As the temperature starts to plummet and the snowflakes start falling, there’s nothing more comforting than picking up a tantalizing roasted chestnut treat from the local street vendor.
If you’re like most, you’re probably pretty familiar with this traditional holiday staple. From Christmas and Thanksgiving dinners to holiday songs, chestnuts — and roasted chestnuts, in particular — are an integral part of the winter season. But did you know that these delicious nuts can actually be pretty good for you too?
Slightly sweet with just the right amount of crunch, chestnuts are versatile, delicious, nutrient-dense foods and loaded with health benefits.
From improving digestion to strengthening your bones, there are plenty of reasons to roast those chestnuts by the open fire all year round.
- Chestnut Benefits
- Chestnut Nutrition
- Chestnuts vs. Other Nuts
- How to Roast Chestnuts + Chestnut Uses
- Chestnut History
- Chestnuts make you fat?
- What Are Chestnuts?
- Nutrition Facts
- Health Benefits of Chestnuts
- Potential Drawbacks
- Final Thoughts
- Nutrition in chestnuts
- What about the phytic acid content?
- Roasted chestnuts
- Recipe ideas
- Chinese water chestnuts nutrition facts
- What Are Water Chestnuts?
- Water Chestnut Nutrition Facts
- Top 5 Health Benefits of Water Chestnuts
- Water Chestnut Recipes
- How to Eat Them
What Is a Chestnut? Is It a Nut or Fruit?
Chestnuts, or Castanea, are a group of approximately eight or nine trees and shrubs that belong to the same family as oak and beech trees. These chestnut trees produce an edible nut, commonly referred to as the chestnut, which is consumed around the world.
Interestingly enough, the chestnut is considered both a nut and a fruit. This is because fruits are technically defined as the product of a flowering plant, and most nuts fall into this category.
Chestnuts have a mildly sweet taste and can easily be added to a variety of different dishes. Raw chestnuts have a very hard, crunchy texture that gets softer after being cooked or roasted.
The main types of chestnuts include:
- American chestnut
- Sweet chestnut (also called Spanish chestnut)
- Chinese chestnut
- Japanese/Korean chestnut
Keep in mind that this type of chestnut is not related to the water chestnut. Water chestnuts are not technically nuts, but are actually a type of aquatic vegetable used in many Asian cuisines.
Similarly, the horse chestnut is also part of another family of plants unrelated to chestnuts, and although its extract is used as a natural remedy, it’s actually considered to be toxic.
1. Improves Digestion
Some research has shown that chestnuts could help promote better digestion in a few different ways.
A test-tube study in the journal Food Microbiology found that chestnut extract had a protective effect on the strain of probiotics found in your gastrointestinal tract. Probiotics are a type of beneficial bacteria that keep your gut healthy and help improve digestion. (1)
Additionally, chestnuts are high in fiber. Dietary fiber resists digestion as it passes through the gastrointestinal tract, which aids in the movement of foods through your digestive tract. Fiber can also alleviate constipation, promote satiety, stabilize blood sugar and help nourish the beneficial bacteria found in your gut.
In addition to chestnuts, other high-fiber foods include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and other varieties of nuts.
2. Contains Antioxidants
In addition to supplying a hefty chunk of vitamins and minerals, chestnuts also boast a good amount of antioxidants as well.
A 2010 study conducted by the Department of Biotechnology at Chosun University in Korea demonstrated that chestnut flower extract exhibited potent antioxidant properties and even helped protect against damage from melanoma, or skin cancer. (2)
Antioxidants are substances that help neutralize harmful free radicals, which are compounds that can build up and cause damage to cells as well as chronic disease. These beneficial substances have been associated with an impressive set of health benefits, from preventing cancer to fighting heart disease. (3, 4)
Antioxidants are found in a wide array of whole foods and are especially high in fruits and vegetables. Filling your plate with antioxidant-rich foods like these as well as chestnuts may be especially beneficial in reducing the risk of disease.
3. Protects Your Heart
Interestingly enough, certain types of chestnuts have actually been shown to have a protective effect on your heart. This is partially because chestnuts contain antioxidants, which can reduce inflammation and improve heart health. (5)
Chestnuts also contain potassium, an important mineral that could decrease some of the risk factors associated with heart disease. One review found that increased potassium intake could effectively lower blood pressure and even slash the risk of stroke by 24 percent. (6)
If you suffer from heart problems, including a serving of chestnuts in your diet may be able to help reduce some of the risk factors of heart disease and keep your heart healthy.
4. Promotes Regularity
When you eat fiber, it moves through your body undigested. This can help add bulk to stool and ease its passage through the body to fight off constipation.
One analysis published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology in 2012 looked at five studies measuring the effects of dietary fiber. Researchers found that increasing fiber intake was associated with an increase in stool frequency. (8)
Chestnuts, in combination with other high-fiber foods — such as fruits, vegetables and legumes — can be an excellent dietary addition to help prevent constipation and promote regularity.
5. Boosts Bone Health
Just 10 kernels of chestnuts manage to cram in 50 percent of the manganese you need for the entire day. Manganese is an incredibly important mineral that is necessary for normal cell function. Some studies have also shown that manganese could play a central role in bone health as well and may provide protection from certain diseases. (9)
Approximately 43 percent of manganese is stored in the bones. Taking manganese in combination with other bone-building minerals may help prevent bone loss, especially in older women. (10, 11)
In a 2004 study, a capsule containing manganese along with vitamin D, calcium, magnesium, zinc and boron was found to increase bone density in 334 women with weak bones. (12)
Including a serving of chestnuts in your diet, along with other bone-enhancing nutrients, could help keep your bones strong and ward off osteoporosis.
