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08 Dec 2010

Jungle Peanut or Peanut from the Jungle? Health Benefits of Peanuts

Nutrition, Organic Foods, Superfoods, Sustainability, Travel 3 Comments

Jungle Peanuts (Arachis hypogaea L.) of the leguminous plant family fabaceae are from the western Amazon, and grow in the present territories of the Shuar-Ashuar communities.  They are found primarily in Northern Peru and most of the southern part of Ecuador.

Health Benefits of Peanuts

The jungle peanut is believed to be an ancient ancestor of the common peanut, with variation in flavor, size, morphology, and organoleptic specifications due to its adaptation to the bio-diverse environment of the Amazonian ecosystem.  Other ancient relatives of the peanut are thought to have first domesticated in what is now the north Argentinan-Bolivian border.

Nutrition ~ Health Benefits of Peanuts

Although many websites offer exaggerated claims about the uniqueness in the high levels of certain nutrients, the fact is that its nutritional profile is very similar to the common peanut.  High levels of Oleic Acid, a monosaturated omega-9 lipid claimed to be one of the main health benefits of  jungle peanuts, is shared with the common peanut in which 40-50% of the lipid content is monosaturated of which 90-95% is oleic acid.

Health Benefits of Peanuts compared to the Jungle Peanut

Protein content is another over-exaggerated claim about this peanut,ranging anywhere from 14-25%, which is basic in comparison with the common peanut. There is a claim that this peanut contains all the essential amino acids, especially methionine, a hard-to-find amino acid known as a methyl donor, one of two sulfur-containing amino acids obtained from S-adenosyl Methionine intermediate in phospholipid’s creation.  Despite the claims, no actual laboratory nutrient profile analysis has been presented by any company claiming this fact.  All common peanuts present a high protein profile of 20-35% depending on variety.

Health Benefits of Peanuts

One important component of the profile of any health benefits of peanuts is niacin or B3, a water soluble vitamin member of the B-complex family known for its high potential to stimulate blood flow, including to the brain. It has been found that in only 100 grams of the common Valencia peanut a person can cover 80-85% of their daily requirements. No actual laboratory nutritional break-down has been presented by any company presently offering the jungle peanuts; it is unclear to know what percentages are present of B-complex or any other nutrient is in the jungle peanut.

Resveratrol, a polyphenol found most commonly in the skin of grapes or other deep-colored fruits and vegetables, such as purple corn, açai and plums, etc.  (so there are health benefits of peanuts and raisins). It is known through extensive laboratory research done in the Institute of Genetics, Molecular and Cellular Biology in Illkirch, France that ounce per ounce, common peanuts contain up to 30 times more resveratrol than grapes. There is no actual proof of this for jungle peanuts, due to lack of credible analysis.

Q10 is a ubiquinone responsible as an intermediary in the respiration process carried out in eukaryotes mitochondria. Sources where most of the body’s ATP is created has been found in significant amounts in common peanuts. The exact levels found in jungle peanuts have yet to be properly analyzed.

The lack of transparency on the behalf of present sellers of the jungle peanut leads to doubt on the behalf of the potential buyer; however, some websites swear by the high levels of nutrients and uniqueness of the product, making it appear attractive. Actual
simple scientific lab analyses have yet to be presented to prove the claims.

Allergies and inhibitors

It is well understood that all plants generate defense mechanisms required to ward off dangerous diseases and to protect them against environmental stresses.

This, in turn, leads to a certain degree of contraindicatory response on behalf of the consumer, greater or lesser depending on the person.

Aflatoxin is the most common antinutrient found in common foods such as corn, beans, and other grains. Very common in peanuts, the aflatoxin is a mycotoxin, meaning it is a byproduct of a fungus that holds a certain degree of health danger for a human being or animal. The degree to which a crop gets contaminated depends mainly on environmental and post-harvest handling, storage, and logistics. Humidity, exposure to high temperatures, and contact with infected mediums are the main causes for contamination. It is almost impossible to obtain a product 100% aflatoxin-free because fungi are ubiquitous and can travel in spores not detectable with the naked eye. Somehow there are claims that the Jungle Peanut is aflatoxin-free.  If this were to prove true it would really be exciting news since there are hundreds of thousands of people suffering from severe allergic reaction to peanuts. Aflatoxin can cause severe liver damage as well as lower immunity.  It can alter digestive health and create a host of other problems.

