Properties and Benefits of Pine Nuts: As their name suggests, pine nuts are the seeds of pine tree cones. There are several edible varieties of pine nuts which differ slightly in length, width and shape, but which all preserve a fragrant nutty aroma. Pine nuts are a great source of essential nutrients such as vitamin B1, vitamin E, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, zinc and copper. Moreover, they boast high concentrations of monounsaturated fatty acids that help lower blood cholesterol levels and improve cardiovascular health.
Monounsaturated fatty acids are a healthy kind of fat and are also found in olive oil. Additionally, pine nuts have been shown to helps supress hunger, offer antioxidant protection and improve muscle function. Taking into account their nutritional profile, regular consumption can further contribute to improved energy levels, digestive health, strong bones and anemia management and prevention.
Here is a list of edible pine nut seeds: the stone pine or Pinus pinea, Pinus cembra, Pinus sibirica, Pinus bungeana, Pinus sabineana, Pinus coulteri, Pinus lambertiana, Pinus pumila and Pinus armandii. The seeds collected from all of the above-mentioned varieties are edible and, unlike those of other species, they distinguish themselves in terms of length, width and shape. Shelled pine nuts are small, elongated, usually thin, creamy white seeds with a distinct nutty flavor.
Depending on the variety, they may be more or less plump, but usually only the biggest seeds are commercialized for consumption purposes. Pine seeds are protected by a hard brown outer shell which is not edible. They are called pine nuts because they look like smaller versions of a nut and because of their nutty aroma.
As far as their health benefits are concerned, pine nuts boast a high nutritional value, a characteristic of most nuts and seeds. Their nutty flavor is a result of their high fat content, containing around 68 g of fat/100 g. Although they may not seem very figure-friendly, pine nuts are actually extremely healthy because they contain mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids, two good types of fat. A type of monounsaturated fatty acid is oleic acid, renowned for decreasing LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and increasing HDL (good) cholesterol levels.
Numerous studies suggest that the Mediterranean diet, characterized by a rich intake of monounsaturated fatty acids, greatly favors healthy blood lipid profiles, thus lowering the risks of heart disease and stroke. Eating pine nuts and other nut and seed varieties is therefore extremely beneficial for cardiovascular health. Pine nuts also contain Omega-6 fatty acids and pinolenic acid.
According to more recent research, pinolenic acid causes the activation of two enzymes that suppress hunger: cholecystokinin and glucagon. This basically decreases appetite and promotes weight loss. Despite their high caloric value (673 kcal/100 g), it appears that pine nuts promote weight loss naturally.
Pine nuts are a great source of vitamin E, containing 62% of the RDI. Vitamin E maintains healthy mucous membranes and protects both the lungs and the skin from damage caused by reactive oxygen molecules called free radicals. It is also effective against dry skin. In addition to this, pine nuts contain good amounts of thiamine, niacin, riboflavin, folic acid, pyridoxine and pantothenic acid. B vitamins ensure the proper synthesis of fats, proteins and carbohydrates, a process resulting in energy for the body.
Pine nuts provide excellent amounts of minerals as well. Manganese (383%) is a potent antioxidant. Copper (147%) prevents anemia and improves sleep quality. Magnesium (63%) increases calcium absorption in bones and supports muscle activity, heart included. Iron (69%) prevents anemia, irritability and fatigue. Zinc (58%) strengthens the immune systems. All of these health benefits and more come from pine nut consumption.
Interesting fact: in the past few years, some people have reported a strange metallic taste installing a few days after consuming pine nuts. This rare phenomenon called pine mouth syndrome has yet to be explained. Bad mouth taste can have other causes as well.
However, it appears to be triggered by the consumption of Chinese pine nuts (Pinus armandii) and may last up to a couple of weeks. So make sure you know where your seeds come from so you can avoid such an unpleasant experience. It would be a pity not to enjoy all these wonderful health benefits of the incredibly healthy pine nuts.