6. Improves Brain Function
Chestnuts are plentiful in several B vitamins, including thiamine, vitamin B6, riboflavin and folate. These vitamins are essential to keeping your brain healthy and protecting against disease.
Deficiencies in any of these B vitamins can cause problems with cognition. Thiamine deficiency, for example, can lead to delirium while a folate deficiency can impair brain development in children. (13, 14)
A 2016 study supplemented elderly participants with folic acid for one year and found that it helped improve cognitive performance while also reducing levels of certain markers of inflammation. (15) Another study in Nutrition Journal showed that increased B vitamin intake was positively associated with cognitive function in elderly participants with mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease. (16)
To make sure you’re meeting your B vitamin needs and help optimize brain health, eat plenty of protein-rich foods, and consider adding a serving or two of chestnuts each day.
Chestnuts pack in a hearty serving of fiber along with a good amount of several micronutrients, such as manganese, vitamin C and thiamine.
Ten kernels (or approximately 84 grams) of roasted chestnuts contain approximately: (17)
- 206 calories
- 44.5 grams carbohydrates
- 2.7 grams protein
- 1.8 grams fat
- 4.3 grams fiber
- 1 milligram manganese (50 percent DV)
- 21.8 milligrams vitamin C (36 percent DV)
- 0.4 milligram vitamin B6 (21 percent DV)
- 0.4 milligram copper (21 percent DV)
- 58.8 micrograms folate (15 percent DV)
- 0.2 milligram thiamine (14 percent DV)
- 497 milligrams potassium (14 percent DV)
- 0.1 milligram riboflavin (9 percent DV)
- 89.9 milligrams phosphorus (9 percent DV)
- 6.6 micrograms vitamin K (8 percent DV)
- 27.7 milligrams magnesium (7 percent DV)
- 1.1 milligrams niacin (6 percent DV)
- 0.5 milligram pantothenic acid (5 percent DV)
- 0.8 milligram iron (4 percent DV)
- 0.5 milligram zinc (3 percent DV)
Chestnuts vs. Other Nuts
There are a number of nut varieties out there, each with its own unique set of nutrients and benefits to health.
Chestnuts are a starchy type of nut, which sets them apart from other nuts that have a higher content of oil and fat.
Walnuts, for example, are especially rich in healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Similar to chestnuts, they are also high in manganese and copper but with lower amounts of potassium, vitamin C and vitamin B6. Meanwhile, almonds are loaded with vitamin E and protein and contain a good amount of manganese, magnesium and riboflavin.
Other types of nuts aren’t as nutrient-dense, like peanuts, which are high in omega-6 fatty acids but low in most other micronutrients.
How to Roast Chestnuts + Chestnut Uses
Roasted chestnuts are one of the most popular chestnut varieties and a sweet and flavorful way to add these delicious nuts to your diet.
Here is an easy way that you can enjoy your favorite street vendor snack and start chestnut roasting from the comfort of your own kitchen:
- Start with fresh chestnuts and use a small knife to cut an “X” into each. This allows the steam to escape and prevents the chestnuts from bursting in the oven.
- Layer the chestnuts in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast for 20-30 minutes at 425 F. You’ll know the chestnuts are cooked when the shells crack open and the chestnut has turned a golden brown color.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes, peel while they are still warm and enjoy!
If you’re looking for a few other interesting ways to enjoy this sweet snack, you can also try adding cooked chestnuts to desserts, stews and casseroles for a bit of extra crunch and flavor.
Chestnut flour, made from ground chestnuts, is a gluten-free flour that can be used to make breads, pancakes and baked goods.
Remember that chestnuts need to be cooked before they can be eaten. Not only does this help remove the shell of the chestnut, but it also lowers the tannic acid content. Tannic acid is a plant compound that has been linked to numerous adverse effects on health and should be avoided. (18)
For more ideas of how to eat chestnuts, here are a few chestnut recipes that you can give a try:
- Italian Lentil and Chestnut Stew
- Mushroom, Chestnut & Ale Pie
- Maple Chestnut Pudding Chômeurs
Just a century ago, almost 4 billion American chestnut trees dominated forests across the United States. These trees had all kinds of benefits. They were massive and fast-growing with rot-resistant wood that made them the perfect choice for building everything from log cabins to railroad ties. The edible chestnuts from the chestnut trees were even used to help fatten up livestock before going to the market.
In the early 1900s, a type of fungus called Cryphonectria parasitica was accidentally brought into the United States. This fungus was responsible for chestnut blight, a disease that caused widespread destruction of the American chestnut tree. The fungus would enter the tree and produce toxic compounds to lower the pH down to a level that is deadly to plant cells.
While other types of chestnut trees can also be affected by the devastating effects of this fungus, the American chestnut tree is the most susceptible. The introduction of this fungus killed off billions of chestnut tree and brought the chestnut tree close to extinction.
Today, the last remaining stand of chestnut trees is found in Wisconsin with 2,500 chestnut trees in a 60-acre forest, and conservation efforts are in full force to protect the future of the American chestnut tree and the chestnut itself.
