Peanut: the Universal nut

What would be a bowl of Lemon Rice or Puliyogare or a cone of Jhal Muri or a pop of Chiwda without the peanut? “Boring” just about encapsulates it. In Bengal, peanuts are often called “Chini Baadaam” or “Chinese almonds” because they’re far more affordable than the nut they are used instead of. However, the peanut isn’t just any old substitute. It comes with a plethora of nutritional benefits of its own.

Peanuts or groundnuts as they are more commonly known in India, originally hail from South America but there is some debate about the trail they followed to India—some believe they came with the Jesuit priests who followed Vasco da Gama while others believe they came to us via China. It was not until the 19th century, however, that peanuts enjoyed vast domestication, primarily in southern India. Isn’t this surprising, considering that India is now counted amongst the world leaders in peanut production!

Among oilseeds, peanuts are the largest source of edible oils in India. In terms of protein content, peanuts beat milk and eggs hollow (milk at 3.3% and eggs 13.3%) with a rich 25.3%. It is no wonder, therefore, that it is considered a great vegetarian source of protein, easily accessible to all social strata. Peanuts also have a low glycemic index, and contrary to popular perception, are acceptable to diabetics. They are also full of heart-healthy mono-unsaturated fats, which make them favorable for the cholesterol-conscious as well. Needless to say, the manner and proportion in which one consumes these nuts is vital to their benefits. Here are a few ideas in which you can easily incorporate peanuts in your diet:

  • Add roasted peanuts whole in salads or ground to a powder as a topping.
  • Carry squares of peanut chikki to munch on when on the go
  • Eat boiled peanuts as a snack, tossed with onions, tomatoes, cucumbers and chutneys of choice
  • Use peanuts or peanut butter in your bakes—they add texture and nutrition to cakes, cookies and bread
  • Add peanuts to stir fried vegetables for texture (whole or coarsely ground) or in daals and kadhis for a different dimension of flavor.

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