Peanut oil is the oil of the seed – or nut – of peanut bushes. Peanuts originated in Central America and today are grown throughout Latin America, Asia and the Middle East. With its sweet, nutty flavour and light texture, peanut oil is becoming a popular and tasty choice for cooks all around the world. Peanut oil is also one of the healthiest vegetable oils available: it’s completely free from trans fats and cholesterol and contains minimal amounts of saturated fats. Also of interest to health-conscious users is the fact that it contains high levels of monounsaturated fat, which has a host of health benefits. Peanut oil is also a rich source of vitamin E and heart-protecting phytosterols. Peanut oil is prized for use in deep-frying food as it can reach a very high temperature and it doesn’t absorb any of the flavours of the food it’s been used to fry – it’s very common to see street food vendors in Asia using it.
Who could benefit from using peanut oil?
I. Women at risk from breast cancer
A recent Swedish study found that a diet rich in monounsaturated fats could help to protect against breast cancer.
II. People suffering from high cholesterol
Peanut oil doesn’t contain any cholesterol, so it’s a great choice for people trying to lower their levels of blood cholesterol.
III. Those combating heart disease and strokes
Monounsaturated fats can help improve heart health and reduce the risk of strokes by encouraging healthy blood circulation.
IV. Arthritis patients
Foods rich in monounsaturated fats, like peanut oil, can help reduce the painful joint inflammation which accompanies arthritis. The antioxidants in peanut oil’s monounsaturated fat, called polyphenols, help to alleviate inflammation by mopping up free radicals.
V. People looking to control their weight
A number of rigorous studies have argued that substituting monounsaturated fats for transfats and polyunsaturated fats can result in weight loss.
VI. Diabetes patients
Saturated fats can have a strong negative effect on insulin sensitivity in diabetes sufferers. The monounsaturated fats found in peanut oil could help to improve insulin sensitivity.
VII. Skin condition sufferers
Peanut oil applied topically to the skin can help reduce soreness, swelling and itching associated with conditions like dry skin, scalp crusting and eczema.
How can I use peanut oil?
Simply use it place of other vegetable or synthetic oils. (Margarine in particular is full of undesirable hydrogenated fats.) Peanut oil is perfect for shallow and deep frying – try using it to sauté some vegetables in a pan at a light temperature.
What peanut oil products are available?
Two different types of peanut oil are commercially available. Refined peanut oil has gone through a number of processes aimed at making it non-allergenic – processes which also remove many of its healthy attributes. 100% “gourmet” peanut oils have not undergone refinement or processing, and retain many of their health benefits, although roasted varieties won’t have as many nutrients of non-roasted varieties. For maximum health benefits make sure that any peanut oils you use list only “100% peanut oil” on the packaging as an ingredient, and be aware of the effect roasting might have. Refined peanut oils are typically a light-yellow colour, tasteless and odourless. Unprocessed gourmet varieties should have a deep yellow colour, a sweet taste and a distinctive nutty smell.
Are they any side-effects to using peanut oils?
Many individuals have allergic reactions to peanut oil, and should therefore exercise extreme caution when using peanut oils. Refined peanut oil products will not cause an allergic response in peanut allergy sufferers.