They’re the salty shelled snack you love to devour at baseball games and the namesake ingredient of fat-burning peanut butter. They’re a key component in the “mixed nuts” cans at the grocery store, accompanied by cashews, almonds, walnuts, and Brazil nuts. But peanuts aren’t actually nuts. They’re imposters.
So if peanuts aren't nuts, what are they?
They’re in the same family as peas (including chickpeas), beans (including soybeans), and lentils—peanuts are legumes. Like some other legumes such as forage legumes, peanuts are grown on the peanut plant, where the nut part itself grows underground, in the shell. Actual nuts, on the other hand, are grown on trees and other wooded shrubs, where they thrive above ground on branches. (There are other legumes that also grow above ground, however, such as green beans, peas, and lentils).
But it’s easy to see why people get their classification confused; aside from the deceiving name, peanuts are similar to other nuts because of the nutritional profile. Per ¼ cup, dry roasted peanuts without salt have 214 calories, 18 grams of fat, 8 grams of carbs, 3 grams of fiber and 9 grams of protein. The same amount of dry roasted, no-salt almonds have 206 calories, 18 grams of fat, 7 grams of carbs, 4 grams of fiber, and 7 grams of protein. And peanut butter is typically thrown in with other nut butters, like almond butter and cashew butter. Soybean or lentil butter isn’t exactly flying off the shelves.
Although legumes are also a great source of protein, they typically have more carbohydrates and less fat than other nuts. Regardless, both have their own unique health benefits, and a good combination of protein, fat, and carbs to give you energy and keep you feeling fuller, longer. There's a reason legumes and nuts fill our list of 30 Best Foods for All-Day Energy.
Now that you know what peanuts really are, you can share your creamy peanut butter and this fun fact with another peanut-loving friend.