By- Meena Ganagani,Practicing Clinical Nutritionist,Mumbai.
Chestnuts are a unique fruit of the Castanea species of deciduous trees. This fruit is most common in Asia though it has also been linked to the traditional Italian cuisine for centuries. Chestnuts are appreciated for their characteristic taste and for the ductility with which they can be consumed: boiled, roasted, and dried, or in the form of jam or flour. They are also excellent sources of vitamins and minerals (such as manganese, molybdenum, cooper and magnesium).
- Digestive health: chestnuts reduce cholesterollevelsand stabilize blood sugar levels. They also reduce the risk of constipation and intestinal complications such as diverticulosis.
- Increased brain function: chestnuts contain fat-soluble B vitamins that promote healthy skin, produce red blood cells and improve brain function.
- Increased energy levels: chestnuts contain high amounts of carbohydrates, which are needed for short and long term energy. They also help with nervous system function.
- Stronger bones: chestnuts contain copper, which is a trace mineral that enhances bone strength and boosts the immune system.
- Decreased risk of developing disease: chestnuts contain manganese, which is a trace mineral that fights off free radicals in the body and reduces the risk of heart disease and cancer. It also plays a key role in the aging process and helps prevent blood-clotting.
- Do not contain gluten: chestnuts are of great benefit to patients with celiac disease, which is a disease that upsets the small intestine. (1)
Selection and storage
- Chestnuts are cool season crops; available in the markets from October through March, peaking in December.
- In the stores, choose big sized, fresh nuts. Since they are rich in starch and fewer fats than most other nuts, they tend to spoil rather quickly if exposed to air and excess humid conditions for a longer period. To verify freshness, cut open some sample nuts to examine meaty, creamy-white kernel inside since often it is difficult to figure out damaged nuts by their external outlook. Avoid those with greenish mold between the convoluted folds, on the kernel and its outer shell.
- Chestnuts should be treated more like vegetables and fruits than nuts when it comes to storage. Once at home, pack them in a perforated bag and place in the refrigerator set at high relative humidity where they remain fresh for few weeks. (2)
Water chestnuts are aquatic vegetables that are nutritious and delicious. They are a great source of antioxidants and other compounds that may help prevent diseases linked with age, such as heart disease and cancer. Water chestnuts are also highly versatile and can be added to a variety of dishes. Try adding water chestnuts to your diet today to reap their health benefits. (3)