Allergies to chestnuts are not as common as other types of nuts, like peanuts, but can cause severe symptoms. If you have a tree nut allergy, you should also avoid chestnuts.
An allergy to chestnuts can cause symptoms like itching, swelling, wheezing and redness. If you experience any of these symptoms after eating chestnuts, you should discontinue use and consult with your doctor immediately.
Additionally, while chestnuts are an excellent source of many important nutrients, they are also high in carbohydrates. In fact, just 10 kernels provides nearly 45 grams of carbohydrates.
If you have diabetes or high blood sugar, you should be especially mindful about including chestnuts in your diet. Chestnuts are considered a complex carbohydrate, meaning they are digested slower than other types of carbohydrates, and can absolutely fit into a healthy diet.
Still, it’s best to keep intake in moderation and pair them with other low-carb options to prevent increases in blood sugar.
- Chestnuts should be more than just a favorite treat when Christmas rolls around. These flavorful nuts squeeze tons of fiber, vitamins and minerals into each serving, making them an ideal snack all year round.
- In addition to their stellar nutrient profile, chestnuts have also been associated with a handful of health benefits. From keeping your bones strong to protecting your heart from damage and disease, chestnuts can make a major impact on your overall well-being.
- Best of all, chestnuts are extremely versatile and easy to use. Roast them up for a sweet snack or use them to give your next hot bowl of soup an easy upgrade. Not only are these nuts rich in flavor, but they’re also rich in nutrition and can be a healthy addition to your plate.
Read Next: Fruitarian Diet: Are All-Fruit Diets Dangerous to Your Health?
Chestnuts make you fat?
Chestnuts are the symbol fruit of autumn, both roasted and boiled. Chestnuts are perfect as a base for confectionery products, however, enough calories.
Delicious roasted, boiled or pureed as a filling for cakes and breads, meaty chestnuts are beloved by adults and children as “feared” for the alleged effects fattening. Of them it is said that bloat your belly, they do “rise” waist and raise the glycemic index.
But is that really true? Not at all…In fact, this fruit symbol of autumn season enjoys a reputation a little undeserved.
No one should be deprived of the pleasure of tasting a good portion of ripe chestnuts every so often, even who is on a diet or have high blood sugar, because this fruit protects the health and is good for your mood.
Many people feel weak and vulnerable in the months between October and December, partly due to a physiological decline of the immune system, and in part by psychological reasons. Shorter days and less bright, gloomy weather, the humidity, and the first colds, they put ko and rob us of energy.
But the solution to these problems comes to us from nature and there are several fruits which can help us: pomegranates, persimmons, grapes, pumpkins, pears and apples … Among these we include chestnuts, but what benefits we derive from eating them in the fall, apart from the pleasure of the palate?
Nutritional properties of chestnuts are amazing, they contain amides (as it’s known), but also vitamins such as Vitamin C (which boosts the immune system), folic acid and vitamin B that help us fight the states of anemia and weakness, minerals important for healthy skin and hair, but also the muscles, including magnesium, potassium and phosphorus, and lots of fiber.
These restrict the absorption of sugars and fats in the intestine, therefore the chestnuts are indicated in the case of high cholesterol.
Also stimulate the intestinal peristalsis helping to combat obstinate constipation.
Chestnuts are rich in amides and carbohydrates so they provide energy.
About calories, per 100g (fresh and raw) we assume 200 calories, however, go down to 120 if we decide to eat them boiled.
Eating too many chestnuts can have unpleasant side effects such as the formation of air into the stomach (flatulence) and bloating.
A tip for the food cold period is to use, even for making cakes and cookies, chestnut flour, which has a lower glycemic index in wheat flour 00 and a naturally sweet taste that requires a smaller quantity of sugar, quality which makes it suitable for diabetics.
You can eat chestnut but don’t overdo it.
Last Updated on May 29, 2019
Chestnuts are very different from all the other nut varieties.
For one thing, they are predominantly a source of carbohydrate rather than fat.
But what kind of nutritional value do they offer?
This guide examines the potential health benefits—and concerns—of chestnuts.
What Are Chestnuts?
First of all, chestnuts are a “true nut” in the botanical and culinary sense. For instance, we think of almonds as nuts, but botanically they are a drupe/seed.
Peanuts? They are a legume, but again, we think of them as nuts.
Alongside other nut varieties such as hazelnuts, chestnuts are a true nut.
Chestnuts have been a popular part of the human diet for thousands of years, with historical records showing evidence of cultivation since at least 2000 BC (1).
In modern times, the nuts enjoy global popularity, and roasted chestnuts are synonymous with the festive season in the Western world.
Unlike the majority of nuts, chestnuts are a starchy food with a sweet taste.
Types of Chestnut
There are dozens of chestnuts cultivated around the world, but there are five main species.
These chestnut varieties include;
- Castanea crenata: known as either the ‘Japanese chestnut’ or ‘Korean chestnut.’
- Castanea dentata: a type of American chestnut that grows in the Eastern parts of the United States.
- Castanea mollissima: the ‘Chinese’ chestnut. China produces more chestnuts than any country in the world (2).
- Castanea pumila: another American chestnut that grows predominantly in the Eastern and Southern states. It also goes by the name of ‘dwarf chestnut.’
