A question that many people ask – Is peanut a fruit or vegetable?
Peanuts are technically classified as legumes, as a result, they’re also classified as fruits and vegetables by botanical definitions. They’re both a nut and a seed. And while they taste great, they also contain lots of protein, fiber, minerals, vitamins, and healthy fats.
In this article, I’m going to explain why peanuts are a fruit, vegetable, and legume all at the same time.
- Related article: Are All Fruits Vegetables?
Is Peanut a Fruit or Vegetable?
A peanut is botanically classified as both a fruit and a vegetable, because peanuts are legumes. They belong to the Fabaceae or bean, pea, or legumefamily. Their scientific name is Arachis hypogaea.
The nutrient profile and characteristics of peanuts resemble that of other nuts. But most nuts are the seeds of a fruit and thus would be considered fruit. Acorns, chestnuts, and hazelnuts are examples of nuts that are classified as fruits.
Peanuts are an exception to this classification. This is due to underground seed production. Their physical structure offers botanical classifications as vegetables and fruits.
Why Is Peanut a Fruit?
Peanuts are legumes, belonging to the same family as beans. So, they are also regarded as leguminous fruit-bearing plants. The peanut plant features seed pods, and the seeds are the peanuts we know and love.
The peanut may be considered a type of fruit for the following reasons:
- Peanut plants belong to the Fabaceae family and are flowering plants.
- Peanut plants develop yellow blooms with 5 petals and 9 stamens at the base of the plants.
- Peanut flowers are self-pollinating.
- Flowers eventually develop into seed pods. The tube-like pods reach to the soil surface and dig downward.
- Once underground the seed embryo develops parallel to the soil surface.
- The seeds found in the pods are the peanuts we eat. They can also be used to grow new peanut plants.
How is it possible that the peanut plant produces a flower above the soil surface and the edible seed or peanut beneath the soil? This is the result of a natural process known as geocarpy.
Like all nuts, they are considered a fruit because they contain an edible seed. The seed is covered by an inedible hardened outer shell. They are also considered to be indehiscent fruits because their shells do not open automatically once ripe.
Why Is Peanut a Vegetable?
Peanuts grow underground and are also considered root vegetables. Peanuts do not grow on plant stems or develop from flowers or ripened plant ovaries like many fruits do. Because they are legumes, they cannot be considered tree nuts even if they share common characteristics with other nut types.
Vegetables are defined as the edible parts of plants including flowers, leaves, fruits, roots, or stems. Anything edible that derives from a plant is botanically classified as a vegetable. Hence, in the broader sense, fruits and peanuts are also to be considered vegetables.
From a culinary perspective, peanuts are usually eaten raw, roasted, added into stir-fry, or used as a garnish for dishes. Roasted peanuts have a sweeter flavor than raw ones. Raw peanuts are often salted or pickled.
What Is a Legume?
Legumes are plants belonging to the Fabaceae, Leguminosae, pea, or bean family. Legumes are also called pods and most legumes are dehiscent fruits. These fruits will release their seeds by splitting open automatically when ripe.
The split will take place along two seams. Peanuts are an exception because they do not open naturally. You must open the hard shelled fruit yourself.
Legume fruits develop in various shapes and sizes. Many have an elongated form with seeds that develop in a single line. When the legumes mature, they become hard, dry, papery, or woody. Some legumes, like peas and green beans, are harvested when the color is still green.
Legumes have several nitrogen-fixating bacteria present in their root nodes. Bacteria such as Nitrosomonas or Azotobacter are able to convert nitrogen into nitrites and nitrates. These aid plant development. Peas, peanuts, and lentils all contain these bacteria classifying them as legumes.
Legumes provide a source of food, edible oils, fibers, and raw materials used in the manufacturing of plastics. Other examples of legumes include:
- Black beans
- Black-eyed peas
- Green peas
- Lima beans
- And navy beans among others.
Is Groundnut a Fruit or Vegetable?
Groundnuts can also be classified as both fruits and vegetables. Peanuts are also known to be groundnuts and legumes. Peanut crops are specifically cultivated for the plant’s edible seeds and are also classified as grain legumes and oil crops.
Groundnuts refer to seeds that ripen while still underground. These types of seeds can refer to:
- American groundnut or “potato-bean” (tuber)
- Bambara groundnut
- Dwarf ginseng (tuber)
- Hausa groundnut
- Kippernut (tuber)
Is a Peanut a Nut?
Peanuts resemble tree nuts like almonds and walnuts in nutritional content and taste. However, botanically, nuts are defined as fruits with an ovary wall that hardens during maturity. For this reason, peanuts cannot truly be defined as nuts.
Peanuts are technically seeds, but they are categorized with other nuts mainly for culinary classification purposes.
Consider that a nut is:
- A single-seed fruit with a hard shell. The peanut is the seed.
- Nuts contain singles seeds encased in hard outer shells. The shell of the peanut is not hard and contains 2 to 3 seeds.
- Nut seeds are open within the hard shells. Peanuts have a thin paper-like, inedible, reddish covering.
So, from a science perspective, the peanut is a seed and not a nut.
Different Types of Nuts
Research indicates that nuts are a healthy addition to the human diet. Weight management or protection against diabetes and cardiovascular disease are potential benefits.
Nuts are considered to be dry fruit with 1 or 2 edible kernels or seeds enclosed in a hard shell. Various types of nuts include:
- Brazil nuts
- Pine nuts
Health Benefits from Adding Nuts to Your Diet
There are many health benefits associated with eating nuts. They are rich in unsaturated fats which help lower cholesterol levels. Nuts are also high in fiber and protein. Eating nuts regularly may reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends consuming 4 servings of unoiled, unsalted nuts per week. Each serving size is 1.5 ounces of nuts. This amount is equivalent to about 9 whole almonds or 9 tablespoons of chopped pistachios.
Benefits from consuming nuts as part of your diet include:
- Nuts are often high in good fats
- Saturated fat content is low
- Nuts are rich in dietary protein
- They are free of dietary cholesterol
- Nuts have high dietary fiber content
- They are rich in antioxidants phytochemicals
- Nuts contain vitamins and minerals. These include vitamins B6, E, folate, niacin, magnesium, calcium, zinc, iron, selenium, copper, potassium, and phosphorous.
What are the Risks of Adding Nuts to Your Diet?
While adding nuts to your diet has many health benefits, there are some risks you should consider before starting to eat more nuts. Some people who consume large amounts of nuts may experience gastrointestinal conditions, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, bloating, gas, stomach pain, and indigestion.
In rare cases, allergic reactions may occur when someone eats nuts. People who have allergies to certain foods can develop symptoms after eating them. Symptoms of food allergy include hives, itching, swelling, shortness of breath, wheezing, difficulty breathing, and chest tightness.
If you think you might have a food allergy, talk to your doctor or head to the emergency room immediately.
Is Peanut a Fruit or Vegetable? Final Thoughts
Peanuts are legumes, making them a fruit and vegetable at the same time. Peanuts are a great source of nutrition for those looking to add variety to their diets.
If you want to try adding peanuts to your diet, start small by trying one ounce of peanuts each day. You can gradually increase this amount over time until you reach the recommended weekly allowance of four servings of nuts.
You may be interested in learning more about these different edible plants to see if they’re considered a fruit or vegetable: