Peanuts, peanut oil, peanut butter…we love our peanuts, don’t we? I’m risking some serious backlash here when I say that peanuts simply aren’t the most nutritious choice as far as nuts go (they’re not actually nuts, anyway). But give me a moment and I’ll explain the reasons why I mostly avoid peanuts, and then I’ll share a super tasty almond sauce recipe.
First things first: Peanuts are not nuts.
They’re legumes. Which means they contain certain compounds or “anti-nutrients” (phytates, saponins, lectins) that can impair mineral absorption, interfere with digestion, and damage the gut lining. I talked a little about the indigestible, fart-causing carbohydrates in legumes here (and also the fact that legumes are not a great protein source!). For now, though, let’s focus on just one of these compounds.
All legumes contain this problematic protein, but peanuts contain a particular type of lectin that’s not destroyed by heat. In other legumes (ie. beans), lectins can be destroyed with proper cooking, but in peanuts – no can do, sadly. The lectins in peanuts are incredibly resilient. They’re resistant to digestion, so when they reach the small intestine they’re mostly still intact. This is nothing but bad news. When undigested foods get into the bloodstream, they create an immune response, sparking systemic inflammation. Perhaps this little peanut lectin is the reason behind all the peanut allergies everywhere? Hmm.
Yikes, that doesn’t sound good, does it?
For whatever reason, peanuts are particularly susceptible to this fungal toxin found in the soil. (Remember that peanuts grow underground – not like regular tree nuts.) Alfatoxin, in large doses, has been shown to cause liver damage and liver cancer. Children are more at risk than adults; early exposure has been found to be associated with stunted growth. Not really pleasant things to think about.
As a side note, corn and cottonseed are other highly alfatoxin-contaminated crops. It can also be found in the milk of animals fed contaminated feed – another reason to avoid conventional, corn-fed cows.
Should we eat peanuts?
Truthfully, there’s so much more that can be said about peanuts…but I really dislike long blog posts, so I’ll just leave you with these few points to think about for now. As with all food, you are the one that gets to experiment and discover what works for you and what might be hindering you.
As for me, I generally avoid peanuts and peanut butter, although if I find myself having a few peanuts a couple times a year, I don’t sweat it. (I’ve found it’s best not to feel guilty about my food choices.) Besides, I like other nuts like almonds and cashews so much more than peanuts!
Now for the good stuff…if you’re someone who loves peanut sauce, you’re going to love this recipe. I use it for stir frys, but you could of course use it as a dipping sauce, or wherever else you would use peanut sauce.
This is my (only slightly) adapted version of the peanut sauce in the Rebar cookbook:
¼ cup plain (unsalted) almond butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 TBSP fresh ginger, minced
2 TBSP honey (or try maple syrup)
¼ cup cilantro leaves, minced
Juice of 1 lime (lemon works too)
1 TBSP sesame oil
1 tsp sambal oelek (spicy and optional – avoid if it contains sugar or other questionable ingredients)
¼ cup coconut aminos (or organic wheat-free tamari)
2 TBSP rice wine vinegar
Mix all ingredients together, either by hand or in a food processor. Voila!
You can choose to marinade your stir fry meat in this sauce ahead of time, or simply add the sauce to your stir fry as it’s cooking. If you’re trying to stir this sauce into your stir fry and it all seems too thick, add a little warm water or other liquid (broth, coconut milk, more coconut aminos, etc). Then cover and let everything steam until done.
Serve your stir fry over cauli-rice, and enjoy!
Do you love peanuts and peanut butter? Have you read anything else about peanuts that you found interesting? What other nuts and nut butters do you like?
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