- Castanea sativa: this may also be called ‘European chestnut,’ ‘sweet chestnut’ or ‘Spanish chestnut.’ It grows throughout Europe and some regions of Asia.
Key Point: Chestnuts are a true nut with a long history of human cultivation.
The tables below show the full nutritional values for roasted chestnuts per 100-gram (3.5 oz) serving (3).
|Saturated Fat||0.4 g|
|Monounsaturated Fat||0.8 g|
|Polyunsaturated Fat||0.9 g|
Key Point: Chestnuts are primarily a source of carbohydrate, and they offer a fairly good range of vitamins and minerals.
Health Benefits of Chestnuts
Chestnuts offer several benefits, primarily from the vitamins and minerals they contain.
1) Rich In Vitamin C
It is rare to find vitamin C in nuts, but chestnuts offer quite a large amount of the nutrient.
100 grams (3.5 oz) of chestnuts provide 26 mg of vitamin C, which represents 43% of the daily value for the vitamin (4).
Vitamin C is an essential nutrient that plays a role in our immune health, and it may help to fight infections (5, 6).
Aside from vitamin C, chestnuts are also a good source of B vitamins.
Key Point: Chestnuts offer a good amount of vitamin C.
2) Chestnuts Are a Significant Source of Polyphenols
Polyphenols are bioactive compounds found in plant foods that may have beneficial effects on our health.
With more than 1,215 mg of polyphenols per 100 grams, chestnuts offer more of these compounds than almost any other food (7).
The majority of these compounds come from the phenolic acids ellagic acid and gallic acid.
Systematic reviews find that ellagic acid may have anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties (8, 9).
However, it is worth noting that the majority of these research findings come from cell (test tube) and animal studies using high-strength extracts. Therefore, at this stage, there is no evidence that food-based dosages of ellagic acid can have these effects.
Regarding gallic acid, a recent randomized controlled trial demonstrated that a small daily amount (15 mg) reduced plasma oxidized-LDL and C-reactive protein by 24%. For comparison purposes, 100 grams of chestnuts provide 480 mg of the gallic acid (10, 7).
However, aside from this, there is very little human research on these compounds.
Key Point: Chestnuts are one of the most polyphenol-rich foods.
3) Good Source of Copper
Copper is one of the primary nutrients we can find in chestnuts.
A 100-gram (3.5 oz) serve offers 0.5 mg of copper, which is equivalent to 25% of the mineral’s daily value.
Copper is an essential mineral that plays a crucial role in the central nervous system, energy production, and iron metabolism (11).
Further to their copper content, chestnuts are also an excellent source of manganese, potassium, and phosphorus.
Key Point: Chestnuts contain a wide range of minerals, and they offer a large amount of manganese and copper.
4) Chestnuts Are Moderately High In Fiber
With 53 grams of carbohydrate per 100 grams, chestnuts are certainly a high-carb food.
However, 5.1 grams of these carbohydrates are from fiber.
Notably, the fiber content of carbohydrate can help to slow postprandial (post-eating) blood glucose spikes (12).
For example, this is why whole fruit has a smaller impact on blood glucose levels than ultra-processed sugary drinks (13).
Early research also suggests that fiber may play a beneficial role in gastrointestinal health. On this note, a systematic review of 64 studies found that dietary fiber increases the presence of so-called “good bacteria” strains in the gut (14).
Key Point: Chestnuts offer a moderate amount of fiber, which may offer health benefits.
In addition to their health benefits, there are also a few potential drawbacks of chestnuts.
1) Moderately High In Oxalates
Oxalic acid (oxalate) is a kind of anti-nutrient found in food that may cause problems in excessive amounts. This is particularly the case for individuals with a history of kidney stones (15).
Although chestnuts are not as high in oxalate as other nuts such as almonds, they still contain a large concentration of the compound.
Per 100 grams, chestnuts contain approximately 72 mg of oxalate (16).
According to kidney stone researchers, any foods that contain more than 10 mg oxalate per 100 grams are classed as “medium to high” oxalate content (17).
Additionally, the National Kidney Foundation advises that individuals with a history of kidney stones should limit daily oxalate intake to <50 mg (18).
Key Point: Chestnuts are unsuitable for low-oxalate diets.
2) Be Aware That Chestnuts Are High In Carbs (and Low In Fat)
Firstly, being high in carbohydrate and low in fat isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
That said, many people set out to eat nuts for their “healthy fats.”
For those looking to increase their intake of dietary fat, chestnuts are a poor choice, and they are predominantly a source of carbohydrate.
Key Point: Don’t eat chestnuts for fat – they barely contain any.
3) Chestnut Allergies Are Relatively Common
Firstly, chestnuts are in a different botanical class to nuts such as almonds, walnuts, and Brazil nuts.
For this reason, chestnut allergies are different from general tree nut allergies (19).
In other words; people with almond allergies might be okay with chestnuts (but they also might not).
For individuals with any nut allergy, it is always sensible to take precautions, and this might be something worth discussing with a doctor. A simple skin prick test can reveal whether an allergy is present.
Additionally, individuals with fruit and latex allergies may have cross-reactions with chestnuts, so this may be worth considering too (19, 20).
Once again, for anyone with concerns over a possible allergy, this should be discussed with your doctor.
Key Point: Some people are allergic to chestnuts. People with latex allergies have a higher risk of reactions to chestnuts.
