For many, autumn is associated with a basket of chestnuts - sweet and nutritious. The unique taste of these fruits is appreciated all over the world, especially in the homeland of chestnut trees - in Japan and China. But it’s worth warning right away: this is not at all about the fruits that are full underfoot in city parks and courtyards. Not all chestnuts are edible. Some varieties are even poisonous. Therefore, do not rush to collect and fry fruits from the parks.
How to recognize edible chestnuts?
Chestnuts (edible) are large deciduous heat-loving trees from the beech family. In spring they delight with greenery, and in autumn with nuts. Yes, these brown glossy fruits, hidden behind a prickly green peel, are nuts. And compared to other fruits from this group, these are rather large nuts with delicate white pulp (several nuts are usually hidden under the protective shell). Depending on the species, they can weigh from 8 to 12 g.
The first and most obvious confirmation of the edibility of the fruit is the appearance of the protective green shell. If it is covered with numerous thin light green spikes, you have edible fruits in front of you. The rind, with relatively few thick spines, is an ornamental plant.
There are several varieties of edible chestnuts. The most famous are:
- Japanese (gives large sweet fruits in October);
- sweet (also known as Spanish or Portuguese, native to the European continent);
- American short (aka pygmy);
- American regular.
Chemical composition of fruits
Chestnuts are a rich source of various vitamins and minerals. Most of all in nuts B vitamins, ascorbic acid, copper, iron, manganese, phosphorus and potassium. The latter, for example, is important for healthy heart function, iron prevents anemia, and magnesium and phosphorus are important components of bone metabolism.
By the way, the presence of vitamin C makes chestnuts special. The fact is that nuts, as a rule, do not contain this vitamin, and in chestnut ascorbins almost 72% of the recommended daily allowance. This powerful vitamin-antioxidant is necessary for the formation of collagen, a protein responsible for the beauty and youth of the body. It also stimulates the immune system, enhancing its response to infections and free radicals. In addition, chestnuts boast a generous amount of B vitamins and are low in fat. Nearly half of your daily intake of copper and manganese can also be obtained from a 100-gram serving of cooked chestnuts.
Unlike extremely high-calorie walnuts or almonds, chestnuts contain only 200 kcal per 100 grams. At the same time, they are rich in starch similar to that found in potatoes or corn. And this is also surprising, since starch is a substance that is not found in nuts and seeds. Fruits are also rich in carbohydrates, but this should not be scary, since the carbohydrates in these nuts are correct, that is, complex (they do not cause glucose spikes and will not increase weight in moderation).
Another amazing characteristic of chestnuts is their high content of folic acid, which is essential for making red blood cells and DNA synthesis. Well, like typical nuts, fruits are rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, which regulate the balance of "bad" and "good" cholesterol, prevent coronary artery disease and the occurrence of strokes.
But what is definitely not in chestnuts is gluten, which cannot but please people with celiac disease. People who are allergic to wheat can substitute chestnut flour for regular flour.
|Vitamin A||28 IU|
|Vitamin C||43 mg|
|Vitamin B1||0.238 mg|
|Vitamin B2||0.168 mg|
|Vitamin B3||1.179 mg|
|Vitamin B5||0.509 mg|
|Vitamin B6||0.376 mg|
|Folic acid||62 mcg|
Benefits and for health
For teeth and bones
It is well known that calcium and phosphorus are necessary for strong teeth and bones. However, for both minerals to "work", magnesium is needed. The latter is responsible for the formation of hard enamel on the teeth and protects bone tissue from degeneration and destruction. It is important that all three elements are present in the composition of chestnuts. True, calcium is present in small quantities.
For blood vessels
Although chestnuts do not belong to fatty foods, they contain essential fatty acids in the chemical “section”, including linoleic, palmitic and oleic, responsible for the strength and elasticity of blood vessels. Another good news: these nuts not only contain a low concentration of cholesterol, but also cleanse the blood vessels of excess unhealthy fat that has already accumulated.
For the thyroid gland
The thyroid gland is the largest gland of the endocrine system. It produces two important hormones: triiodothyronine and thyroxine. It also regulates the rate at which the body uses energy, synthesizes proteins, and regulates the body's sensitivity to hormones. Ellagic acid, contained in chestnuts, regulates the performance of the thyroid gland, in particular, it is useful for hyperactive glands. The acid suppresses the excessive secretion of the thyroid gland.
Chestnuts contain a lot of fiber, which is necessary for the healthy circulation of digestive products in the system. However, if there is insufficient water intake, fiber, on the contrary, causes constipation. But chestnuts are a unique product that combines dietary fiber and water in adequate proportions, making these nuts just perfect for improving the process of digestion.
For weight loss
Excess weight is not only an aesthetic problem. Different degrees of obesity cause disorders in the body. But weight loss should be gradual, so as not to serve as stress for the body. And chestnuts are the best suited for a proper weight loss program. They contain almost no fat, but for a long time provide satiety. In addition, they serve as an excellent source of minerals and vitamins necessary for a person, and also prevent the accumulation of excess fluid in the tissues.
For the heart
Along with vitamin B12 and folic acid, vitamin B6 regulates levels of homocysteine, a non-protein amino acid, the excess of which causes inflammation and damage to blood vessels. This amino acid can cause clogging of the arteries. People with high homocysteine levels are at an increased risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Chestnuts are rich in compounds that prevent excessive production of homocysteine.
