Is It Really Safe To Eat Peanut Shells?

It's probably fair to say that when it comes to eating peanuts, most of us discard the shell completely. Eating it might even seem rather odd. People are weird creatures though, and lots of folks actually enjoy the outer shell of the peanut. 

A thread on Reddit, titled, "I like to eat peanut shells along with the peanut," kicked off a pretty interesting discussion. Lots of people thought it was strange, but an almost equal amount confessed that they also enjoy eating the shell. "Me as well, brother. My dad and I always get at least one weird look at Five Guys," said one person

The big query from many folks was the potential hazards of digesting the shell. Those peanut shells can be pretty jagged and tough — so are they safe to eat?

Eating too many peanut shells may cause problems

Peanuts are full of health benefits, but the obvious potential health hazard that comes to mind when eating the shells is digestion — or lack thereof. Peanut shells are not exactly soft, and they don't really break down easily, no matter how much you chew them. If a person is eating a lot of peanut shells there's the possibility that they might build up in the intestines and cause a blockage. The Mayo Clinic has reported this sort of thing happening with the shells from sunflower seeds. 

Another potential danger that might put you at risk — especially if you're munching on peanut shells straight out of the ground like some country bumpkin — is pesticides. Peanuts are prone to fungal disease and farmers use pesticides to fight against this — however, they do expect most people to discard the shell (via Livestrong). 

Are there any benefits to eating the shell?

As for any potential benefits that might come with eating peanut shells, well, let's start with the makeup of the shells themselves. Peanut shells are pretty similar in makeup to tree bark, hay, twigs, and cardboard (via San Diego Reader). None of those things sound appetizing. 

They're also around 60 percent fiber, but because they're made of cellulose, human stomachs and saliva have a hard time extracting most of the other nutrients in a peanut shell. The saliva in our mouths just isn't potent enough to do much when it comes to breaking down peanut shells, and our stomachs lack the right digestive microbes for breaking down those shells further to pull out any real nutrients. Unfortunately for those of us who enjoy scarfing down the shell with the peanut, the stomachs of elephants have us beat in this department. 

So go nuts and eat as many peanuts as you want, but maybe resist noshing on all those shells.