Can you eat peanut shells?

In this article, I will answer the question: “Can you eat peanut shells?” and I will highlight the risks related to its consumption and provide useful tips to use it for a variety of purposes.

Can you eat peanut shells?

Yes you can eat peanut shells, but this is not recommended. 

Peanuts are one of America’s favorite snack foods. It is high in vitamins, protein, and fiber. Although peanut shells can be consumed, they may contain chemicals and cause digestive problems. 

It has been found that peanut hull, peanut skin, peanut leaves, and stems are all nutrients rich parts of the crop with their own functional component and all parts of the peanut contain resveratrol from the roots to the skin and even the shell. Resveratrol is a polyphenol antioxidant which has been found to have protective function against cancers, heart disease, degenerative nerve disease, Alzheimer’s disease, tumor and inflammation  (1).

While the idea of eating peanut shells may not have occurred to you, some individuals actually enjoy this unique food. Those looking for a healthier alternative to chips and pretzels may be tempted to the crunch or saltiness of peanut shells. However, before including peanut shells into your daily diet, you should think about the potential health dangers.

What peanut shells are made of?

Peanut shells consist of cellulose (48 wt%), hemicellulose (3 wt%) and lignin (28 wt%).

Peanut hulls are largely made up of fiber, with crude fiber content often exceeding 60% of DM. A peanut shell has very little nutritional value. The benefits of consuming dietary fibers is largely due to various physiological effects that have important health implications, such as reducing the risk of colon cancer for laxation, blood cholesterol and the overall glycemic response for glucose attenuation (2).

Peanut skins are often included in small quantities in cattle and pet foods, supplying both protein and energy.

What are the risks related to eating peanut shells?

Peanuts have many health benefits, but when eating the shells, there are possible health concerns:

Digestion problems: 

Eating peanut hulls may cause digestion problems:

Peanut shells aren’t exactly soft, and no matter how hard you chew them, they don’t break down readily. It’s possible that if a person eats a lot of peanut shells, they’ll stack up in the intestines and produce a blockage. Human stomachs and saliva can’t extract most of the nutrients in a peanut shell because they’re formed of cellulose. Our saliva isn’t powerful enough to break down peanut shells, and our stomachs lack the necessary digestive microorganisms to break down those shells further and extract any nutrient.

The common characteristics of the various dietary fibers are indigestible in the human small intestine. So, it is necessary that the fiber characteristics are modified by processing treatments, such as grinding or extrusion, enzymatic hydrolysis and fermentation to improve functionality of dietary fibers. Milling and fractionation of peanut hulls can isolate important dietary fiber components for incorporation into commercial food products to enrich their fiber content and/or serve as functional ingredients (2).

The accumulation of foreign materials frequently causes stomach irritation and results in a mass (commonly named bezoar) that is unable to transit through the intestines. Bezoar refers to a collection of any ingested item that becomes lodged in the abdomen. A bezoar may require surgery to remove in extreme situations (3).

Pesticides contamination:

Pesticides are another potential threat that you should be aware of, especially if you’re eating peanut shells directly from the ground. Peanuts are susceptible to fungal disease, and growers employ pesticides to prevent it (6).

Avoiding eating peanut shells is the simplest approach to avoid chemical contaminants.

Eating disorders:

Pica is a psychological condition in which a person develops a need for non-nutritive foods such as peanut shells. Malnutrition, schizophrenia, anemia, and developmental problems including autism are all linked to this illness.

If eating peanut shells has turned into an obsessive compulsion or a craving, you should contact a healthcare professional.

For these reasons, eating peanut shells is not recommended because they are difficult to digest and contain pesticides that can cause serious allergies and cancer, as well as eating disorder problems.

Peanut shells, on the other hand, can be used for commercial purposes, such as the production of charcoal. Farmers can use them as mulch in their gardens as well (5).

What are other uses of peanut shells?

The noble peanut shell is an environmentally friendly alternative to a range of items, despite being dropped and crushed like fall foliage. Here are some uses of peanut shells (4):

  1. Use it as a mulch: Peanut shells make excellent mulch. They’re high in nitrogen, phosphate, and potassium, and they’re easy to grow. Mulch aids in the decomposition of compost piles while also providing nitrogen-rich gardening mulch.
  2. Use it for cat litter: Soak the shells in water and mix them with baking soda and biodegradable dish soap to make cat litter.
  3. Use it for safe shipping: Use peanut shells as literal packing for fragile objects to ensure safe shipping.
  4. Use it as an alternative to salt: Spread shell fragments over frozen sidewalks and steps as an alternative to salt.
  5. Use it for charcoal production: Compressed shells replace normal briquettes in the production of charcoal.

Because the peanut hulls consist of some constituent polymers: cellulose, hemicelluloses, pectin, lignin and protein, ground peanut hull powder can be used as low-cost adsorbents for heavy metal or dye removal, such as copper and lead removal. Another potential utilization of peanut hulls can be as a fiber-peanut mixture to produce fiberboards (2).

Other FAQs about Peanuts that you may be interested in.

Do peanuts go bad?

How to cook raw peanuts without the shell?

How to salt unsalted peanuts?

Can you eat Raw Peanuts?

Conclusion

In this brief essay, I answered the question: “Can you eat peanut shells?” and I described the risks and dangers related to consuming hulls and provided useful tips to use it in other purposes and non-food applications.

Feel free to contact me if you need any additional information related to this subject.

References 

  1. Arya, Shalini S., Akshata R. Salve, and Salve Chauhan. Peanuts as functional food: a review. J food sci technol, 2016, 53, 31-41. 
  2. Zhao, X., Chen, J. & Du, F. Potential use of peanut by-products in food processing: a review. J Food Sci Technol, 2012, 49, 521–529. 
  3. Phillips, Michael R., Salman Zaheer, and George T. Drugas. Gastric trichobezoar: case report and literature review. Mayo Clin Proc, 1998, 73.
  4. Duc, Pham Anh, et al. Groundnut shell-a beneficial bio-waste. Biocat Agri Biotechnol, 2019, 20, 101206.
  5. Frenk, Silvestre, et al. Pica. Bol Méd Hosp Infan Méx, 2013, 70, 59-66. 
  6. Blair, Benjamin F., and Marshall C. Lamb. Evaluating concentrations of pesticides and heavy metals in the US peanut crop in the presence of detection limits. Peanut Sci, 2017, 44, 124-133.