4) Don’t Confuse Sweet Chestnuts For (Toxic) ‘Horse Chestnuts’
Lastly, don’t confuse sweet chestnuts with ‘horse chestnuts.’
Horse chestnuts may also be called by the name ‘conkers,’ particularly in the UK.
While the two look very similar, horse chestnuts contain a substance called glucoside aesculin. Unfortunately, this compound is toxic to humans (21).
For this reason, care should be taken if picking sweet chestnuts in an area where horse chestnuts grow.
Proper identification is key.
Key Point: Watch out for horse chestnuts; they look very similar to sweet chestnuts, but contain a toxin.
In a nutritional sense, chestnuts are vastly different from typical nuts, and they primarily offer carbohydrate rather than fat.
That aside, chestnuts are reasonably nutritious and contain a good mix of vitamins and minerals.
As a snack option, not many foods can match hot roasted chestnuts on a cold winter’s day.
For more on nuts, see this guide to pistachio nuts.
The Eat This series will introduce foods that are less popular or underappreciated in Western societies, yet are widely available, nutritious and taste great.
Discovering or rediscovering those foods is a great way to diversify your diet and bring pleasure in your everyday eating.
The first installment of this series will be about chestnuts.
Chestnuts are a true nut, compared to almonds and cashews, for example, which are in fact really a fruit. They are unrelated to water chestnuts, which are a tuber from an aquatic plant. There are multiple varieties of chestnuts, with the European and Asian varieties being the most popular ones.
Chestnuts are particular in that they are starchy, unlike most nuts, which are more often on the fatty side. In fact chestnuts are rather low in fat. They are a good natural carbohydrate option for those who like to eat a little more starch, but who want to stay in the Paleo boundaries and eat what’s available in nature. Sweet potatoes and yams are a good option but one can get fed up of eating them all the time. Chestnuts to the rescue!
They are rarely eaten raw and most often eaten roasted, but also sometimes boiled. A flour can also be made out of chestnuts and Paleo baked goods can be prepared with chestnut flour. In fact, chestnut flour can be used instead of almond flour in recipes calling for it. The flour can also be used to thicken sauces.
Chestnut flour is probably a better idea than almond flour for baked goods because almond flour contains high amounts of fragile polyunsaturated fats that oxidize easily when in contact with a source of heat and that should be kept to a minimum on an healthy diet even if they are not oxidized.
They are popular in Italian cuisine and chestnut bread is common there. Keep in mind that as a source of starchy carbohydrate, some people will fair better without them, especially those trying to lose weight, and they are easy to overdo. Some people with digestive issues or a broken metabolism will probably fair better by avoiding starch altogether as well as all nuts.
For those who do enjoy moderate amounts of starchy vegetables though, chestnuts can be a wonderful addition.
Nutrition in chestnuts
Chestnuts are probably not what we would call a nutrition powerhouse, but they are still pretty high in manganese, vitamin C, vitamin B6 and copper. They are in fact the only nuts that contain appreciable levels of vitamin C.
In 100 grams of chestnuts you’ll find 53 grams of carbohydrates. Of those 53 grams, 11 come from simple sugars, 5 from fiber and the remaining 37 grams is starch.
In those same 100 grams of chestnuts, you’ll only get 2.2 grams of fat and 3 grams of protein.
What about the phytic acid content?
You’ll be pleased to learn that, like most nuts, chestnuts contain some levels of phytic acid which binds nutrients like calcium, iron and magnesium and makes them unavailable, but that the phytic acid content is pretty low in chestnuts. In fact, there is about 47mg/100g of phytic acid in chestnuts while you’ll find 1,280mg/100g in almonds and 760mg/100g in walnuts, according to a 1987 review article.
In countries where chestnuts are popular, you’ll often find street vendors selling freshly roasted chestnuts. If chestnuts are in season and are available at your local grocery store though, they are easy to roast and enjoy at home in the oven or around a campfire. They are normally in season from October to March. Here are the general roasting instructions:
- Preheat your oven to 400 F.
- Slash a X with a sharp knife on the flat side of each chestnut. This prevents them from bursting.
- Place the chestnuts on a baking sheet and place them in the oven to roast for 20 to 30, shaking the baking sheet occasionally.
- Remove from oven and let cool until they can be handled. Peel them when still hot. They’ll be hard to peel if you let them cool, but you can always reheat them.
If you decide to boil your chestnuts instead, place them in a pot of cold water, bring it to a boil and let simmer for about 15 to 25 minutes before draining them and peeling them with a sharp knife while they are sill hot.
Chestnuts are great on their own as a snack, in salads, in soups, as a garnishing for meat and fish dishes or in stuffing recipes. Poultry is excellent when enjoyed with a chestnut stuffing.
Chinese water chestnuts nutrition facts
Selection and storage
In its growing places, Chinese waterchestnuts can be available at their best from the onset of summer season to fall. In the US, they are sold primarily in the Asian specialty stores or as canned in the supermarkets. Choose that are fresh and very hard. Avoid bruised or ones that have soft spots.
Water chestnuts are fairly fragile, so it is best to store them unpeeled. They keep well in the fridge for 2 weeks, in a container and covered with water. Fresh, unwashed water chestnuts can be also placed for 2 weeks in a paper bag and stored in the coldest part of the fridge. They need to be checked regularly, as they can start to dry out or ferment. Peeled water chestnuts keep for 2-3 days. Refrigerate any uneaten canned water chestnuts in water, replacing with fresh water every day. Wholesale marketers store them in the freezer for up to 6 months, raw and plunged.
