7 Best Benefits of Chestnuts

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

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Chestnuts may seem like an average, everyday nut, but they have a number of important health benefits including their ability to improve digestive health, strengthen bones, protect cardiovascular health, boost the immune system, and lower blood pressure. They also increase cognition and prevent chronic illnesses.

What are Chestnuts?

Chestnuts are edible nuts produced by the trees and shrubs of the Castanea genus, which are commonly found throughout the northern hemisphere. While there are a number of different species of chestnuts, most of them possess similar qualities and nutritional profiles. They should not be confused with horse chestnuts, which are quite different. There are a number of ways in which chestnut trees are used to get health benefits, although the fruit of the tree (the chestnut itself) is arguably the most popular.

Roasted chestnuts are the most popular, but they are also commonly candied, boiled, pureed, ground into flour for bread-making, grilled, steamed, and deep-fried, among many other preparations. They are enjoyed across the world for their unique flavor and praised for their wealth of important nutrients.

Chestnuts provide high levels of dietary fiber, minerals, ‘good’ fats, vitamins, nutrients, antioxidant compounds and other important components that make up a healthy diet.

A pan of roasted chestnuts kept on a cloth

Nutrition Facts

Nuts, chestnuts, european, boiled and steamed
Serving Size :
Water [g]68.15
Energy [kcal]131
Protein [g]2
Total lipid (fat) [g]1.38
Carbohydrate, by difference [g]27.76
Calcium, Ca [mg]46
Iron, Fe [mg]1.73
Magnesium, Mg [mg]54
Phosphorus, P [mg]99
Potassium, K [mg]715
Sodium, Na [mg]27
Zinc, Zn [mg]0.25
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid [mg]26.7
Thiamin [mg]0.15
Riboflavin [mg]0.1
Niacin [mg]0.73
Vitamin B-6 [mg]0.23
Folate, DFE [µg]38
Vitamin B-12 [µg]0
Vitamin A, RAE [µg]1
Vitamin A, IU [IU]17
Vitamin D (D2 + D3) [µg]0
Vitamin D [IU]0
Fatty acids, total saturated [g]0.26
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated [g]0.48
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated [g]0.55
Cholesterol [mg]0
Sources include : USDA

Health Benefits of Chestnuts

Now, let’s dig a bit deeper into the many health benefits of chestnuts.

Boost Immune System

The high concentration of vitamin C and other antioxidant compounds in chestnuts make them an ideal boost to your immune system. According to the Food Chemistry journal, boiling and roasting chestnuts decreases the vitamin C content of chestnuts. Vitamin C not only stimulates the production of white blood cells but also acts as an antioxidant, seeking out free radicals within the body and neutralizing them before they cause healthy cells to mutate or induce oxidative stress near vital organs. This can help the immune system focus its efforts on pathogens and preventing illnesses.

Increase Bone Mineral Density

Copper and magnesium aren’t the first things that one thinks of when it comes to bone health, but copper is extremely important in the process by which the body absorbs iron, which is also crucial for bone growth and development. Magnesium is very good for increasing bone mineral density and provides a wide variety of other health benefits. With these vital minerals that are found in chestnuts, you can prevent or slow the onset of many age-related disorders, such as osteoporosis.

Relieve Digestive Issues

Chestnuts have one of the highest content of dietary fiber in the world of “nuts”, which means that they are powerful allies in any gastrointestinal struggle. Dietary fiber helps stimulate peristaltic motion in the intestines, thus regulating your bowel movements and preventing inflammation and discomfort. Dietary fiber can also help optimize the absorption of nutrients, which means getting more out of the food you eat and a better overall nutrient profile. A research conducted in Italy published in Food Microbiology shows that consuming chestnut can play a significant role in the gastric tolerance improvement of lactobacilli.

Improve Brain Function

Brain function and cognition are improved in a number of ways through the consumption of chestnuts. First of all, these nuts are rich in the B family vitamins (e.g., folate, riboflavin, thiamine) which are directly linked to proper neurological development and function, according to a study cited in The Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging. Furthermore, the potassium found in chestnuts can increase blood flow to the brain and promote good nervous system health, thus increasing concentration, retention, and memory.

Prevent Chronic Illnesses

Chronic illnesses of all kinds are caused by the release of free radicals, the natural byproducts of cellular respiration. These can cause healthy cells to mutate, resulting in cancer, oxidative stress and a number of chronic illnesses. According to an experiment performed by Korean scientists in 2010, the antioxidant and anti-melanogenic properties of chestnut flower extract can help fight skin cancer. Without antioxidants, like those found in chestnuts, our body would be fighting battles on many fronts, so increasing your defenses with a handful of chestnuts a day is a good idea.

Control Blood Pressure

When it comes to lowering blood pressure, few minerals are as essential as potassium. Potassium controls water movement within the body, and also functions as a vasodilator, increasing blood flow and releasing the tension on constricted blood vessels and arteries. This reduction in blood pressure can boost overall cardiovascular health and lessen your risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Improve Heart Health

Many people think of fats as a bad thing, which is to be burned off during a diet, but in reality, our body needs a number of other fats to function normally. These good fats, found in high concentrations in chestnuts, help to balance cholesterol, reduce inflammation throughout the body, and lower the risk of atherosclerosis and blood clots building up in the body. All of this lowers the risk of stroke, heart attack, and coronary heart diseases to a greater extent. Furthermore, chestnut is a rich source of potassium, which is extremely important for the heart. According to the British Medical Journal, increased potassium intake reduces blood pressure in people with hypertension and lowers the risk of stroke.

Word of Caution: Again, many people suffer from tree nut allergies of varying severity, so be cautious when adding a new nut such as chestnut to your diet. Speak with your doctor or an allergist before switching your nutrient profile, particularly when it may contain a powerful allergen. If you don’t suffer from nut allergies of any kind, then roast up a pan of these nuts and enjoy the benefits they provide!

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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