5 Myths about Peanuts

Peanuts and peanut foods bring together the three most important decision factors for everyone to make better food choices – nutrition, cost, and most importantly taste.  However, there are myths out there that can bring on skepticism and lead people to think that they should sacrifice their favorite peanut foods for other foods that they mistakenly think are more nutritious. 

We’re here to provide clarification to some of the myths out there, including:

MYTH 1: Peanuts are a source of mold and therefore are bad for you.

Every load of peanuts is rigorously tested for safety, including aflatoxin, and those that don’t meet the standard set by USDA are not used for our favorite peanut foods.  Moreover, farmers take great pains to ensure that peanuts are grown in the safest way possible.

According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA): To date, there has never been a human illness outbreak caused by aflatoxins in the US, where foods are carefully regulated and inspected to prevent such an occurrence.”[1]

Dr. Andrew Craig with the American Peanut Council shares more about aflatoxin and the rigorous risk reduction in this post: https://nationalpeanutboard.org/news/mythbusters-peanuts-and-aflatoxin.htm

MYTH 2: There are GMO peanuts.

Spoiler Alert: There are no GMO peanuts on the market. In fact, the modern-day peanut is 99.9% identical to its ancestors.

It’s easy to be confused about what GMO really means. The U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gives this definition of GMO: “We use the term “genetic engineering (GE)” to refer to genetic modification practices that utilize modern biotechnology. In this process, scientists make targeted changes to a plant’s genetic makeup to give the plant a new desirable trait.” Some confusion comes into play when people mix up the meaning of genetic modification practices (producing GMOs) with traditional plant breeding practices (producing new plant varieties).

To understand the difference and how it applies to peanuts, we talked to an expert peanut research biologist from USDA Agricultural Research Service in Stillwater, Okla., Kelly Chamberlin, Ph.D. Chamberlin has worked nearly two decades as a researcher and breeder developing lines of peanuts adaptable to the Southwestern United States. In 2015, she, along with the ARS Legume Breeding Team, received a Certificate of Merit from USDA Undersecretary at the time Catherine Woteki for the development of a peanut variety that is beneficial to both peanut farmers and peanut fans alike.

Read more about this research: https://nationalpeanutboard.org/wellness/mythbusters-gmo-peanuts.htm

MYTH 3: Other nut butters are a better choice because peanut butter contains additives.

Peanut butter comes in many different varieties to meet every taste and preference, including just peanuts, a little salt, other seasonings and flavors, chocolate, the kind you have to stir and no-stir.  No matter which brand you choose, as long as it’s labeled “peanut butter,” it’s a nutritious option.

In the United States, there’s a standard of identity for peanut butter. According to FDA regulations, for peanut butter to be labeled as peanut butter, it has to contain at least 90 percent peanuts. The only other allowable ingredients are salt, sweeteners and hydrogenated vegetable oils. Fully hydrogenated oil does not contain trans fat and all major brands of peanut butter in the U.S. contain zero grams of trans fat per serving.

Read more about the nutritional differences between natural peanut butter vs. regular peanut butter: https://nationalpeanutboard.org/news/mythbusters-natural-peanut-butter-vs-regular-peanut-butter.htm

MYTH 4: Peanut oil in vaccinations causes peanut allergy.    

Peanut oil is not an ingredient in any US licensed vaccine listed by the Centers for the Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). There is no research that supports a causative relationship between vaccinations and peanut allergies. In fact, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) specifically states on their Vaccination Education Center website that peanut oil, as some people suggest, is not used as a part of vaccinations. The CDC provide excellent information on vaccines at their website, especially regarding their benefits, ingredients, and safety.

There’s a lot of confusion and speculation about what causes food allergies. A recent post on PeanutAllergyFacts.org tackled this issue, in fact, as part of an overall look at why there’s been a rise in food allergies. A recent report released by the National Academies of Science called Finding a Path to Safety in Food Allergy Assessment of the Global Burden, Causes, Prevention, Management, and Public Policy challenges what we think we know about food allergies. With regard to why food allergies develop, report authors say that the contributing factors are poorly understood. However, there are several hypotheses which you can read more about here: http://peanutallergyfacts.org/blog/what-causes-peanut-allergy.

MYTH 5: Peanuts are not a nut. 

USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans classifies peanuts and peanut butter in the nuts and seeds category, which provides nutrients that are vital for health and maintenance of your body [2, 3]. Botanically, peanuts are legumes, which are also packed with nutrition.

Other foods that we commonly eat as nuts also have different botanical definitions. For example, almonds and pistachios are botanical fruits of the drupe [4, 5].


[1] Food and Drug Administration, 2012. Bad Bug Book, Foodborne Pathogenic Micro-organisms and Natural Toxins. 2nd ed.

[2] USDA, 2015. Dietary Guidelines for Americans. "Choose MyPlate." https://www.choosemyplate.gov/myplate/protein-foods/gallery

[3] USDA, 2015. Dietary Guidelines for Americans. "Choose MyPlate." https://www.choosemyplate.gov/protein-foods-nutrients-health

[4] USDA-ARS. National Clonal Germplasm Repository. Tree Fruit & Nut Crops & Grapes. "Prunus." https://www.ars.usda.gov/pacific-west-area/davis-ca/natl-clonal-germplasm-rep-tree-fruit-nut-crops-grapes/docs/prunus-page/main/ Accessed July 13, 2017.

[5] USDA-ARS. National Clonal Germplasm Repository. Tree Fruit & Nut Crops & Grapes. "Pistachia." https://www.ars.usda.gov/pacific-west-area/davis-ca/natl-clonal-germplasm-rep-tree-fruit-nut-crops-grapes/docs/pistachio-page/main/ Accessed July 13, 2017.

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