Comparing nutritional characteristics, origin and current state of the industry of two of the most popular snacks in the world, popcorn and peanuts, with those of Peruvian popping beans. We want to identify the similarities and differences among them.
Nuna beans or Peruvian popping beans are legumes, a subspecies of the common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris). Popping beans are rich in protein, fiber, and provide vitamin B and micronutrients such as polyphenols. Legumes, in general, are low in fat and the ideal plant-based source of protein. Nuna beans differ from any other existing beans because it pops and expands, 1.3 to 1.8 times its initial volume, when exposed to heat; therefore, its preparation and cooking times are very short with no soaking and boiling needed.
-Photo: Peruvian Popping Beans-
Popcorn is a variety of corn kernel (Zea mays everta) that expands and puffs, 30 to 35 times its initial volume, when heated. Popcorn contains mostly carbohydrates, but it also has fiber and protein in smaller quantities; it also contains vitamin B and minerals.
Peanuts (Arachis hypogaea) are also legumes. Peanuts are a source of good fats, fiber and tocopherols, from vitamin E, which are antioxidants. Peanuts also contain the essential amino acids lysine and threonine that play an important role in body growth and performance.
Popped Nuna Beans (50 g)
|Popcorn (50 g)
|Raw Shelled Peanuts (50 g)
|Total Carbohydrate (g)
Origin and History:
The common bean most likely was domesticated and originated around 8,000 years ago in the historic region of Mesoamerica (from Mexico to northern Costa Rica), from there it was dispersed and migrated to South America, from Peru to Argentina. The subspecies Popping beans were developed and cultivated exclusively in specific Andean regions of Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador. It is believed that through centuries Andean dwellers identified and gradually perpetuated the popping trait from common beans. Popping beans have been a staple and very valuable food source to the Andean population.
-Photo: Growing Popping Beans on Andean Terraces-
Corn originated about 9,000 years ago in Mexico from where it was subsequently carried to South America where its domestication and cultivation continued. In Peru and Mexico different types of corn, with distinct genetic variations, were discovered. Corn was a major and very important food source of the Azteca, Maya and Inca empire.
Peanuts presumably originated in South America and was domesticated around 7,000 years ago.
Common beans, corn, and peanuts -all three- made their way to Europe and later on to the entire world first thanks to Christopher Columbus’ voyages and contact with America. Interestingly popping beans were the only crop not widely adopted by the western countries; this perhaps due to the peculiarities and specific conditions needed for its cultivation. Apparently popping beans have daylength requirements and need extended hours of sunlight.
Current Cultivation and State of Industry:
Popping beans are only cultivated in some Andean regions of Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador between 2,000 – 3,000 meter altitudes. Native communities eat it as a snack highly appreciated for its flavour and crunchiness. Popping beans are unknown and not readily available outside the Andean region.
-Photo: Popping Beans Ready For Harvest at 2,500 Meters Altitude -
Popcorn is an extremely popular and important snack food worldwide. It is grown in many different countries around the world, being the United States the world’s largest producer and exporter. There is a mature industry behind this crop and therefore there are a plethora of products and brands available in the market.
The commercial peanut industry is large and mature. China is the world's top producer; followed by India, Nigeria, Sudan and the United States. This legume crop is widely grown and consumed in many countries around the world.
|Common Dry Bean
|Domestication (years ago)
|Snack / Side Dish
|Andean Mountains Only
|~25 million metric tons
|~900 million metric tons
|~47 million metric tons
|Largest Producing Country (Yearly)
|India and Myanmar / ~ 10 million metric tons together
Peru / Not Available
|US / ~366 million metric tons
|China / ~17 million metric tons
If you have not tried Popping beans, we invite you to do so. Nuna beans makes for a delicious snack with high nutritional value, proteins and fibre. It has no gluten and the carbohydrates are easy to digest. Peruvian popping beans are super crunchy and super easy to make.