Boiled peanuts have more health benefits that raw, dry or oil-roasted nuts, according to researchers.

Lloyd Walker, chair of Alabama A&M University's Department of Food and Animal Sciences who co-authored the study, said these phytochemicals have antioxidant qualities that protect cells against the risk of degenerative diseases, including cancers, diabetes and heart disease.

"Boiling is a better method of preparing peanuts in order to preserve these phytochemicals," Walker said.

The study will appear in Wednesday's edition of the American Chemical Society's Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. The other co-authors in the study are A&M researchers Yvonne Chukwumah and Martha Verghese, as well as University of Alabama in Huntsville researcher Bernhard Vogler.

Walker said peanuts and other plants use phytochemicals for things such as helping avoid disease and insect attacks.

"These things are not nutrients; at the same time they have health benefits to humans," he told The Birmingham News. "The trick is to keep those health benefits, not to process them out of the foods."

According to Walker, water and heat penetrate the nuts, releasing beneficial chemicals to a certain point. Overcooking the nuts destroys the useful elements.

Alabama is third in the nation in the amount of peanuts produced with a crop valued at more than $67 million last year.

—Associated Press