The health benefits of chestnuts
Chestnuts are a unique fruit of the Castanea species of deciduous trees. This fruit is most common in Asia though it has also been linked to the traditional Italian cuisine for centuries. Chestnuts are appreciated for their characteristic taste and for the ductility with which they can be consumed: boiled, roasted, and dried, or in the form of jam or flour. They are also excellent sources of vitamins and minerals (such as manganese, molybdenum, cooper and magnesium).
What are the nutritional value and the health benefits of chestnuts?
- Digestive health – chestnuts reduce cholesterol levels and stabilize blood sugar levels. They also reduce the risk of constipation and intestinal complications such as diverticulosis.
- Increased brain function – chestnuts contain fat-soluble B vitamins that promote healthy skin, produce red blood cells and improve brain function.
- Increased energy levels – chestnuts contain high amounts of carbohydrates, which are needed for short and long term energy. They also help with nervous system function.
- Stronger bones – chestnuts contain copper, which is a trace mineral that enhances bone strength and boosts the immune system.
- Decreased risk of developing disease – chestnuts contain manganese, which is a trace mineral that fights off free radicals in the body and reduces the risk of heart disease and cancer. It also plays a key role in the aging process and helps prevent blood-clotting.
- Do not contain gluten – chestnuts are of great benefit to patients with celiac disease, which is a disease that upsets the small intestine.
Some nutritional facts about chestnuts
Sabrina Oggionni, Dietitian at Humanitas Gavazzeni, provides some insight on the health benefits of chestnuts and individuals for whom consumption is recommended.
“Chestnuts are a part of the fruit group and some individuals classify them as dried fruit. However, in comparison to nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, etc), they have a low fat content. Chestnuts have certain nutritional characteristics similar to those of cereals. Even though they do not contain gluten, they do have a high content of sugars, especially starch. Chestnuts are rich in fiber, as well as mineral salts such as potassium, phosphorus, and small quantities of iron. Lastly, they contain vitamins B2 and E. It is important to remember that the energy and nutritional characteristics of chestnuts are different from that of the remaining group of fresh fruits.”
For which types of individuals are chestnuts indicated?
“Each individual’s situation is different, which is why it is important to consult with a doctor. There are, however, some diseases or disorders for which consumption of chestnuts is contraindicated. Such disorders include diabetes because of the high sugar content in chestnuts.”
What are the main differences between boiled chestnuts and roasted chestnuts?
“Boiled chestnuts are more digestible than roasted chestnuts. It is mistakenly believed that boiled chestnuts contain fewer calories than roasted chestnuts because of their water content. Typically, there are 120 calories per 100 grams of boiled chestnuts to 190 calories per 100 grams of roasted chestnuts. When measured at the same weight, boiled chestnuts do contain fewer calories, however, it all depends on the amount of water lost or taken in while they are being cooked.”