Peanut flour, a dry powder formed after the partial extraction of oil from the roasted peanut seed, is used commonly by industrial food processors to impart flavour and protein to baked goods, nutrition bars and snacks, as well as to marinades and sauces.
"Peanut flour is also an excellent source of protein which will range between 40 and 50 per cent, depending on the fat level," said Georgia-based Golden Peanut, owned by food ingredients firm ADM and Alimenta USA.
The fat content in peanut flour can range from 47 per cent (partially defatted) to 0 per cent (fully defatted). And the two roll-outs from Golden Peanut proffer 28 per cent fat from medium roast, or 12 per cent fat from a dark roast.
As well as boosting the flavour and protein content for bakers switching from other flours in food applications, peanut flour is also used as a thickener in sauces and dressings to replace wheat flour or cornflour.
Indeed, scientists at the US' chief scientific research agency, the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), recently investigated the thickening capacity of various forms of peanut flour.
Peanut flours are generally offered at fat levels of 12 or 28 per cent, and either as light, medium or dark roasts.
Findings from the ARS investigations, released in January 2007, suggested that regardless of roast colour, lower-fat peanut flours thicken more effectively than higher-fat ones.
Ounce-per-ounce, low-fat, light-roasted peanut flours were found to promote more viscosity—or to thicken more effectively—than other peanut flours when dispersed in water and heated under controlled conditions.
And tackling peanut flour once again, ARS scientists suggested in June this year that fat-free peanut flour, along with whole peanuts and peanut oil, may have cardio-protective properties.
Presenting their findings at the Institute of Food Technologists 2008 annual meeting in New Orleans, US department of agriculture scientist Dr. Timothy Sanders and graduate student Amanda Stephens, claimed that consumption of the fat-free portion of peanuts could lower LDL, or "bad" cholesterol.
The findings follow their study on a group of hamsters fed one of four different diets, all of which were high-fat and high-cholesterol.
Each diet consisted of nearly equal percentages of fats, carbohydrates and proteins. For three of the four test diets, equivalent amounts of food component were substituted with fat-free peanut flour, peanut oil or peanuts without skins.
The fourth diet contained no peanut product and served as the control group.
Compared to hamsters in the no-peanut control group, those in each of the three peanut groups were found to have significantly lower total cholesterol and LDL "bad" cholesterol, reported the researchers.
Furthermore, according to their findings, HDL "good" cholesterol levels held steady.
It is still unknown if the effect seen on hamsters would actually occur in humans, although research on peanut components at ARS is ongoing.