Cooking makes water chestnuts slightly sweeter and preserves their crunchy texture.
Preparation and serving methods
Only water chestnuts of E. dulcis species can be eaten raw. Peeled corms can be used boiled, braised, in stir-fries, etc. Peeled chestnuts can be used as whole, halved, sliced diced julienned or pureed. They add a characteristic crunchy note to many dishes.
Here are some serving tips:
|Pan fried waterchestnut cake. (Photo-by tissue_fleur)||Tofu, broccoli and waterchestnuts. (Photo-by Q family)|
In the mainland China, pureed watechestnut used in dim sum preparation.
Sliced/diced, they can be added in soups, mixed salads, fruit salads, vegetable-based dishes, pasta dishes and quiches, meat, poultry, and seafood.
Waterchestnut cake (matai gau) is a delicious recipe prepared during Chinese New Year (autumn) festival in the Southern-China, and Hong Kong.
Water chestnut puree can be added to chicken stock with onions, apples and a light cream, or to potato, sweet potato or pumpkin.
Being water-dwelling crops, water chestnuts may harbor fluke larvae (Fasciolopsis). Fresh chestnuts should be washed thoroughly in running water, soaked in salt water for at least 30 minutes and rewashed again before eating them raw. Boiling kills the larvae instantly and any cooked recipes are safe for consumption. (Medical disclaimer).
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USDA National Nutrient Database.
Frequently featured in stir-fries and steamed vegetable medleys, most people have tried water chestnuts at one point or another, whether they knew it or not. This starchy aquatic veggie offers a unique taste and texture, plus an incredible array of benefits. High in antioxidants, fiber and a wealth of micronutrients, adding this versatile vegetable to your diet can be fantastic for your health.
So what exactly is a water chestnut? And are canned water chestnuts healthy? Plus, how can you start adding this flavorful veggie to your daily diet? Let’s take a closer look.
What Are Water Chestnuts?
So what is a water chestnut? Known by its scientific name, Eleocharis dulcis, the Chinese water chestnut is a grass-like plant that is native to certain areas in Asia, Australia and Africa — as well as several islands in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Contrary to what its name suggests, it’s not actually a nut at all. It is a type of aquatic vegetable that grows underground in marshes. Are water chestnuts related to chestnuts? No, the water chestnut should not be confused with the water caltrop or sweet chestnut, both of which are unrelated and belong to entirely different families of plants.
The water chestnut plant has long, stem-like leaves and grows a small, round edible corm underground. This is the part of the plant that is commonly consumed. It is enjoyed for its crisp texture that it manages to retain even after cooking. It can be commonly found in vegetable medleys and in an assortment of Asian dishes and cuisines.
In addition to its distinct taste and texture, the water chestnut is also revered for its impressive nutrient profile. The extensive water chestnuts benefits also make it a popular choice. In fact, some research suggests that adding this aquatic veggie to your diet could help optimize heart health, enhance digestion and support weight loss as well.
Water Chestnut Nutrition Facts
Take a look at the water chestnuts nutrition profile, and it’s easy to understand why this aquatic vegetable is so great for your health. Each serving provides a good amount of water chestnuts carbs and fiber, plus micronutrients like manganese, potassium, copper and vitamin B6.
So what is the nutritional value of water chestnuts? A 3.5-ounce serving (about 100 grams) of water chestnuts contains approximately:
- 97 calories
- 23.9 grams carbohydrates
- 1.4 grams protein
- 0.1 gram fat
- 3 grams dietary fiber
- 0.3 milligram manganese (17 percent DV)
- 584 milligrams potassium (17 percent DV)
- 0.3 milligram copper (16 percent DV)
- 0.3 milligram vitamin B6 (16 percent DV)
- 0.2 milligram riboflavin (12 percent DV)
- 0.1 milligram thiamine (9 percent DV)
- 4 milligrams vitamin C (7 percent DV)
- 1.2 milligrams vitamin E (6 percent DV)
- 63 milligrams phosphorus (6 percent DV)
- 1 milligram niacin (5 percent DV)
- 22 milligrams magnesium (5 percent DV)
- 0.5 milligram pantothenic acid (5 percent DV)
In addition to the nutrients listed above, water chestnut nutrition also contains a small amount of folate, zinc, selenium and calcium.
Top 5 Health Benefits of Water Chestnuts
- Promote Weight Loss
- Loaded with Antioxidants
- Enhance Heart Health
- May Have Anti-Cancer Properties
- Support Healthy Digestion
1. Promote Weight Loss
Water chestnuts are low in calories yet high in nutrients. This makes them a great addition to a healthy weight loss diet. Plus, a good amount of the carbs in water chestnuts are actually in the form of fiber, which moves through the body undigested to support satiety and keep you feeling fuller for longer.
Not only that, but water chestnuts have a high water content. In fact, they are made up of about 74 percent water. Studies show that eating more foods with a low energy density, such as water chestnuts, can decrease caloric intake to promote weight loss.
2. Loaded with Antioxidants
Water chestnuts are a great source of antioxidants. Antioxidants are health-promoting compounds that help fight free radical formation and prevent cell damage. In addition to decreasing oxidative stress in the body, antioxidants also play a central role in health and disease. They may help protect against chronic conditions like cancer and heart disease.
