gimme shellter
January 25, 2013 9:49 PM   Subscribe

Is eating peanut shells on a regular basis a bad idea?

I recently discovered that I enjoy eating roasted peanuts shell and all.

My main concern is that the shell might have soaked up too much pesticides and other bad stuff. There's no avoiding pesticides altogether in most people's diets, so I guess my question is, is eating peanut shells more risky in that way than, say, conventionally-grown potatoes or carrots?

I've also read about something called mycotoxin, the evidence around which doesn't seem incredibly compelling (at least in the sense that there is probably something potentially terrifying in most mass-market commercial food products). Does anyone know much on the topic?

I'm not overly concerned about the fiber/digestion aspects of the shell.
posted by threeants to Food & Drink (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I would swear that this exact question came up recently but I'm at a loss to find it. The thing that made me remember the discussion was the mention of deep-fried peanuts, which are fried in the shell and eaten whole; which I had never heard of.
posted by XMLicious at 9:57 PM on January 25, 2013

Perhaps I'm just overly cautious, but I would worry about getting a bezoar.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 10:15 PM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Peanuts are often included in lists I've seen of foods that are most important to eat in the organic version. I have a hunch it's because some of the environments in which conventional farming of peanuts occurs are environments in which heavy pesticide use is required. Why do I think that? It's because for example you cannot find an organic version of the large peanuts that are grown in Virginia because they can't be grown organically in that environment (I've actually asked peanut farms there about it and that's why I know this). Instead, organic peanuts are grown in places like Texas. So if you are eating the shells of conventionally farmed peanuts, logically it seems likely that you are indeed ingesting more pesticide residue than you would ideally want to. Go organic.
posted by Dansaman at 10:37 PM on January 25, 2013

I grew up eating boiled salted peanuts, shell-on. Generations of my family have enjoyed this southern delicacy acquired taste, and nobody has died of peanut poisoning yet. I say you're fine.
posted by Sara C. at 10:43 PM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

The mycotoxin to which you refer is called aflatoxin. It is a serious carcinogen and has a strong link to liver cancer. It isn't just one of those potentially bad things (like, let's say, GMOs, which a lot of people have suspicions and bad feelings about, but haven't been proven to be significantly harmful to your health) - aflatoxin has been proven to be dangerous to human health, although the studies on this are not from the USA so applicability to this population and what we eat is uncertain.

Aflatoxin is the reason why you may have heard that 'natural' peanut butters might not be a good idea as compared to the regular supermarket peanut butter - the process of making the natural peanut butter and the fact that it is made without certain preservatives is thought to encourage the growth of the mold. Getting organically grown peanuts will not protect you from aflatoxin.

The shell of the peanut is porous and is apparently what allows the mold to get through and contaminate the peanut itself. I wasn't able to find any particular references to the amount of the mold in the shell itself but I would suspect it is higher than the amount in the peanuts.

In the US, peanuts are apparently tested for aflatoxin level, although I really don't necessarily trust the FDA to keep these levels to where many consumers might want them to be, at the same time, liver cancer is not common. Then again, eating peanut shells isn't common either.

I would suspect that this is not really a good idea healthwise and that it shouldn't be done unless you know you are getting the peanuts from a source that is both low in pesticides and relatively fresh, i.e. hasn't been stored or lying around for long after being harvested, giving it more time to grow fungus. But you're entitled to have a different risk tolerance than me!
posted by treehorn+bunny at 12:03 AM on January 26, 2013 [6 favorites]

Organic peanuts will probably not protect you from pesticides.
posted by Tanizaki at 5:00 AM on January 26, 2013

I grew up in the south and ate boiled/fried peanuts all the time, along with everyone else I knew, and have never heard of this being a health issue.
posted by bradbane at 10:11 AM on January 26, 2013

Aflatoxin is the reason why you may have heard that 'natural' peanut butters might not be a good idea as compared to the regular supermarket peanut butter

On the other hand, the fact that there is "natural" peanut butter on every supermarket shelf in America should inform you as to the level of danger.

It's one of those things that might be bad for you, but so are a lot of other things. It's not so bad for you that the FDA has felt the need to step in despite many decades of the product's existence on supermarket shelves.

If you're one of those people who doesn't eat X, Y, or Z foods because of potentially carcinogenic properties, you might want to avoid peanut shells. If you're one of those people who regularly consumes hotdogs and/or diet coke, I wouldn't worry about it.
posted by Sara C. at 10:52 AM on January 26, 2013

« Older Getting good electronic dance music in Vancouver...   |   How do I take the best care of my favorite leather... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.