Chestnuts: Health Benefits, Usage and Recipes

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Chestnuts have been a rich source of protein and other essential nutrients for centuries. They have a low-fat content and are high in vitamin C. Chestnuts contain a hard brown shell, which you need to remove before consumption. They can be consumed raw, roasted or combined with other ingredients to make pastries.  

Nutritional Content

100 grams of chestnut contains

  • Calories- 245 cal
  • Protein- 3.2 g
  • Carbohydrates- 53 g
  • Fats- 2.2 g
  • Fibre- 5.1 g

Chestnuts also include a good amount of vitamin C, B5, and B3, along with potassium and magnesium. They have fewer calories than other nuts due to their low-fat content. They also contain more carbohydrates than other nuts. 

Health Benefits of Chestnuts

Chestnuts are high in vitamin C. Half a cup of raw chestnuts provides 35 to 45 % of the daily vitamin C requirement. On getting boiled, they lose some amount of vitamin C. However, they still carry 15 to 20 % of daily vitamin C requirements. Chestnuts can be roasted at low heat or dried using a food dehydrator to preserve their vitamin C content when cooked. Even after roasting, chestnuts retain a high level of antioxidants. Gallic acid and ellagic acid are two antioxidants that become more concentrated when cooked.

1. Provides Antioxidants

Chestnuts contain several antioxidants such as:

  • vitamin C
  • gallic acid
  • ellagic acid
  • tannins
  • alkaloids
  • various polyphenols
  • lutein
  • zeaxanthin

Lutein and zeaxanthin are in the retinal part of our eyes. It protects the retina from any damage caused by blue lights. In addition, antioxidants protect the cells from free radicals, which are unstable molecules present in our bodies. Oxidative stress is a condition caused by high quantities of free radicals. Chronic disorders such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer can all worsen by this process.

Furthermore, several antioxidants present in chestnuts, such as gallic and ellagic acid, reduce the chance of heart disease, reduce insulin resistance, and limit the growth of the tumour.

2. Improves Heart Health

Chestnuts are high in nutrients that are beneficial to your heart. Antioxidants like gallic and ellagic acid present in chestnuts prevent oxidative stress. Oxidative stress increases the risk of strokes and heart disease. Additionally, they are a rich source of potassium. They provide 11% of the daily potassium requirement, which keeps the heart healthy. In addition, it keeps the blood pressure in check. As per studies, eating a potassium-rich diet can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke by 27% and 24%, respectively.

3. Rich Source of Fibre

Chestnuts are a good source of fibre, which offers numerous health benefits. For example, fibre adds volume to your stools, making bowel movement easy and regular. 

Furthermore, the fibre in your diet primarily goes undigested into your colon, where it works as a prebiotic. Therefore, it implies that fibre provides a food source for the good bacteria present in the stomach. These gut bacteria ferment fibre and produce essential substances in the body like fatty acids. The obtained short-chain fatty acids help with intestinal health, inflammation, and blood sugar regulation.

Fibre does not result in addition to calories in your body. Instead, it happens because it passes through the body without getting digested. Therefore, it gives the feeling of being full and reduces food consumption. As a result, it ultimately aids in weight loss. 

4. Controls Blood Sugar

Maintaining a stable blood sugar level is vital for your overall health. It is more important if you have diabetes. Elevated blood sugar for an extended period can increase the risk of health problems in people with diabetes. Blood vessel injury and organ failure are a few of the consequences.

Chestnuts offer several attractive qualities that may help with blood sugar management. First, chestnuts are a good source of fibre. It reduces blood sugar rise by slowing down the absorption of sugar in the blood. 

Furthermore, antioxidants found in chestnuts, such as gallic and ellagic acid, help regulate blood sugar levels. They also increase insulin sensitivity. It makes the cells more receptive to insulin.

5. Helps in Weight Loss

Chestnuts include a variety of qualities that may help you lose weight. They have a fair amount of fibre, which makes you feel full. Fibre reduces the time taken by food to pass from the stomach to the intestines.

Furthermore, as per studies, a fibre rich diet can boost the synthesis of appetite-suppressing hormones. These hormones include peptide, glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), and ghrelin’s hunger hormone.

Additionally, as compared to other nuts, chestnuts have fewer calories from fats. 

