Here we have the number 1 of the 14 regulated food allergens in Europe: the peanut.
Who doesn't know it? The peanut, also known as groundnut, monkey nut, earthnut, or oil nut. Dutch people have grown up with peanut butter sandwiches, and we also enjoy a bowl of peanuts with drinks or tasty satay sauce often.
On the other hand, peanuts are infamous as one of the most allergenic products in the world. Allergic reactions to peanuts can be severe and can even lead to an anaphylactic shock.
But what is a peanut exactly? Below are the key points summarized.
What is a peanut?
A peanut is often mistaken for a nut, but from a botanical perspective, it is a legume. The reason peanuts are still classified as nuts is because they closely resemble nuts in taste and composition.
Where does the peanut grow?
The peanut plant originates from South America, and peanuts in the Netherlands mainly come from China, Argentina, and the US.
Peanuts grow underground, hence the name groundnut.
Nutritional value of peanut
Peanuts are nutritional powerhouses. They are rich in protein, healthy fats, fiber, and various vitamins and minerals. Some important nutrients found in peanuts are:
- Protein: Peanuts are an excellent source of plant-based protein, making them ideal for vegetarians and vegans.
- Unsaturated Fats: The healthy fats in peanuts contribute to a balanced diet and support a healthy heart.
- Fiber: Fiber is essential for a healthy digestion and can help regulate blood sugar levels.
- Vitamins and Minerals: Peanuts contain vitamin E, B vitamins, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc, all of which play important roles in the body.
This makes peanuts a great addition to a healthy diet. The recommended daily intake for adults is at least 15 grams of unsalted nuts (including peanuts). In the Netherlands, we consume an average of 3 grams, so there's room for improvement!
Health benefit of peanuts
Incorporating peanuts into your diet can offer various health benefits:
1. Heart Health: The unsaturated fats in peanuts can help lower cholesterol levels, benefiting your heart.
2. Weight Management: The combination of protein and fiber in peanuts can promote a feeling of fullness, contributing to weight management.
3. Diabetes Control: Peanuts have a low glycemic index, which can help stabilize blood sugar levels.4. Antioxidants: Peanuts contain antioxidants like vitamin E, protecting the body against harmful free radicals.
5. Nutritious Snack: A handful of peanuts can be a great snack option, packed with energy and nutrients.
Number 1 food allergen
However, peanuts also top the list of food allergens in Europe, responsible for 20-25% of all food allergies. Additionally, the number of people with a peanut allergy has doubled over the past 10 years.
Peanut Allergy in Children
2% of children in Western countries are allergic to peanuts, and unfortunately, only 20% outgrow their peanut allergy. That's why it's crucial to introduce this allergen early to reduce the risk of an allergy!
Cross reactions with peanut
Cross-reactions occur in people with a peanut allergy when consuming the following products:
- 5% risk of allergy to other legumes (peas, lentils, beans, soybeans, lupin)
- 7% risk of allergy to nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, cashews)
What does a label say if it has peanut in it?
The following peanut names can be found on a label:
- Earth or Arachide
- Protein hydrolyzate
- Natural aroma
- Oil Nut
Heating and peanuts
A roasted peanut is often more allergenic than a cooked one, but the allergen remains stable during heating.
In addition to regular peanuts, peanut oil, or arachis oil, is also consumed. Freshly pressed oils like stir-fry oil contain peanut allergens. Highly heated oils (refined oils), commonly used in ointments and medicines, are safe. So the Vitamin D drops for your baby & child that some brands contain arachis oil are safe.
Where can you find peanuts?
Peanuts are found in many products, so you should always read the label carefully. See below a list that may contain peanuts:
- Aromas and herbal preparations
- Baking and roasting products
- drink nuts
- Chili con carne
- Ice cream
- Ready-to-eat dishes
- Herb mixes
- M&M's/chocolate peanuts
- Mixtures of seeds and kernels
- Oriental dishes (Chinese and Thai cuisine)
- Vegetable fat/ oil
- Vegetarian meat substitutes
Preventing peanut allergy
By introducing peanuts early and frequently to your baby, you can reduce the risk of a peanut allergy by 8%. Use our my first peanut products to provide peanuts to your baby in a healthy, safe, and easy way.