Properties and Benefits of Chestnuts: A delicious treat from autumn’s goodie basket, chestnuts are a sweet and nutritious food, highly appreciated for their unique taste. Chestnut trees are native to the Northern Hemisphere and thrive in countries such as Japan, China and throughout Europe and North America. China is the biggest producer of chestnuts. Although chestnut trees can be found in everywhere from roadsides and parks to back yards, their fruit is not necessarily edible.
Some varieties are poisonous, which is why you should not rush and eat some chestnuts you’ve found beneath a tree in the park. Read more and find out how to recognize edible varieties from inedible ones and how you can benefit from the wonderful properties and health benefits of chestnuts.
Chestnut trees have either female or male flowers, meaning that you’d need a boy tree and a girl tree for the pollination process to occur. When pollination occurs, chestnut flowers bear a sweet, yet heavy smell which may be upsetting for those suffering from allergies. The resulting fruit are enclosed in a sort of thin-spiked green husk which breaks open when the chestnuts inside are ripe.
Each ‘husk’ contains around 1-9 smaller, slightly flattened, deep-brown nuts, protected by two skins: a brown husk and thin peel. After stripping the chestnut of all its layers, you should be left with a creamy-looking nut which can then be finally eaten.
There are several edible chestnut varieties, including the following:
1) The Japanese chestnut (Castanea crenata), a sweet October variety of significantly large sizes.
2) The Chinese chestnut (Castanea mollissima).
3) The sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa) is native to the European continent. It is also known as the Spanish or Portuguese chesnut.
4) The American chinquapin (Castanea pumila), or the dwarf chestnut.
5) The American chestnut (Castanea dentata).
How do you know which chestnuts are edible and which are not? Answer: the chestnut varieties covered in numerous thin, light green spines, with a sort of fluffy appearance are edible. Those covered in fewer, light-green thick thorns are not.
What are the health benefits of chestnuts? First of all, chestnuts are low in calories, containing approximately 200 kcal/100 g of nut. Unlike walnuts, almonds and macadamia nuts, which have an incredibly high caloric value, this nut variety can be consumed without fear of gaining weight. In addition to this, they boast a high starch intake, similar to potatoes and corn.
Chestnut flour (made from dried, milled chestnuts) can be used to make bread, polenta, doughnuts, pancakes or cakes or it can be added to soups or sauces to thicken them. Its nutty flavor will make your dishes uniquely savory.
Chestnuts are also a rich and varied source of vitamins and minerals, the most notable being folate, pyridoxine, riboflavin, thiamine, vitamin C, potassium, copper, iron, manganese and phosphorus. The high vitamin C content of chestnuts is by far the most interesting and somewhat intriguing aspect. Nuts rarely have vitamin C, let alone such high levels (72% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C).
This powerful antioxidant vitamin is essential for the formation of collagen, a protein which keeps us looking young and beautiful. Also, it stimulates immunity by strengthening our immune system’s response to infections and protects against free radical damage. Impressive, isn’t it?
Aside from this, chestnuts also boast generous amounts of B vitamins. Folate or vitamin B9 is found in most nuts and seeds and is necessary for DNA synthesis and red blood cell production. Consuming folate-rich foods before conception and during pregnancy will successfully prevent neural tube defects such as gaps in the spinal cord, paralysis and even death of newborns.
Chestnuts also contain significant amounts of pyridoxine or vitamin B6, which helps lower the risks of coronary heart disease. Thiamine, or vitamin B1, prevents tingling sensations and numbness in lower and upper limbs. Including chestnuts in your diet may be more beneficial than you could imagine.
Because of their high copper content (50%), chestnuts may help prevent premature hair graying. Iron is good for anyone suffering from anemia, while potassium regulates heart pressure and body fluids. Last but not least, manganese has powerful antioxidant properties.
Good to know: because they are gluten-free, chestnuts can be safely consumed by anyone suffering from celiac disease. A gluten-free diet may tend to lack variety, but a bit of imagination and patience can make up for the trademark rigor and strictness. For instance, chestnut flour can be used to make breads, biscuits and even pancakes or crepes. If anything, it’s a start.
Overall, chestnuts are both healthy and delicious. Their sweet, nutty flavor can easily complement a balanced, varied diet and provide important nutrients our body requires to stay in good health. However, remember that an untrained eye may easily be fooled by a seemingly harmless, yet dangerous food such as the chestnut.
The same goes for mushrooms and almonds. If you are experienced at telling apart the edible varieties from the inedible ones, then good for you. If not, then play it safe and guard your health with fierceness. Without our health we are nothing.