Chestnut belong to the genus Castanea and come from beech family. It has four species viz. European, Chinese, Japanese and American Chestnuts. These species are very different from each other in their growth pattern.
Chinese Chestnut grows slowly and has a wide growth but American and European ones are known for faster growth and usually extend erect and narrow in shape.
The edible nut which is also called chestnut, same as the tree on which it grows is contained in two coverings- outer shell is hard and thick and the one inside is thin and called Pellicle.
Chestnuts are strictly seasonal, but nowadays the vacuum packed chestnuts can be bought throughout the year. Chestnuts should not be consumed raw because they have a high content of tannic acid in them which will leave an extremely bad taste and feel in your mouth.
This is why they are roasted or boiled with the second and thinner hide on it. The resulting nut has a great taste and crispy texture.
They have a great versatility and can be used both in savory and sweet dishes. Chestnuts are used in the form of flour to make desserts and as an additive in other sweet preparations. In savory dishes, it is used in stews, soups, casseroles and is popular as a combination with meat.
Chestnuts are not only good to taste but are also loaded with a lot of nutritional goodness which we will unfold in the following sections.
Chestnut is high energy and low-fat nut. The minerals in chestnut are mostly present in moderate quantities except copper and manganese.
It is a rich source of vitamins and has 60% water content that makes it much healthier and different from other nuts. Nutrition chart gives a detailed overview of the nutritional composition of chestnuts in detail for a 100 grams serving.
In a summary, Chestnuts fulfill 27% of Vitamin B6, 15% of folate and 48% of Vitamin C’s daily requirement as specified by Institute of Medicine, US.
Apart from the nutrients shown, it has a healthy amount of fiber which is about 20% of our body’s need, manganese is 40% and copper is almost 50%. Chestnut has almost a complete composition of essential nutrients necessary for various health benefits.
The nutritional composition of Chestnuts provide with a great health benefits and keep your body functioning in the best possible manner.
It has a proven record of improving your body’s defense system called immunity, thereby bringing an overall improvement in your health and well-being.
1. Dental Care & Bone health
We all know teeth the strongest bones in the body so it goes without saying that what works for one works for the other as well.
Calcium and phosphorus are two minerals that are absolutely essential for bone health as they make up the main composition of bones, however, a healthy dose of Magnesium is required for the other two to carry out their function effectively. (1, 2)
Magnesium forms the hard enamel around your teeth and protects the bones from degeneration and decay. (3)
Calcium, Phosphorus, and Magnesium- all the three are present in chestnuts though calcium is on the lower side.
2. For Diarrhea
For problems relating to Diarrhea and the condition itself, chestnut and specifically the chestnut tree bark has been found to be a very effective remedy.
A standard 3 spoons of crushed bark or equivalent chestnuts with shells in a liter of water boiled for about 20 minutes and consumed in the form of 2-3 cups in a day is considered safe.
3. Respiratory Diseases
Cough, cold, Bronchitis and sore throat are some of the most common respiratory conditions. In sore throat, cough and cold, the inflammation of throat can cause a lot of discomfort and pain.
There is also a persistent feeling of dryness which causes itching. To get a relief from this particular problem, doctors administer cough syrups containing expectorant.
Expectorant signals the body to produce more hydrating secretions that relieve the throat. Chestnut has the same properties as that of an expectorant.
4. Maintain Blood Vessel Elasticity
Chestnuts contain essential fatty acids that are required by our body and are derived from the dietary sources. Chestnuts are particularly rich in linoleic acid and have Palmitic acid and Oleic acid that are safe for your body. (5)
They have a low level of cholesterol and can help in bringing down the levels of “Bad Cholesterol” or LDL in the blood vessels.
LDL can create deposits of plaque along the inner lining of blood vessels making them rigid over a period of time. Food items like chestnuts clear this plaque and discourage its formation ensuring elasticity and healthy network of blood vessels.
5. Strong Antioxidant
A high amount of Vitamin C, Gallic acid, and Ellagic acid make chestnut a strong and very effective anti-oxidant. Antioxidants are required by the body to clean the toxins and free radicals.
Free radicals are produced in the body as a result of the natural phenomenon of molecules reacting with active oxygen. An uncontrolled growth of free radicals harm your cells, DNA and are responsible for causing cancer. (6, 7)
Chestnuts with their heavy composition of antioxidant properties detoxify your body and optimizes the immune function of the body. (8)
6. For Loose motions
Loose motions or dysentery can also be controlled by tannin on chestnuts. The Same concoction that cures diarrhea can also bring a lot of relief from persistent dysentery. (9)
In fact, it is more of a folk remedy and a very effective one too. It is better not to administer it to children and infant as even a little mistake in proportions can give them a heavy dosage of tannin.
In India, it is used for De-worming as well.
7. Thyroid function
Thyroid in our neck is the largest endocrine gland of our body. It produces two important hormones called Triiodothyronine and Thyroxine.
The thyroid regulates the rate at which our body uses energy, makes proteins and controls our body’s sensitivity to other hormones.
