Peanuts are said to be healthy, which gives us a good excuse to have a guilt-free PB&J snack break. But, is peanut oil healthy? For quite a while now, fats have been the villain. Oils are portrayed to be a nutrition-less, inefficient source of energy, irrespective of their type or the requirement of your body. The science-backed flipside of this scenario is that the good kind of fats, in moderate amounts, are important for your body. Does peanut oil provide the ‘good’ fats? What about your peanut allergy? Or is it better to ditch it in favor of ‘healthier’ options?
What is Peanut Oil?
Peanut oil is also known as arachis oil or groundnut oil. While they are classified as legumes, the pods grow under the soil, thus the classification and title ‘groundnut’. Ideally, it is supposed to be the oil extracted from the crushing the nuts which are found inside the pods. However, some processes involve oil extraction without shelling, which might not extract all available oil effectively.
While it is widely used in South and South East Asian cuisine, it has also been prevalent in Europe and America in the past century. It is used in various cooking methods, especially frying. The oil retains a distinct flavor and has a smoke point of 229.4 °C, which makes it suitable for the purpose of deep frying. However, it is also used in salad dressings.
Types of Peanut Oil
Commercially available peanut oils are majorly classifiable into two types:
- Filtered peanut oil: Staying true to the traditional process of oil extraction, filtered peanut oil is cold-pressed and then the impurities or suspended particles are filtered out. The processing is minimal, if any, and this is closer the flavor of peanuts.
- Refined peanut oil: Here, the oil is chemically processed to remove physical impurities as well as any toxicity left behind. However, this treatment also washes away the distinct flavor and aroma of the oil, thus leaving it cleansed.
Is Peanut Oil Healthy for You?
According to the USDA, peanut oil contains 120 calories per tablespoon (14 grams). It also contains monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats which are the ‘good’ kind of fats and lower the risk of diseases. It also includes some amount of saturated fats which are best consumed in moderation. The American Heart Association suggests that approximately 13 grams out of your 2000 calories daily limit could be made of saturated fat.
Fats are generally vilified, but we cannot ignore the facts that are an essential nutrient group. On the other hand, we also need to remember that fats cannot replace the other nutrients and need to be consumed in moderation.
Peanut oil is considered appropriate for deep frying as well as stir-frying, roasting, as well as baking. According to the comparisons with other oils made by the Iowa State University, the healthy fat content of this oil is comparable to canola and sesame oil and is better than animal fat or palm oil.
Peanut Oil and Peanut Allergy
If you have a peanut allergy, it is natural to wonder if peanut oil is healthy for you or not. To sum it up, refined peanut oil is good enough, even if you have a peanut allergy. It will not cause your body to react as it might to peanuts. However, the same cannot be said about unrefined or filtered peanut oil. However, even these reactions could be mild, or not as extreme as with peanuts directly. But it is best to seek medical advice before including peanut-derived products if you suffer from an allergy.
Is peanut oil healthy for everyone? Yes, there needs to be a certain amount of fats in your diet and peanut oil is a good source of healthy fats. You do not have to stick to peanut oil and can switch it up with sesame, coconut, rice bran, or any such suitable oils. It is advisable to consider your health needs as well as what goes well with your ingredients. People with peanut allergy should tend towards refined peanut oil, if at all.