts. Read my article about organic foods to learn why you should buy organic as often as possible.

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