The ellagic acid in Chestnuts can help support the Thyroid function where one experiences hyperthyroidism or an overactive thyroid function. Ellagic acid suppresses the hormone secretion thereby bringing a control over the overactive thyroid gland. (10, 11)
8. Aids Digestion
Chestnuts have a very high fiber content.
Fiber absorbs water and makes the stools soft along with adding bulk to it. Bulkier and softer stools pass through the gastrointestinal tract easily and faster. This prevents constipation and constipation-related anal inflammation and piles. (12)
Usually, the fiber in food will not play its role properly if there is inadequate water in the body.
But chestnuts have a high content of water as well which makes it a perfect choice for improving digestion with the right combination of fiber and water together.
9. Promotes Weight Loss
Weight loss of unhealthy weight is a must, but it is equally necessary to do it in a right way.
An unhealthy regime for weight loss can cause a lot of damage to the body in long run.
Diet and food are the most important part of a weight loss program and chestnuts are best suited for it and for more than one reason. They are low on fat but are high on energy quotient.
The abundant fiber content of Chestnut makes you full and keeps you full for longer which naturally curbs appetite. The mineral composition and water in chestnuts further controls and replenishes the loss of electrolyte if you are also on a heavy exercising routine for shaving off the extra weight.
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10. Nurtures Pregnancy
Pregnancy is an important time for every woman, she is not only responsible for the growing baby inside her but also needs to take care of herself in best possible manner.
The growing fetus drains out and consumes a lot of nutrients from mother’s body and this is why a well rounded and sufficient diet is a necessity during pregnancy.
Chestnuts provide calcium, Vitamins and important minerals that make the bones strong, balance electrolytes thereby preventing from frequent cramping which many pregnant women experience and keeping your health in a good shape by warding off infections.
Chestnuts are also known to alleviate nausea which plagues the majority of pregnant women, especially in the first trimester.
11. Balance Electrolyte
The electrolyte is the fluid in our body and is made of sodium, magnesium, potassium and carbonates.
An electrolyte as a term means ions that can conduct electricity. In body also, they have a function of transporting neuro-transmissions from the brain to different parts of our body and back. (13)
Loss of electrolyte takes place naturally through our excretions and sweating. Mostly it is our diet that balances electrolyte and replenishes the minerals contained in it.
Chestnuts contain safe and reasonable quantities of Potassium and magnesium that are necessary for the electrolyte. The fluid which carries these ions needs water and chestnut is 60% water which can be further increased by boiling it.
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12. Heart health (Vitamin b6)
Along with Vitamin B12 and Folate, Vitamin B6 regulates and controls the levels of Homocysteine.
Homocysteine is a non-protein amino acid whose high levels are associated with inflammation and damage to blood vessels. This amino acid can cause severe blockages in arteries leading to obstruction of oxygenated blood to the heart.
People with high levels of Homocysteine are prone to an elevated risk of heart attack and stroke apart from creating stress on the entire cardiovascular system which results in deterioration of its function.
Chestnuts are Vitamin B12 rich nuts that have a significant amount of folate or folic acid in them that can help in arresting the onset of Hyperhomocysteinemia.
13. The Vital Oxygen Carriers
Iron and copper are two important elements required for blood and its production.
Blood basically is a vessel that transports oxygen to various parts of our body. The component called hemoglobin is responsible for this function and is made of iron.
In fact, the red color of our blood is owing to the presence of Iron. The other component which transports oxygen to our body is called hemocyanin.
It is composed of Copper which binds oxygen molecule between two of its atoms. Though not as efficient as hemoglobin but hemocyanins are extremely important for this function.Both of these trace metals are present in chestnuts in adequate quantities.
In fact, people suffering from anemia can consume chestnuts to alleviate this condition effectively.
14. Alleviates Stones
Oxalate is an Ion which is associated with increased risk of developing kidney stones.
The calcium oxalate is particularly blamed for the gall bladder and kidney stones. The levels of oxalate in our body are determined by the food we eat. This is why a low oxalate diet is recommended to curb the chances of developing stones. (14, 15)
Chestnuts are a low-oxalate food source. The potassium in chestnuts regulates and control the release and distribution of calcium in the body. It ensures the deposition of calcium on bones with a minimum quantity getting into the blood stream thereby preventing stone formation.
15. Astringent Properties
Chestnuts have anti-inflammatory properties that make it a great astringent owing to a heavy content of tannin in it.
Tannins can allay the skin problems and provide relief from swelling and pain caused due to tear in body tissues. (16)
It helps in faster healing of wounds and soothes. This character of Chestnut has been especially effective in treating hemorrhoids.
Side Effects of Chestnuts
Chestnuts are a very rich source of Vitamin B6 which is a water soluble vitamin. Though the chances of overdosing are rare in cases of water-soluble vitamins because they are not stored in the body but a long term high dosage of Vitamin B6 can cause brain and nerve problems.
The excessive consumption on a persistent basis can lead to spikes of Vitamin B6 which may result in health complications in the long term.
Anaphylaxis is an allergic reaction which causes asthma type of symptoms. People who are allergic to nuts must make sure that Chestnut is suitable for them.
Many times an allergy may be caused by a certain class of nuts only which makes other nuts safe. But as they say, better be safe than sorry, so consult your physician before you take in a handful of them.
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