Chestnuts are very different from everyonethe other nuts.
For one, they are a source of carbohydrates rather than fat.
But what nutritional value do they provide?
This guide examines the potential health benefits - and concerns - of chestnuts.
What are chestnuts?
First of all, chestnuts are botanically a “true nut”.Andculinary sense. For example, we think of almonds as nuts, but botanically they are drupes/seeds.
Peanuts? You are a legume, but again,we think they're crazy.
Chestnuts are a real nut, along with other types of nuts such as hazelnuts.
Chestnuts have been a popular part of the human diet for thousands of years, with historical records showing cultivation going back to at least 2000 BC.1).
Today, the nuts are popular around the world, and roasted chestnuts are synonymous with the festive season in the western world.
Unlike most nuts, chestnuts are a starchy food with a sweet taste.
types of chestnuts
There are dozens of chestnuts grown around the world, but there are five main types.
These chestnut varieties include;
- Castanea crenata:known as "Japanese chestnut" or "Korean chestnut".
- chestnut toothed:a species of American chestnut that grows in the eastern parts of the United States.
- Soft chestnut:the "Chinese" chestnut. China produces more chestnuts than any other country in the world (2).
- Castanea pumila:another American chestnut that grows predominantly in the eastern and southern states. It also bears the name "dwarf chestnut".
- Castanea sativa:this can also be referred to as "European chestnut", "sweet chestnut" or "Spanish chestnut". It grows throughout Europe and some regions of Asia.
key point:Chestnuts are a real nut with a long history of human cultivation.
The tables below show the complete nutritional facts for roasted chestnuts per 100 gram (3.5 oz) serving (3).
|Saturated Fatty Acids||0,4 g|
|Monounsaturated fatty acids||0.8g|
|Polyunsaturated fat||0,9 gr|
|Vitamin C||26,0 mg||43 %|
|Vitamin B6||0,5 mg||25 %|
|Folate||70,0 µg||17 %|
|Vitamin K1||7,8 µg||10 %|
|Niacin||1,3 mg||7 %|
|pantothenic acid||0,6mg||6 %|
|Vitamin E||0,5 mg||2 %|
|Vitamin A||1 µg RAE||0 %|
|copper||0,5 mg||25 %|
|Potassium||592 mg||17 %|
|Magnesium||33,0 mg||8 %|
|calcium||29,0 mg||3 %|
|Selenium||1,2 µg||2 %|
|Sodium||2.0 mg||0 %|
key point:Chestnuts are primarily a source of carbohydrates and offer a pretty decent array of vitamins and minerals.
Health benefits of chestnuts
Chestnuts offer several benefits, mainly due to the vitamins and minerals they contain.
1) Reich an Vitamin C
It's rare to find vitamin C in nuts, but chestnuts provide a fairly large amount of the nutrient.
100 grams of chestnuts provide 26 mg of vitamin C, which is 43% of the daily value for the vitamin (4).
Vitamin C is an essential nutrient that plays a role in our immune health and may help fight infection (5,6).
In addition to vitamin C, chestnuts are also a good source of B vitamins.
key point:Chestnuts provide a good amount of vitamin C.
2) Chestnuts are an important source of polyphenols
Polyphenols are bioactive compounds found in plant foods that can have beneficial effects on our health.
With more than 1,215 mg 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 indicate that ellagic acid may have anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties (8,9).
It's worth noting, however, that most of this research comes from cell (test tube) and animal studies using potent extracts. As such, there is no evidence at this time that food-based dosages of ellagic acid can have these effects.
Regarding gallic acid, a recent randomized controlled trial showed that a small daily amount (15 mg) reduced plasma oxidized LDL and C-reactive protein by 24%. For comparison: 100 grams of chestnuts provide 480 mg of gallic acid (10,7).
That being said, there is very little human research on these compounds.
key point:Chestnuts are one of the foods richest in polyphenols.
3) Good source of copper
Copper is one of the main nutrients that we can find in chestnuts.
A 100 gram (3.5 ounce) serving contains 0.5 mg of copper, which is 25% of the mineral's Daily Value.
Copper is an essential mineral that plays critical roles in the central nervous system, energy production, and iron metabolism (11).
In addition to their copper content, chestnuts are also an excellent source of manganese, potassium and phosphorus.
key point:Chestnuts contain a variety of minerals and provide large amounts of manganese and copper.
4) Chestnuts are moderately high in fiber
With 53 grams of carbohydrates per 100 grams, chestnuts are certainly a high-carb food.
However, 5.1 grams of these carbohydrates come from fiber.
The fiber content of carbohydrates, in particular, may help slow postprandial (after eating) spikes in blood sugar (12).
Because of this, whole fruit, for example, has less of an impact on blood sugar levels than ultra-processed sugary drinks (13).
Early research also suggests that fiber may play a positive role in gastrointestinal health. In this context, 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 provide a moderate amount of fiber, which may provide health benefits.
Along with their health benefits, there are also some potential downsides to chestnuts.
1) Moderately high in oxalates
Oxalic acid (oxalate) is a type of anti-nutrient found in food that can cause problems in excessive amounts. This is especially true for people with a history of kidney stones (15).
Although chestnuts do not contain as much oxalate as other nutslike almonds, they still contain a large concentration of the compound.
Chestnuts contain about 72 mg oxalate per 100 grams (16).
According to kidney stone researchers, all foods are classified as containing more than 10 mg of oxalate per 100 grams"medium to high"Oxalate content (17).
In addition, the National Kidney Foundation advises that individuals with a history of kidney stones limit their daily oxalate intake to <50 mg (18).
key point:Chestnuts are unsuitable for a low-oxalate diet.
2) Note that chestnuts are high in carbohydrates (and low in fat).
First, being high-carb and low-fat isn't necessarily a bad thing.
Despite this, many people eat nuts for their “healthy fats.”
For those looking to increase their intake of dietary fat, chestnuts are a poor choice, and they're primarily a source of carbohydrates.
key point:Don't eat chestnuts for fat - they contain very little fat.
3) Chestnut allergies are relatively common
First, chestnuts belong to a different botanical class than nuts like almonds, walnuts, and Brazil nuts.
For this reason, chestnut allergies differ from general tree nut allergies (19).
In other words; people with almond allergiescouldbe ok with chestnuts (but maybe not).
It is always good for anyone with a nut allergy to take precautions and this may be worth checking with a doctor. A simple skin prick test can provide information about whether an allergy is present.
Additionally, those with fruit and latex allergies may have cross-reactions with chestnuts, so this may also be worth considering (19,20).
Again, for anyone with concerns about a possible allergy, this should be discussed with your doctor.
key point:Some people are allergic to chestnuts. People with latex allergies are at higher risk of reactions to chestnuts.
4) Do not confuse sweet chestnuts with (poisonous) horse chestnuts
Do not confuse sweet chestnuts with "horse chestnuts".
Horse chestnuts are also known as "conkers", especially in Great Britain.
Although 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 when picking sweet chestnuts in an area where horse chestnuts grow.
Proper identification is key.
key point:Look out for horse chestnuts; They look very similar to sweet chestnuts, but contain a poison.
Nutritionally, chestnuts are very different from typical nuts, offering primarily carbohydrates and no fat.
That being said, chestnuts are quite nutritious and contain a good mix of vitamins and minerals.
As a snacking option, not many dishes can compete with hot roasted chestnuts on a cold winter's day.
For more about nuts,see this guide to pistachios.