Does Roasting Contribute to the Health Benefits of Peanuts?

Roasting as is the common practice in North America, leads to an increase in the trypsin inhibitor allergen Ara h2 and Ara h1. Jungle Peanuts are, for the most part recommended to be eaten raw, or presoaked or sprouted.  This calls to mind IP6, familiar to some people as a strong antioxidant.  Also known as Phytic Acid, this can lead to enzyme inhibition in the digesting of peanuts. Due to its high oil content, anaerobic digestive conditions it can lead to serious prolonged intoxication due to oil rancidity.  All of these common problems in digestibility and nutrient conversion and assimilation within the metabolic pathways within the body need to be validated again through laboratory analysis to prove the absence of or amount found in these jungle peanuts.

So why all the fuss? As is the case with most exotic and familiar products, there is still untapped potential in the jungle peanut.  We know so little about so many foods, much of which is due to a lack of interest in the investigation process.

This beautiful place grows jungle peanuts… imagine the health benefits of peanuts grown here…

Consider that we still don’t know half of what we think we know about a common apple. We know even less of the remote products, typically only encountered by westerners on television via National Geographic.   These foods do not grow in the center of the tourist areas, but exist in pseudo-isolation.  In an ironic twist of nature, the products’ very remoteness often contributes to its richness.  There, the products may grow in their natural habitat, comforted by the climate, surroundings, and place in the food chain that it has occupied since their creation.

Once abundant, the original peanut flourished at the borders between Bolivia, Paraguay, and Argentina.  Now the species most closely related to ancient peanut relatives is nearly impossible to find growing in the wild.

Botanists fear that the wild jungle peanut will soon be extinct, providing another reminder that the rainforest is suffering and being lost at an alarming rate.

More and more, native South Americans are forced to leave their regions, traveling to large cities or even international destinations in order to seek a better life.  The result is that the rainforest is left alone, defenseless, and easily exploited.  Enriching the local environment with native species and generating a market for the sale of local products could effectively provide enough income to allow native populations to stay in their homelands.  Increased transparency of both marketing and scientific information is necessary for the successful creation of strong local food markets in the eco-regions of the world.  This potent product could find a niche in the already-established peanut market, where superficial nutritional variations do very well. With the added nutrient content in the wild species, great potential for preventative health benefits for humans, animals, and Earth may find its way into the peanut market yet.



3 Responses to “Jungle Peanut or Peanut from the Jungle? Health Benefits of Peanuts”

  1. Steven Oddo says:

    Very informative, Miguel. Tell me, based upon cumulative inference of fact and shadowy areas of speculative conjecture, do you think it is safe to consume “jungle peanuts”. I have consumed them and do notice no real allergic responses such as I do experience when consuming common organic peanuts. Also, do you think rancidity within the nuts themselves is of great concern, nearly half the fat seems comprised of Monosaturated which is generally more stable. Anyway, thanks again for your thoughts in advance and for the information!

  2. Miguel Berumen says:

    Dear Steven, thank you for your reply and I hope you are having a wonderful start of 2011. To answer your questions, I absolutely believe that it is safe to consume the ¨Jungle Peanuts¨ actually if you go to South America (Ecuador, Colombia, Peru) they simply call them ¨mani¨ peanut and as a matter of fact they are scientifically named ¨Arachis Hypogea L.¨ exactly the same scientific name as regular peanuts. But through our experiences and extensive work with experts in the field of agronomy, silviculture, anthropology, history, genetics, botany etc. we have all agreed that being an ancient relative of the common ¨domesticated¨peanut it does have different characteristics one is that in contrast to the common peanut. Mani actually relies on endophytes to protect it self rather than aflatoxins found in the common peanut also further research need to be completed, but it is believed that particular coloration in the peanut is due to a possibility of having higher Proanthocyanidins or other un classified antioxidant. With regard to the oil, you took the words out of my mouth, the Oleic acid (monosaturated) found in the peanut is very stable, consider that in the hot humid jungle the oils usually found in the fruits, seed, nuts need to maintain themselves under these extreme circumstances. Hope this helps you and please don´t hesitate to ask away, and please direct friends to our web site so we can grow our community thank you

  3. Jeff says:

    Your video is incredible. It was packed with nutrician, humor and you are captivating. I see you on the Discovery channel or Oprah’s network in less than a year.

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