The peanut, a source of vitamins, protein and fiber, is one of America’s favorite snack foods. Peanut shells, not so much. While eating peanut shells may have never entered your mind, some people do indulge in this unusual snack. It could be the crunch or the saltiness that appeals to those looking for an alternative to chips and pretzels. Consider possible health risks before adding peanut shells to your diet.
No Nutritional Value
The National Peanut Board website states, “many people report they enjoy peanuts, including the shell, and food scientists indicate that it’s okay.” The Peanut Board breaks down peanut shell content as follows: 60 percent crude fiber, 25 percent cellulose, 8 percent water, 6 percent crude protein, 2 percent ash and 1 percent fat. The composition differs based on peanut varieties and manufacturing environments. Other than dietary fiber, peanut shells offer virtually no nutritional value.
Eating a large quantity of peanut shells may provide fiber, but can interfere with normal digestive function. As described by Dr. Dean Edell on the Health Central website, peanut shells can accumulate in the gastrointestinal tract. Often, the buildup of foreign matter causes stomach distress and creates a mass that cannot pass through the intestines. Referred to as a bezoar, the term typically relates to ingesting hair or fibers. However, it also applies to a collection of any consumed material that lodges in the abdomen. In extreme cases, surgery may be required to remove a bezoar.
A hidden danger of eating peanut shells, according to Dr. Dean Edell, concerns use of pesticides during cultivation. Peanut farmers expect consumers to discard the shells. Peanut farmers employ crop rotation as one method of disease control. However, fungal disease can cause extensive crop damage and typically necessitates the use of chemical pesticides. The easiest way to avoid chemical contaminants is to eliminate peanut shells from the diet.
Eating peanut shells may reveal problems beyond simple snack cravings. The habitual consumption of nonnutritive items could indicate an eating disorder, known as pica. Common in children, people lacking certain nutrients and those with developmental disabilities, pica can also affect healthy adults. Cravings of certain tastes and textures can sometimes compel people to eat unusual materials. If you eat peanut shells every day and think your habit has become an obsession, contact a health care professional. Ask about tests and treatment for nutritional deficiencies and behavior modification techniques.