High amounts of vitamin C, gallic and ellagic acids make chestnuts a strong and effective antioxidant. Antioxidant substances are important for the body to eliminate toxins and resist free radicals. Free radicals are formed in the body as a result of the reactive interaction of molecules with active oxygen. The uncontrolled growth of free radicals destroys the cells of the body, causes damage to the structure of DNA and ultimately becomes the cause of malignant tumors.
Chestnuts, with their powerful antioxidant properties, are responsible for detoxifying the body and optimizing the functioning of the immune system.
Prevention of stone formation
Oxalates are ions that increase the risk of stones in the body. In particular, calcium oxalate is the culprit in kidney and gallbladder stones. Oxalate levels in the body are directly related to the concentration of these substances in food. It is encouraging that chestnuts belong to the foods low in oxalates. And magnesium, present in nuts, regulates the distribution of calcium in the body: it ensures the maximum deposition of the mineral in the bones with minimal entry into the bloodstream, thereby preventing the formation of stones.
Benefits for pregnant women
Pregnancy is an important time for every woman to take the best care of herself and her unborn child. The fetus, developing, consumes a lot of nutrients, thereby depleting the mother's body. So proper nutrition and regular replenishment of nutrients is vital for both organisms. And chestnuts are a good choice for this. They provide minerals important for strong bones, preventing swelling and spasms, as well as boosting the immune system and protecting against infections. And now, more good news for expectant mothers: chestnuts relieve nausea in the first trimester of pregnancy.
Treatment with chestnuts
Severe diarrhea (for example, with dysentery) can cause severe dehydration of the body, and this is already a big problem. In alternative medicine, chestnut is often referred to as an astringent. Researchers after several observations agreed: the bark of the tree and its nuts help stop diarrhea. The water in which the fruits (together with the shell) or the bark were boiled is rich in tannins, which have medicinal properties. A natural medicine is prepared from 3 tablespoons of chopped bark or nuts and 1 liter of water (boil for 20 minutes). The decoction is taken 2-3 glasses a day. But it is worth noting that this folk remedy is not suitable for babies, since tannins have a bad effect on unformed organisms.
Researchers confirm that chestnuts contain substances that act on the body as expectorants. This ability of chestnut is actively used by pharmacists and herbalists, creating cough syrups with an extract of this plant.
And in India, chestnuts are used to remove helminths from the body.
Possible Side Effects
Chestnuts are an extremely rich source of water-soluble vitamin B6. Cases of overdose of water-soluble vitamins are rare because these substances do not stay in the body for long. But regular use of B6 for a long time can cause brain disorders and disorders of the nervous system.
Chestnuts are an allergen from the nut group, which in some cases can provoke anaphylactic shock.
How to choose and store correctly
On the Eurasian continent, chestnuts appear on the markets from October and do not lose their popularity until March. But still, the peak of sales falls on December. When buying raw nuts, it is better to give preference to large and fresh specimens. To check the freshness of the fruit, you will have to cut one of them and evaluate the fleshiness and color of the kernel under the skin. Do not take nuts with a greenish vein between the outer shell and the kernel. Good chestnuts should be fairly heavy (for their size).
When it comes to storage rules, chestnuts are more likely to follow the same recommendations as for fruits or vegetables than the canons used for nuts. That is, the fruits will have to be packed in an airtight container and placed in the refrigerator, where they will remain fresh for several more weeks.
What to cook
In the old days, the natives of the American continent used chestnuts as a staple food (similar to the way potatoes are today).
Nowadays, roasted chestnuts are one of the most popular in the world. To prevent the nut from “exploding” during frying, several small cuts are made on the peel. In Japan, a popular autumn dish is rice with steamed chestnuts. In Korea, they make a dessert of chestnuts, fruit marmalade, pine nuts and glutinous rice. Koreans serve this delicacy to the New Year's table. Thanksgiving Americans also use chestnuts as a filling option for the traditional turkey. In Tuscany, chestnut flour is prepared from dried and crushed fruits. It, like wheat, is suitable for bread, pies, donuts or pancakes, it is used as a thickener in sauces, soups and other dishes. Glazed chestnuts and oil from these nuts are popular in Western Europe. Roasted and crushed fruits are used to make a substitute for coffee.
Horse chestnut and edible: is there a difference?
Both trees differ in appearance as well. Horse chestnut is a well-known tree with “candle” inflorescences and no less spectacular leaves. "Breadfruit" blooms with "earrings", and its leaves are ordinary elongated sharp-toothed.
But the well-known horse chestnut is not only inedible, but also belongs to another family of trees. And it’s worth saying right away that edible chestnuts, or as they are sometimes called “breadfruit trees”, are “found” only in warm regions - they cannot stand cold winters.
Although the horse chestnut is not good for food, it has other advantages. The healing properties of this plant are useful for the treatment of varicose veins, thrombophlebitis and other vascular diseases. Ripe horse chestnut fruits are used to massage the legs, and touching several fruits in your hands can relieve nervous tension.
During the cold season, the whole northern hemisphere seems to be enveloped in the sweet and rich aroma of roasted chestnuts. These fruits have been a valuable food product for many centuries in different cultures. It is believed that the Chinese have been using these nuts for six thousand years, the Europeans for about three thousand years. The ancient Greeks loved chestnuts even more than almonds, hazelnuts or walnuts. This product is no less popular today. True, in our time, thanks to many studies, much more is known about its beneficial properties than representatives of ancient civilizations.