What is peanut oil? Peanut oil, which may be referred to in the UK, is an oil that many people prefer to use when deep-frying. As the name suggests, it is made from the legumes known as peanuts, and one of the things many people know it for is for having a high smoke point -- this is the point at which the oil starts to burn and smoke. For example, refined peanut oil -- a supermarket is where to find peanut oil that is refined -- comes with a smoke point of 450 degrees.
Peanut oil is used quite a bit in the United States, especially when making fried chicken or French fries, and most experts feel that it is the oil of choice. Many people also use peanut oil for Asian cooking. With authentic Asian food, especially in places like China where to find peanut oil that is less refined, the oil will retain a bit more of the peanut protein and therefore producing a stronger taste. Most brands on American shelves generally filter out this taste unless they are sold as organic, which means its protein is usually filtered out too. This works for those with a peanut oil allergy as the allergy is usually due to the proteins.
What is peanut oil and how is it made? Oil mills are typically automated with three primary steps: refining, bleaching and deodorization. These steps, commonly referred to as the RBD process, is the standard way of manufacturing any kind of oil. As previously stated, the refining step works for those who have a peanut oil allergy, and it still maintains a pleasant flavor while remaining low in saturated fats.
One way that the quality of peanut oil can be measured is by evaluating the acid value. However, the acid value of peanut oil should not be very high, or else this will denote a rather high amount of free fatty acids that lead to the oil becoming sour, and discoloration is also known to occur. At most, peanut oil should have an acid value between 3.5 to 4 percent.
Peanut oil is pleasant and sweet flavored, and it comes free of cholesterol, low in saturated fats and it also contains essential omega-6 fatty acids -- linoleic acid -- which makes it one of the best in terms of cooking oils.
Being a vegetable oil, peanut oil is also a good source of plant sterols -- it is especially a great source of β-sitosterol. In fact, the FDA has approved the claim that a food that has at least 0.4 grams of plant sterols per serving eaten two times a day -- making the daily total intake 0.8 grams -- can reduce the risk of heart disease when taken with a diet low in cholesterol and saturated fat. Phyto-sterols completely hinder the way the gut absorbs cholesterol, meaning taking in peanut oil can reduce cholesterol levels by about 10 to 15 percent.
Admittedly, the calories are a bit high in peanut oil. This is because of the fats that are in it. However, it is especially rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, such as oleic acid that is known to lower "bad cholesterol," or LDL, and increase "good cholesterol," or HDL in the blood. Studies have shown that the Mediterranean diet can help prevent heart disease and strokes by favoring monounsaturated fatty acids.
Another thing that peanut oil contains is resveratrol, which is a polyphenol antioxidant. This ingredient is important because studies have shown that it has protective functions against fungal infections, viral infections, Alzheimer's disease, degenerative nerve disease, heart disease and cancers. Studies also suggest that it can help reduce the risk of stroke by altering some of the mechanisms in the molecules of the blood vessels, which reduces the likelihood that the vessels will receive vascular damage due to reduced activity of a systemic hormone called antiotensin that causes the constriction of the blood vessels that elevate blood pressure. It also increases the production of nitric oxide, a vasodilator hormone.
Another item on the list of benefits of peanut oil include containing the anti-oxidant vitamin E. In 100 g of fresh oil, one can find 1.91 mcg of gamma-tocopherol and 15.69 mcg of alpha-tocopherol. Vitamin E is required for maintaining the integrity of cell membrane as a powerful lipid soluble anti-oxidant. It can also protect the skin from harmful free radicals in the oxygen.
Though peanut oil is ripe with benefits, there are a couple of side effects that could affect a person under the wrong circumstances. For example, peanut allergies -- one of the most common of all food allergies in the United States -- affect nearly 3 million Americans. Less refined peanut oil can trigger these allergies, which can result in facial swelling, rash, hives, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, dizziness, vomiting and diarrhea should one eat peanut oil. In cases where medical help is not available, it is possible to pass out and die. Those with peanut allergies must thoroughly read through the food labels so that they can be sure not to consume less refined peanut oils. For added measure, always carry around injectable epinephrine at all times for emergencies.
Aflatoxins are another thing to mention; these belong to a group of fungi that are called mycotoxins. These aflatoxins are known to cause liver cancer in animals and can also have toxic effects in human beings, and it is found in peanuts, as well as cottonseed and corn. Though more developed countries like the United States regularly test peanuts and peanut oil for aflatoxins, third word countries often have outbreaks of acute aflatoxin poisoning. Some symptoms of aflatoxin poisoning include fluid in the lungs, vomiting, abdominal pain, coma, convulsions and ultimately death. Anybody experiencing severe symptoms must immediately seek emergency medical care before the condition worsens.
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