Chestnut is just another edible nut that possess numerous health benefits. It can be used in improving digestive health, boosting immunity, and protecting cardiovascular system. Many also use it to foster growth and provide significant amounts of energy in no time, mainly due to its calorie content and rich composition of vitamins and minerals.
Castanea is the genus of chestnut plants, containing about 8 or 9 deciduous tree species belonging to the family Fagaceae. In this genus, about 4 species are the commonest. The European or sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa), American chestnut, Japanese chestnut, and Chinese chestnut.
The many varieties of chestnut have very similar nutritional composition. Also, chestnut must not be confused with horse chestnut, which is an entirely different specie. They are not related to chestnuts in any way. Same applies to water chestnuts, which are not related to the chestnut. Most of them are given these names because of similar physical appearance to the chestnut.
Chestnuts are mainly used as food in various culinary preparations. They can be peeled and eaten raw, but you will have to bear with the astringent taste. Another popular preparation method is roasting. Roasted chestnuts have a sweet, delicate and nutty taste. In many parts of the world, chestnuts are dried and then made into flour which can subsequently be used to make breads, cakes, pastas, or as a thickener in stews and soups. Many others prefer them boiled or steamed, while some enjoy eating them with candies. Their preparation methods are endless – you can think of your own and add.
Apart from culinary uses, chestnuts are used as animal fodder. Their woods are collected for timber, leather, and fuel. Chestnuts also have a long history of use in folk medicine.
- Chestnuts contain about 44% carbohydrates per 100 grams. The carbohydrate is composed mainly of starch and saccharose with virtually no glucose or fructose. It is considered as one of nature’s richest carbohydrate sources, which can only be compared with grains and legumes.
- It contains low amounts of protein, about 1.6% by weight.
- It also contains fats in low quantities, just 1.3 g per 100 grams, which are mainly mono and poly unsaturated fats.
- It is very rich in vitamin C and some B complex vitamins. They however contain no vitamin A and vitamin E.
- Chestnuts contain potassium in rich amounts and contain virtually no sodium. This makes it ideal for those with hypertension or cardiovascular disorders. They also contain significant amounts of phosphorus, iron, magnesium, calcium, and other trace elements like copper, manganese, and zinc.
Here’s a quick list of the impressive benefits and medicinal uses of chestnut:
- Fosters growth
- Fights diarrhea
- Improves milk supply
- Controls hypertension
- Good for the heart
- Fight physical fatigue
- Improves brain function
- Improves digestive health
Chestnuts provides adequate amounts of calories, minerals, and vitamins needed for the musculoskeletal development of adolescents. They provide about 200 calories per 100 grams. They are also rich in B-group vitamins and vitamin C. Other minerals such as calcium and magnesium which are all needed for proper growth are also present in chestnut in significant amounts.
Chestnuts are said to be very effective in treating diarrhea due to their mild astringent and regulating effects. The chestnut puree, is a good preparation you might consider to fight this condition.
Improve milk supply
The chestnuts, being galactagogues, promote milk flow and provide a great deal of nutrition to the lactating mother. This is an age-long folk remedy. However, there might be some scientific facts to back it up. This galactogogue property of chestnut might probably be due to its rich content of minerals and vitamins, especially water-soluble B complex vitamins and vitamin C, which are said to increase breast-milk levels.
Chestnuts are significantly rich in potassium, a great vasodilator which increase blood flow and reduce tension on our blood vessels. In fact, when it comes to the heart, few minerals are as important as potassium. What’s even more interesting is that chestnuts contain virtually no sodium, a mineral which can raise your blood pressure in no time. Adding some chestnut to your diet might be a clever way to lower your blood pressure, and reduce your overall chances for heart diseases.
Good for the heart
The entire chestnut including its fruit and bark is good for the heart. A research carried out in University of Bologna, Italy, found extracts from the bark of sweet chestnut to have some antioxidant and cardioprotective effect (1).
When it come to the chestnut itself, we can see that it contains very little amounts of fat, and virtually no sodium, which are probably the 2 most antagonistic substances to heart health. Fats in excess amounts can clog in our arteries, and prevent the smooth flow of blood to vital organs such as the heart and brain, which can lead to conditions such as heart attack and stroke.
So, by merely looking at the composition of chestnuts, we can conclude that eating them in the “best forms” have no adverse effect at all to your cardiovascular health. I used “best forms” to describe your method of preparation, which counts in every other food, and determines how healthy it becomes. Some might decide to use high-fat foods (saturated fats) to supplement them; and that’s not good for the heart.
Physical fatigue is caused mainly due to intense exercise. The chestnut have an invigorating effect on the muscles, which helps provide a sensation of fitness. And of course, they do provide some energy in significant amounts, about 200 calories per 100 grams.
Improves brain function
Chestnuts are good in B complex vitamins, which are associated with an improved brain function. Thiamin which is found in significant amounts in chestnut, is involved in nerve impulses. Its deficiency causes Korsakoff’s syndrome; characterized by a chronic memory loss. Niacin, also found in chestnuts, plays a role in maintaining a smooth cerebral-blood flow. It has also been found to play a role in Alzheimer’s disease prevention.
Improves digestive health
Chestnuts have a very high fiber content, about 5 g per 100 grams. Fiber has a lot of health benefits. It stimulates peristaltic action, thus, promoting the flow of feces down the colon. This means chestnut consumption may be good against constipation. Fiber also help stimulate the production of digestive juices, and also increase the assimilation of food into the body. It has also been linked with the absorption of excess cholesterol.