You probably don’t think much about chestnuts until a holiday crooner reminds that they’re good roasted over fires.
The nutrients in these sweet, starchy tree nuts are worth singing about! They’re excellent sources of vitamins, minerals, fiber, folate, and antioxidants.
Read on to learn the many reasons to enjoy these nutrient-dense nuts and ways to prepare them.
Teeming with Vitamins, Minerals, and Antioxidants
Chestnuts are a star of the Mediterranean diet, which is recommended for cardiovascular health, longevity, and healthy aging. That’s because the nutrition in them is surprising and impressive. Unlike most nuts and seeds, chestnuts are low in fat and calories. They’re starchy like a potato or sweet potato yet offer more nutrients.
These little nuts are teeming with minerals and vitamins including copper, manganese, thiamine, folate, riboflavin, potassium, and vitamins B6, B5, B3, C, and K.
Chestnuts are also full of antioxidants, the substances that protect cells from damage by free radicals – unstable molecules that can damage cells and contribute to health problems. Antioxidants in chestnuts include vitamin C, gallic acid, ellagic acid, tannins, alkaloids, polyphenols, lutein, and zeaxanthin. Eating more antioxidants reduces the risk of diseases related to oxidative stress like Alzheimer’s, cancer, and heart disease. Specifically, research shows that gallic acid and ellagic acid help prevent heart disease, promote blood sugar balance, and reduce inflammation in the body.
Picking the Best Fresh Chestnuts
Turns out a handful of chestnuts is worth chomping and singing about! There are several ways to enjoy them – raw, boiled, and roasted – although raw consumption may cause indigestion for some people. They’re often added to soup, stew, stuffing, pasta dishes, or pureed in lieu of mashed potatoes. Chestnut flour is also used in breads, polenta, cake, and even ice cream.
You can typically find chestnuts on trees in southeast states or in grocery stores around the country from October to March. (Check the produce section.) Their season peaks in December. Pick large, fresh nuts that are creamy white inside when cut open. Avoid any nuts with greenish mold on them. Because they’re rich in starch and low in fats, they can spoil quickly so it’s best to store them the refrigerator in the vegetable drawer. They should stay fresh a few weeks.
Chestnut Cooking Instructions
- Make a cut or an X through the shell and skin so they don’t explode while cooking!
- Boil or roast chestnuts to remove their shell.
- Before they cool, remove the outer tough shell and papery skin.
- Sprinkle with salt or spices and enjoy. You can also store in the fridge for a few days or freeze them.
If you’re ready to experiment, here are 10 delightful chestnut recipes including stuffing, risotto, soup, and desserts! Enjoy.