The Problem With Peanuts

Winnie enjoys a pistachio

So many times when I’m giving a class on nutrition for parrots, people are surprised to hear that peanuts are not a safe food to feed their birds. They tell me that peanuts are their bird’s favorite nut, or that they only buy organic nuts, or only buy raw nuts because they heard that raw foods are better for birds, and what’s so wrong with peanuts, aren’t they a nutritious source of protein?

Well, here’s my answer. The problems with peanuts (which are not actually a nut, but a legume that grows underground) lies not so much in their fat content, which is average compared to tree nuts, or their nutritional content, which is also good, but in the fact that they harbor mycotoxins & aflatoxin, a fungal toxin that can cause cancers, liver damage, and the potentially fatal respiratory disease Aspergillosis. This fungus is in the soil the peanuts grow in. Most of the fungus is found on the peanut shell, but some is on the nut itself. Roasting peanuts reduces, but does not totally eliminate these toxins. Anecdotally, some parrot owners have reported that their birds have allergic reactions to peanuts, causing feather destructive behaviors. If you choose to give peanuts to your parrot, ONLY give human grade, out of the shell, roasted, unsalted peanuts, and keep this to a very few only for special treats.

The better choice would be to introduce your parrot to a variety of healthy tree nuts. Most tree nuts are excellent sources of vitamin E, essential fatty acids, protein, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. Due to their high oil content, nuts in the shell should be stored in a cool dry place. Out of the shell nuts should be refrigerated or frozen in air tight containers until ready to use, to prevent them from becoming rancid. Any nut with mold, fungus, or unusual discoloration on the shell should be discarded.

Almonds contain 54 grams fat per 100, contain the highest amounts of calcium and fiber of all nuts.
Brazil nuts contain 67 grams fat per 100, are an excellent source of selenium, a mineral important for the immune system.
Cashews contain 46 grams of fat per 100, contain twice as much iron as most nuts, are also a good source of zinc, essential for the immune system and healthy skin, contain magnesium and copper which help prevent heart disease . Cashews contain a small amount of oxalates, so should be used in moderation.
Hazelnuts contain 62 grams of fat per 100, are high in both manganese and vitamin E.
Macadamia nuts contain 72 grams of fat per 100, contain the highest levels of monounsaturated fats of all nuts which help to reduce unhealthy cholesterol levels, and are an essential part of the diet of Hyacinth Macaws.
Pecans contain 74 grams of fat per 100, are high in flavonoids with support a healthy immune system.
Pistachios contain 54 grams of fat per 100, are high in carotenoids and lutein which are an anti-oxidants usually found in green leafy vegetables and brightly colored fruit, which reduce cholesterol, are exceptionally high in the critical vitamin A.
Pine Nuts contain 47 grams of fat per 100, are a good source of manganese, and are high in antioxidants.
Walnuts contain 65 grams of fat per 100, have the highest concentration of Omega3 of all nuts. Omega 3 is required by every cell in the body for rebuilding and producing new cells, the key building blocks of brain cells and nerve tissue, and aids in the assimilation of the fat soluble vitamins. Walnuts are a rich source of protein, at 24% total protein which is higher than that found in eggs.

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9 Responses to The Problem With Peanuts

  1. amanda says:

    I buy peanuts from store in shell for my whole family all the time and my 3 birds love them as well. Thanks for info. I thought if they were bought at reg groc store than would be ok

  2. Linda says:

    Laura, you are one of the most knowledgeable people I know on parrot food safety. Everything from store bought to home grown. I love that you share everything with parrot enthusiasts like me. This article will be with me when I food shop for feather cusine, as well as articles from the past.
    (If this was a book it would be easier to shop with! LOL)

  3. Lara Joseph says:

    What a great post, Laura.

  4. Debbie Lee says:

    Great article Laura! Would love to hear more posts from you. You have wonderful and well studied advise.
    Thanks so much for the post.
    Debbie Lee

  5. Pritam says:

    I have heard that Almonds and Peanuts generally have the same properties. Are almonds bad for parrots as well..

    • Laura Ford says:

      While it’s true that you should never give you parrot any type of nut which has any type of mold or fungus on the shell, aspergillosis grows in the ground, so it only effects peanuts, which grow underground, not on trees.

  6. Good to know I will have to throw all the roasted unsalted peanuts out i guess:( Gosh they love the crunch in those, but if it is possibly going to make em ill no chances are worth taking!

  7. ameagari2 says:

    I have heard that pistachios also have been found to contain some of the toxins that make peanuts dangerous. Late last year and earlier this year I began to give my caiques lots of pistachios. My white bellied began to pluck in January. After 2 or 3 months I discontinued pistachios after reading about the possible relation, and she ceased to pluck so much that her feathers grew back in. She is still overgrooming but she is now at least fully feathered, so the problem has been alleviated some what at least. I don’t know if the pistachios were the problem, but I thought I would share the possibility.

  8. Never thought it could affect her plucking. Vet says the occasional peanut is ok, but I’m reluctantly (as she loves them so much) dumping them now. Wondering if I should stop feeding them to the wild birds as well? It never occurred to me before that it wouldn’t be “natural” for a bird to eat something that grows underground. Although she eats carrots. . .

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