6. Lowers Inflammation

Inflammation is the process by which our body heals itself and prevents infections. Chronic inflammation occurs when inflammation continues at a low level for a long time. It leads to chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

Chestnuts are anti-inflammatory. It helps reduce inflammation in the body. Chestnuts contain Vitamin C, gallic acid, ellagic acid, and other polyphenols. These are antioxidants that reduce inflammation. In addition, they help in neutralising free radicals. Free radicals are the leading cause of chronic inflammation. Further research has revealed that antioxidants found in chestnuts, such as tannins and flavonoids, can help inhibit inflammation too. 

7. Improves Cognitive Function

Chestnuts directly impact our cognitive function and the brain. They are high in multiple types of vitamin B, such as folate, thiamine, and riboflavin, which improve focus and memory and enhance brain growth and functioning. It is especially suitable for children for consumption. 

In addition, chestnuts are high in potassium. Potassium is effective in enhancing blood supply to the brain. Uninterrupted blood supply to the brain keeps it well oxygenated and rejuvenated. It also keeps the nervous system healthy. It improves memory, concentration, and retention as well.

8. Enhances Red Blood Cells

Red blood cells (RBCs) are among the most important cell types present in our blood. They are responsible for carrying oxygen from the lungs to the whole body. Chestnuts contain copper that aids in the iron metabolism present in the bloodstream. It also boosts the formation of red blood cells. If the RBC count is not ideal, the body organs begin to fail because of a shortage of fresh oxygen. Copper is a crucial nutrient for the body. The deficiency of it can cause anaemia, osteoporosis, and irregular heartbeat.

9. Prevents Scurvy

Lack of vitamin C causes scurvy in the body. It can cause various health issues like weariness, pain in joints, gum disease. Severe symptoms include ineffective and slow wound healing, personality changes, and even death if left untreated. Scurvy can best be avoided by having vitamin C rich food in your diet. Chestnuts are a rich source of Vitamin C. Their consumption aids in preventing scurvy. 

10. Increases the Bone Mineral Density

A lot of our body systems are affected by age. Even our skeletal system gets affected by age. Osteoporosis, wherein people lose bone mass and get joint pains, is a primary concern among people with growing age. Their bones become weak. Chestnuts prevent osteoporosis. Chestnuts include magnesium, which helps to maintain bone health by boosting bone mineral density. They also contain a good amount of copper, which allows the body to absorb iron and improves overall bone structure and health. 

Uses of Chestnuts

Roasting chestnuts in an open fire is the easiest and most common way of consuming them. The outer shell readily cracks up, revealing the juicy white core you can eat. 

They are made into tasty sweets, blended for a savoury dish, or directly consumed boiled. It’s also possible to grind them into flour and produce textured bread. Chestnuts can also be steamed, grilled, or deep-fried. You can use them as toppings for salad and other dishes for flavour and texture.

Healthy Chestnut Recipes 

Chestnut Salad

Ingredients-

  • – 1 cup fresh chestnuts
  • – 0.25 cup diced Apple
  • – 0.5 cup diced Pineapple
  • – 2 tbsp yoghurt
  • – 1 tbsp dry roasted Fennel seeds
  • – 8-10 Mint leaves
  • – 0.5 tsp Black pepper powder
  • – Salt to taste

Method-

  • 1. Add all ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix well.
  • 2. Garnish with mint leaves and serve immediately.

Possible Side Effects

Chestnuts can cause allergic reactions. People allergic to nuts should talk to a medical professional before adding them to their regular diet. Eczema, rashes, itching, and even breathing difficulties are all symptoms of allergies caused by nuts. These symptoms can be moderate or severe. In addition, contact dermatitis that results in itching and rashes on the skin occurs after contact with nuts. Therefore, you should consult a doctor before adding chestnuts as a part of your daily diet.

Conclusion

People consume chestnuts from all across the globe. They’re high in fibre, vitamin C, copper, B vitamins, manganese, and antioxidants. All of it provides numerous health benefits. Moreover, they have great taste and versatile character. It makes their consumption pleasant and easy. You can roast or boil them to eat as snacks and also add them to salad, soup, desserts etc. You will receive many nutrients with an excellent taste to savour, whatever way you consume it.

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