Published on 03/17/04

March is National Peanut Month

By Morgan Roan
University of Georgia

Pull out your favorite peanut product in celebration of March as National Peanut Month.

The Georgia Peanut Commission is celebrating peanut month by giving samples of peanuts and peanut recipes to tourists who stop at Georgia Welcome Centers.

The promotion, “Travel Light, Pack Peanuts” encourages travelers take along peanuts as a fun and healthy snack. Representatives from the peanut commission will also travel to the Valdosta and Savannah welcome centers to fry peanuts for tourists.

Georgia farmers rely on peanuts

Georgia is one of nine states that rely heavily on peanut production. About 10 percent of the world’s peanut crops are produced by these nine states: Georgia, Texas, Alabama, Carolinas, Florida, Oklahoma, Virginia and New Mexico.

This national celebration began in 1941 as National Peanut Week. It was extended to a month-long celebration in 1974. Even our 39th President Jimmy Carter, who was a peanut farmer from Georgia, contributed greatly to the celebration and popularity of this food.

Peanuts can be used in more than 300 different ways, but almost half of the nation’s peanut crop goes into peanut butter.

They are healthy in small amounts

Aside from being a popular snack food, peanuts have high nutritional value and may even reduce the risks of cardiovascular disease and cancer when eaten in small amounts.

“A small handful or about one-fourth cup is all that is needed,” said Connie Crawley, an Extension Service nutrition and health specialist with the University of Georgia College of Family and Consumer Sciences. “They are also a good source of protein, fiber, and vitamins and minerals such as vitamin E, folic acid, niacin, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc.”

Peanuts may be high in fat, but they contain “good” fats, said Crawley.

“They are mostly made of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats that help lower bad cholesterol,” she said. “And they are naturally cholesterol free and low in saturated fat.”

Crawley says unsalted, dry roasted peanuts are the best choice.

Peanuts are believed to have originated as a food source in Brazil or Peru about 950 B.C. The demand for peanuts increased in the U.S. during the Civil War when soldiers relied on them as a food source. Today, Americans eat about 2.4 billion pounds of peanuts each year.

Morgan Roan is a student writer with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.