A New View of Peanuts

Peanuts have been a cocktail or bar snack for decades, and are often referred to as almost a joke, as in “that’s worth peanuts.” Turned into a smooth sandwich spread, peanuts have long been a school-lunch panacea for fussy kids. But for ages, health- and diet-conscious adults have avoided peanuts because of their high-fat content.

Fortunately, we have since learned that peanuts contain many health benefits. They contain healthful monounsaturated fat, which does not raise cholesterol levels, as well as a health-protective phytochemical called resveratrol, which helps protect us against serious chronic health problems like cancer and heart disease. Finally, peanuts are beginning to get respect.

Eating peanuts as a snack is easy, but stopping at the recommended handful (an ounce to one and one-half ounces) is challenging for most of us. One way of avoiding mindless snacking on peanuts is to use them as a garnish a sprinkling of chopped peanuts on salads, for example or using them as one more ingredient to add to stir-fries.

Cooking with peanuts is another easy way to enjoy them without overdoing the quantity. In Asian cooking, a peanut-based sauce is frequently used for noodles or entrées.

You can expand your culinary peanut repertoire with the following African dish. Peanut butter enhances the flavor of its spicy tomato sauce and adds creamy texture. African dishes have lots of heat, but feel free to modify or even omit the chile pepper.

African Chicken Stew - Makes 4 servings

1 lb. skinless and boneless chicken breast, cut in 2-inch pieces
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 Tbsp. grated ginger
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 Tbsp. fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken broth, or water
Canola oil spray
1 Spanish onion, half sliced, half finely chopped
1 can (28 oz.) tomatoes, with juices
1 habanero chile pepper, chopped
1/4 cup ketchup
1/3 cup reduced-fat peanut butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place the chicken in a 1-quart resealable plastic bag. Combine the garlic, ginger, oregano, and broth in a small bowl. Add the seasoning mixture to the bag and massage it to coat the chicken with the seasonings. Marinate in the refrigerator for 6 hours to overnight.

Coat a large Dutch oven with cooking spray and set it over medium-high heat. Sear the chicken pieces until they are white on all sides, about 5 minutes. Transfer them to a plate and set aside.

Coat the pot again with cooking spray. Sauté the sliced onion until limp, 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the tomatoes with half their liquid, the chile pepper and ketchup. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer the sauce 10 minutes, breaking up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon. Blend the peanut butter in the remaining tomato juice until smooth. Add it to the pot. Return the chicken to the pot. Simmer until the chicken is white in the center, about 15 minutes. Serve, accompanied by cooked brown rice.

Per serving: 341 calories, 11 g. total fat (2 g. saturated fat), 25 g. carbohydrate, 33 g. protein, 5 g. dietary fiber, 563 mg. sodium.

The Author:

"Something Different" is written for the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) by Dana Jacobi, author of The Joy of Soy and recipe creator for AICR's Stopping Cancer Before It Starts.

The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) offers a Nutrition Hotline online at www.aicr.org or via phone 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET, Monday - Friday, at 1-800-843-8114. This free service allows you to ask questions about diet, nutrition and cancer. A registered dietitian will respond to your email or call, usually within 3 business days. AICR is the only major cancer charity focusing exclusively on how the risk of cancer is reduced by healthy food and nutrition, physical activity and weight management. The Institute’s education programs help millions of Americans lower their cancer risk. AICR also supports innovative research in cancer prevention and treatment at universities, hospitals and research centers across the U.S. Over $82 million in funding has been provided. AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International.

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