Many people have been awakened to the hidden dangers lurking in vegetable oils like canola, soy, or corn oil, and have now switched to healthful alternatives such as olive oil and coconut oil. Nut oils are also becoming popular, with peanut oil being among the most popular.
However, there are certain factors to consider before using peanut oil, especially for cooking. Keep on reading to learn more.
What Is Peanut Oil?
A sweet and flavorful edible oil, peanut oil, also called groundnut oil, is made from Arachis hypogea, a low-growing, annual plant that is the lone member of the Fabaceae (Leguminosae) family. Despite the word “nut” in its name, peanut is actually a legume and grows underground, as opposed to other nuts like walnuts and almonds, which grow on trees (hence are called tree nuts).1, 2
Peanut was said to have originated in South America. The Incans of Peru used peanuts as sacrificial offerings, and placed them alongside their mummies to aid in the spirit life. Tribes in Central Brazil also made a beverage from ground peanuts and maize European explorers brought the plant to North America, Asia, and Africa, where it became widely cultivated. Today, the top three producers of peanut are India, China, and the United States.3
Peanut kernels are eaten fresh or roasted, or used in cooking and confectionery. However, they are also transformed into an edible oil with a pleasing aroma and flavor. Peanut oil can be either (1) cold-pressed, which has a deep yellow color and a pleasant nutty aroma and sweet flavor, or (2) refined, which is light yellow, has a neutral taste, and is devoid of allergens and impurities.4 You can also buy roasted peanut oil, which has a deeper flavor and color, and is best used for flavoring, drizzled over dishes, or added to dressings, sauces, and marinades.5
Uses of Peanut Oil
Peanut oil is currently one of the most popular oils used in the kitchen, as it can be used for frying, sautéing, or simply adding a mild nutty flavor to dishes. It’s commonly used in Asian cultures, such as in China, Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia.6
Refined peanut oil has a neutral taste and does not taint or absorb the flavor of the foods cooked in it. In fact, multiple food types can be cooked in the same batch of peanut oil without cross-contaminating the flavors.7
But before you liberally use this oil for cooking, please remember that it has a high percentage of omega-6 fats, which can upset your omega 3:6 ratio and wreck your health. I advise you to limit your use of it for cooking or frying, and preferably to use it without heating.
Coconut oil is a healthier cooking oil choice. Not only it is stable enough to resist heat-induce damage, but it also contains high amounts of saturated fats, which are essential to your health.
Peanut oil can also be used for aromatherapy. Here are some easy ways to use it:8
- As a massage oil to energize your body and help alleviate achy joint and muscles.
- To get rid of acne, mix a few drops of peanut oil with two to three drops of lime juice. Peanut oil works for both natural skin and dry skin, and also helps protect your skin from blackheads.
- To treat dandruff. Simply mix a tablespoon of peanut oil with a few drops of tea tree oil and lemon juice, and then apply to your scalp. Leave on for two to three hours and rinse with shampoo and water. This edible oil also helps reduce protein loss, thickens your hair, adds moisture to split ends, and regenerates your damaged hair.
- To moisturize your lips. Brush your lips with a soft toothbrush for three to four minutes, wipe with a cotton ball dipped in warm water until smooth, and then massage peanut oil onto your lips.
Composition of Peanut Oil
The high oil content in peanuts is mostly composed of unsaturated fatty acids, over 75 percent. The most predominant are the monounsaturated fats oleic acid (48 percent) and omega-6 linoleic acid (34 percent). It also contains saturated fat, but at lower levels — just 18 percent. Peanut oil’s proportion of fatty acids is nutritionally similar to olive oil — high in monounsaturated fats, dominated by oleic acid, and low in saturated fats.9, 10
Peanut oil has an extensive shelf life, provided it is stored properly. Cold-pressed peanut oil can last for a year, while refined peanut oil can stay fresh for up to 18 months. Store it in a cool, dry place, away from sunlight.11
Benefits of Peanut Oil
If used in moderation and in its unheated form, peanut oil can have a multitude of benefits for your health. This edible oil is a natural tonic that helps boost immunity and invigorates your entire body.12
It has high levels of polyphenol antioxidants that help eliminate free radicals, which cause chronic diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.13 Resveratrol, one of the potent antioxidants in peanut oil, can also interact with various hormones such as angiotensin, which helps constrict blood vessels and arteries, decreasing blood pressure and reducing stress on your cardiovascular system.
Peanut oil may also provide benefits to your heart because of its monounsaturated fatty acid content (oleic acid), which help lower your bad cholesterol levels while increasing your good cholesterol. This helps prevent cardiac-related ailments, such as coronary artery disease, heart attacks, strokes, and atherosclerosis.14
If applied topically, peanut oil may help promote skin health, as it is rich in vitamin E. It also protects against free radicals that cause wrinkles, blemishes, and other signs of premature aging.15
How to Make Peanut Oil
Peanut oil can be either refined or cold-pressed from peanut kernels. This is how the oils sold in your local stores are made. However, you can make your own peanut oil at home. Here’s what to do:16
3 cups shelled organic peanuts
3 tbsp. warm water
- De-hull the peanuts and clean them thoroughly in warm water.
- Put the peanuts in a blender with three tablespoons of warm water and blend until smooth, like peanut butter.
- Pour this mixture in a bowl and cover. Refrigerate it for 24 hours, which will allow the oil to rise. This will produce at least one cup of oil.
- Pour the oil into a strainer over a bowl, separating the oil from the peanut mixture.
- Transfer the oil to a jar, seal tightly with a lid, and refrigerate.
Tip: use the leftover peanut mixture to make homemade peanut butter.
How Does Peanut Oil Work?
Peanut oil can be applied topically on your skin, blended with other essential oils, or ingested (in moderation). Aside from its rich nutrient profile, peanut oil penetrates well in your body and in your circulatory system. This makes it an ideal carrier oil for other more potent essential oils.17
Is Peanut Oil Safe?
Despite its wealth of uses, peanut oil is not safe for everybody. This is because peanuts contain allergens and account for majority of severe food-related allergic reactions.18
If you have (or suspect that you have) a peanut allergy, I advise you to avoid consuming peanut oil, even in very small amounts and DO NOT apply it topically. Also, keep in mind that peanut oil is added to certain foods, so always read the label when grocery shopping. If you’re dining out, ask your server to check if your food contains or is cooked with peanut or groundnut oil.
However, research shows that highly refined peanut oil, which has all of its allergic proteins removed, may not cause these severe effects. So if you have peanut allergy, you may opt for refined peanut oil.19 It is best to consult your physician before doing so.
I also advise pregnant women and nursing moms to use peanut oil with caution. Consult your healthcare provider to find out if it is safe for you and your infant. If you have sensitive skin, do a skin patch test before using this oil topically.
Side Effects of Peanut Oil
Anaphylaxis is a dangerous and sometimes deadly side effect of peanut oil. If you have a peanut allergy and have unknowingly ingested or used peanut oil, you may experience severe side effects, such as vomiting, pain in the abdomen, swollen lips and throat, difficulty breathing, and chest congestion. Seek emergency healthcare immediately, as this can be fatal.20