First things first: Despite their name, peanuts are actually a legume – plants more closely related to beans, lentils, and soybeans. They have no claim at all to the amazing health benefits of true nuts like almonds, walnuts, and macadamia nuts. Once you know that, the rest of the story makes so much more sense!
There are two main reasons that I advise you to give peanuts a pass. The first has to do with their likelihood to provoke a food allergy or sensitivity. The second is the chance that they will contain aflatoxin, a potent byproduct of mold that can cause cancer…
Avoid Allergy Risk
Peanuts are one of the most common food allergens, and peanut allergies are on the rise. In fact, the number of children diagnosed with peanut allergies tripled between 1997 and 2008.1 As a result, while PB&J used to be a lunchtime staple, many schools have banned peanuts outright because of the danger they pose.
The potential inflammatory effects of peanuts aren’t limited to kids, and even adults without a true allergy can still develop a sensitivity to peanuts after repeated exposure. Signs of food sensitivities include weight gain, skin trouble, joint pain, headaches, fatigue, and digestive upset. (I’ll take almond butter over those symptoms any day!)
Aflatoxins are chemicals produced by certain types of mold. They’re commonly found in crops like peanuts that are stored in bulk in hot, humid conditions. Aflatoxins have been linked to liver cancer, as well as stunted growth in children.2-3
Aflatoxins are more common in peanuts grown and harvested outside the United States. However, avoiding peanuts is just common sense when it also means avoiding a potential risk of cancer and danger to your overall health!
A Better Option
Swapping peanuts for true nuts like almonds, walnuts, and cashews is also a better choice nutritionally. These nuts provide a range of omega-3 fatty acids, which can boost your brain and heart health, as well as help naturally lower cholesterol.
Looking for a yummy way to start life without peanuts? Check out this recipe for homemade Cinnamon Almond Butter or this scrumptious, chocolatey Cacao-Nut Butter. Going peanut-free tastes great, and you’ll be surprised by how quickly you and your family adjust to life without these potentially harmful legumes.
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1 Sicherer SH, Munoz-Furlong A, Godbold JH, Sampson HA. US prevalence of self-reported peanut, tree nut, and sesame allergy: 11-year follow-up. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2010; 125(6):1322-6.