In particular, water chestnuts are a good source of several key antioxidants, including ferulic acid, gallocatechin gallate, epicatechin gallate and catechin gallate. Furthermore, an in vitro study published in the Journal of Food Science showed that the antioxidants found in water chestnuts can help effectively neutralize disease-causing free radicals to support better health.
3. Enhance Heart Health
Packing 17 percent of the potassium you need per day into each serving, including water chestnuts in your daily diet can have a big impact on heart health. Increasing your intake of potassium is vital to heart health. It is especially important when it comes to lowering blood pressure and preventing hypertension.
In addition to keeping blood pressure in check, getting more potassium in your diet can also reduce the risk of heart disease. One large review conducted by the University of Naples Medical Center showed that a higher intake of potassium was associated with a lower risk of stroke, coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease.
4. May Have Anti-Cancer Properties
Thanks to their rich content of antioxidants, water chestnuts may possess potent anti-cancer properties. Although current research is limited to in vitro studies, certain compounds found in water chestnuts have been shown to decrease the growth of cancer cells.
Specifically, ferulic acid is an antioxidant that can help block the development and spread of tumor cells. In particular, in vitro studies show that this powerful compound can be effective against the formation of thyroid, breast and lung cancer cells.
5. Support Healthy Digestion
Water chestnuts are a great source of fiber, squeezing up to 12 percent of your daily fiber needs into a single serving. Fiber moves through the body undigested, adding bulk to the stool to promote regularity and optimize digestive health.
Studies show that upping your intake of fiber can come with a multitude of health benefits. In fact, getting a few extra servings of fiber in your diet may aid in the treatment of digestive conditions like hemorrhoids, intestinal ulcers, diverticulitis and gastroesophageal reflux disease. Fiber also has been shown to promote regularity by increasing stool frequency in those with constipation.
Water Chestnut Uses in Traditional Medicine
Water chestnuts are high in essential nutrients and packed with medicinal properties. For this reason, water chestnuts are considered a staple in many branches of traditional medicine.
In Ayurvedic medicine, water chestnuts are used to calm the pitta dosha and act as a natural diuretic to promote urine production. They are also thought to support proper blood clotting and healthy libido and keep your bones strong.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, this aquatic vegetable is used to manage blood pressure, stabilize blood sugar, and treat ailments like hemorrhoids and diarrhea. Additionally, water chestnuts are believed to naturally soothe sore throats and optimize liver health as well.
Water Chestnuts vs. Jicama
Jicama is a root vegetable that is often compared to the water chestnut given their similarities in taste and texture. In fact, jicama is sometimes referred to as “Mexican water chestnut.” It is said to have a taste that is described as a cross between a water chestnut and an apple.
Despite their similarities, these two vegetables are actually unrelated and native to entirely different parts of the world. While water chestnuts are indigenous to Asia, Australia, Africa and certain islands in the Pacific, jicama originally hails from Mexico. Jicama has a yellow, papery exterior that covers the crisp white flesh inside. It has a unique sweet and starchy flavor.
Gram for gram, jicama is lower in calories and carbs but higher in fiber and vitamin C compared to water chestnuts. Water chestnuts, on the other hand, contain a higher amount of key nutrients, like potassium, manganese, copper and vitamin B6. That said, both are highly nutritious and can be enjoyed in moderation as part of a balanced diet.
Where to Find and How to Use Water Chestnuts
Wondering where to buy water chestnuts? While fresh water chestnuts may be difficult to find outside of specialty Asian markets, jarred or canned water chestnuts are available in most major grocery stores in the international or ethnic food section.
Once you get your hands on this crunchy vegetable, you may wonder: Do water chestnuts need to be cooked? Fresh water chestnuts can be peeled and enjoyed as is, while canned varieties should be rinsed or soaked in water to enhance the flavor. Both types can be enjoyed raw or cooked and added to main courses and side dishes alike.
There are plenty of methods for how to cook water chestnuts to enjoy them in your favorite water chestnut recipes. A few of the most popular ways involve boiling them, roasting them on a baking sheet or sautéing them as part of a flavorful stir-fry. You can also grate them and add them to curries, salads and casseroles or use dried and ground water chestnuts as an alternative to regular flour. When cooking them with other ingredients, however, be sure to add them near the end of the cooking process to ensure they retain their signature crunch and crispness.
Water Chestnut Recipes
There are many different ways to enjoy the multitude of health benefits that this aquatic vegetable has to offer. Here are a few easy water chestnuts recipes to try at home to help get you started:
- Spicy Cucumber, Tomato and Water Chestnut Salad
- Mushroom and Water Chestnut Lettuce Wraps
- Asian Chicken and Water Chestnut Patties
- Stir-Fried Water Chestnuts
- Sautéed Green Beans with Water Chestnut and Ginger
Water chestnuts are native to Asia and a common ingredient in many different Chinese dishes. In China, they are often eaten raw as a snack or enjoyed slightly sweetened for a tasty treat. They are also found in steamed or sautéed vegetable medleys. These veggies are ground into a fine flour as well and used to make water chestnut cake, which is a type of Cantonese dim sum dish.
Water chestnuts are used in many other types of cuisine as well. For example, in Thailand, they are used to make thapthim krop, a famous dessert that is made up of cubes of water chestnuts in syrup. Meanwhile, in Vietnam they can be found in Nước Sâm, an herbal tea that contains roasted water chestnuts plus dried longan and the flower of the sawtooth herb.
