Research has shown that nuts are good for you. And the best nut for you is our good old moongphali or shengdana- the humble little groundnut.
Shengdana is not native to India. This ancient nut was first cultivated in South America almost 8000 years ago. It was introduced to India by the Portugese, possibly during the 17th century. Today, India is the second largest producer of groundnuts.
Technically, the groundnut is not a nut, it’s actually a bean. And what’s the difference? A nut is a dried fruit. A bean is a seed. Unless you’re a botanist, the details are unimportant.
What is important is the fact that Shengdana packs a whole lot of nutrients in one cheap, compact package. It is truly a remarkable super-food.
During my corporate days, I did a lot of R&D on groundnuts. These little fellows are rich in antioxidants. Until recently, expensive strawberries and blueberries were considered prime sources of antioxidants. But, our desi shengdana has been shown to be superior to these exotic nuts. Groundnuts are also a source of resveratrol. This phytochemical is a hot item in nutraceuticals. Resveratrol is linked to increased life-spans and reduction in cardiovascular disease, but there’s no conclusive evidence yet.
Moongphali has nutrients like niacin (good for your brain), vitamin E (good for your heart), co-enzyme Q10 (potent antioxidant), magnesium (good for your bones) and a high amount of protein. Groundnuts, in fact, have the highest protein content compared to other nuts, including costly almonds and pistachios.
Groundnuts are high in fat but they are free from trans-fats that are linked to cholesterol problems. Groundnut oil is a healthier cooking medium than Saffola and rice-bran oil.
There are many ways to enjoy shengdana – roasted, boiled in salt water, as a chutney, as a curry, in the form of peanut butter, and my favorite, as chikki. Traditional chikki, that is chikki made with molasses, is much better for you than videshi chocolates and candies.
Roasting groundnuts increases their nutrient value. But avoid branded roasted peanuts. They are all high in salt and contain preservatives. Best thing to do is to roast them at home, and add a pinch of salt or chat masala. Or better yet, add chopped onions, coriander leaves, green chillies, and really enjoy. Same applies to branded chikki. Usually they contain glucose syrup and that’s not good for you. Make them at home in the traditional way – and send me some!
Important note: If you have a peanut allergy, please disregard this entire blogpost. If you think you might have a peanut allergy or if someone closely related to you does, please talk to your doctor first.
Another important note: Badly stored peanuts can get infected with fungi and produce aflatoxins that can make you really ill. Peanuts must be stored in their shells, away from light, in a dry place. Raw unshelled peanuts are susceptible to fungal infection, if they are kept in the open in humid conditions. As a rule, avoid buying raw unshelled peanuts that are not sold in sealed packages.