Unlike other vegetables, water chestnuts are unique because they are able to retain their distinct crunchiness even after being cooked or canned. This is due to their chemical structure. The cell walls of the vegetable are cross-linked, and compounds like ferulic acid help provide strength to keep them from becoming too soft during the cooking process.
Water chestnuts can be a healthy and nutritious addition to a well-rounded diet when enjoyed in moderation. That said, they may not be for everyone. There are several things to keep in mind before adding them to your daily routine.
First of all, keep in mind that water chestnuts are considered a starchy vegetable, much like other ingredients, such as green peas, corn and potatoes. Starchy vegetables are relatively high in carbohydrates, so it’s important to keep your intake in moderation to avoid unwanted spikes in blood sugar levels, especially if you have diabetes.
Additionally, note that water chestnuts are unrelated to sweet chestnuts and not considered a tree nut at all. Thus, they can be safely consumed by those with an allergy to other tree nuts, such as almonds, walnuts and pistachios. However, some people may be allergic to water chestnuts, which can cause food allergy symptoms like hives, itching, swelling and redness. If you notice these or any other adverse side effects after consuming water chestnuts, discontinue use immediately and talk to your doctor.
- What are water chestnuts? The water chestnut is a type of aquatic plant that produces an edible corm that grows underground. It has a crisp, starchy white interior that stands out from other vegetables because it retains its signature crunch even after cooking.
- Each serving provides a good amount of carbohydrates and fiber, plus micronutrients such as manganese, potassium, copper and vitamin B6.
- Water chestnuts are high in antioxidants and cancer-fighting properties. They may help promote weight loss, enhance heart health and support healthy digestion.
- Best of all, water chestnuts are highly versatile. They can be incorporated into a variety of different recipes as part of a well-rounded, healing diet.
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Chestnuts roasting on an open fire means one thing: Christmas. It’s literally the first line of the “The Christmas Song,” but the holiday staple deserves a spot in more than just carols and stuffing. These starchy nuts pack in a surprising dose of fiber, vitamin C, and important minerals like copper and potassium. Here’s exactly what’s inside those tough hulls.
Galil Organic Whole Roasted Chestnuts amazon.com $6.97
Serving Size: 1 ounce, roasted
- 70 calories
- 0.6 g total fat
- 15 g carbohydrates
- 1.4 g dietary fiber (5%)
- 3 g sugar
- 0.9 g protein
- vitamin C 12% DV
- vitamin B-6 5% DV
- copper 7% DV
- manganese 17% DV
- potassium 4% DV
- magnesium 2% DV
Unlike most other nuts, chestnuts contain little protein or fat and chiefly provide complex carbs. That doesn’t mean they skimp on essential nutrients: Chestnuts supply vitamins and minerals that benefit your body from head to toe.
The fiber improves digestion.
Just 10 roasted chestnuts include 17% of what you need for the day — a major plus considering most of us don’t get nearly enough. Americans eat on average about 16 grams of fiber per day, half of the recommended amount of 25 to 30 grams. Fiber in plant-based foods like nuts can help maintain GI health, lower LDL (or “bad”) cholesterol levels, and contribute toward a healthy weight by filling you up, according to the Mayo Clinic.
The complex carbs will you keep you energized longer.
While almonds and peanuts pack in the protein, chestnuts predominantly contain complex carbohydrates, which your body digests slowly for a stable energy source. Foods high in fiber and complex carbs also have a less immediate effect on blood sugar, reducing potential spikes, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health Nutrition Source states.
It’s important to score chestnuts before roasting so they don’t explode from internal pressure. Lisa HubbardGetty Images
The vitamin C contributes to healthy tissues.
While it’s more famous for boosting your immune system, vitamin C actually supports the formation of blood vessels, cartilage, muscle, and collagen throughout your body. The antioxidant also protects your cells against the damaging effects of free radicals and aids in the absorption and storage of iron.
Copper helps form red blood cells.
Like vitamin C, this trace mineral supports the health of your blood vessels, nerves, immune system, and bones and assists in iron absorption, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. About 10 roasted chestnuts supply 21% of the recommended daily amount.
How to Eat Them
Best Chestnut Recipes
“While they’re lower in fat and protein compared to other tree nuts and legumes, chestnuts make for an easy-to-use ingredient that’s also nutritious and, despite their association with the whole ‘holiday feast’ season, actually relatively low in calories,” says Jaclyn London, MS, RD, CDN, Nutrition Director at the Good Housekeeping Institute. “They’re great for grinding into flour; using as a swap for croutons in salads; topping soups, stews, and stir frys; or eating as a snack in their own right.”
To get the best benefits, skip the sweetened chestnut purees or syrup-filled jars and choose pre-cooked kinds without added ingredients. Or buy ’em fresh and try roasting or boiling the nuts yourself. (FYI: Water chestnuts and horse chestnuts are different things altogether.)
Besides the traditional salads, stuffings, and soups, chestnuts pair well with pretty much all of your favorite fall and winter flavors, including apples, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, turkey, pork, sage, thyme, and mushroom.
Caroline Picard Health Editor Caroline is the Health Editor at GoodHousekeeping.com covering nutrition, fitness, wellness, and other lifestyle news.