“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire.” You’ve heard the lyric sung many times and in many ways by professional singers and amateur carolers alike. The tree nut takes its place in festive dishes, Hallmark movies, and holiday songs each December.
“Roasting chestnuts is always a go-to for people, and this brings out chestnut’s flavors and helps warm up the house on a cold night,” said Amanda Sauceda, MS, RD, a registered dietician who developed the Mindful Gut approach.
Chestnuts are delicious and seasonal, but is this festive food nutritious?
Sauceda and Costa shared all that chestnuts have to offer. The dieticians also discussed ways to enjoy chestnuts that’ll make your season ahead a bright one.
Yes, chestnuts offer tons of nutrients.
“Chestnuts have historically been a vital food source, with their nutritional profile comparable to that of other high-starch foods such as corn and rice,” Costa said.
What does that mean for your body? Dieticians dug deeper.
Chestnuts are a good source of carbs
Most nuts are lauded for their Omega-3 fatty acid content, which can help with inflammation and provide heart-healthy benefits. However, chestnuts are a bit different than most nuts.
“Starch makes up the majority of chestnuts’ nutrient profile, which means it can be a good source of carbohydrates for you,” Sauceda said. “We need carbs because it is our body’s main source of energy.”
However, chestnuts aren’t just any carb.
“What’s also cool about the carbs in chestnuts is that chestnuts have a good amount of resistant starch. This type of starch in chestnuts has been researched for potentially helping improve cholesterol,” Sauceda said. “Resistant starch can also be good for the gut. While there isn’t any research yet to support the resistant starch of chestnuts on the gut microbiome, it doesn’t mean there couldn’t be.”
Chesnuts are full of fiber
Costa loves that chestnuts have 4.3 grams of fiber per 84-gram serving.
“Chestnuts’ high fiber content aids digestion, nourishes gut bacteria, and may contribute to weight management and blood sugar control,” Costa said.
These nuts are packed with other antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals
Chesnuts’ lengthy nutrient profile continues with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that support your health and offer protective benefits.
“The antioxidants in chestnuts may protect against cellular damage, reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancers, and have shown potential in reducing insulin resistance and inhibiting tumor growth,” Costa said.
One of these antioxidants is polyphenols.
“Polyphenols describe a family of compounds that have been researched for a variety of health benefits like being anti-inflammatory,” Sauceda said.
Costa added that chestnuts are a significant source of potassium.
“Potassium [is] a key nutrient that supports heart health by maintaining normal blood pressure and heartbeat rhythms,” she said.
Finally, chestnuts have a vitamin we typically associate with oranges and other produce.
“Chestnuts also have vitamin C, with roughly four chestnuts having 8% of your daily value for vitamin C,” Sauceda said. “Vitamin C is known for its role in helping your immune system and also helps maintain the health of your skin by helping produce collagen.“
Prepare and serve chestnuts like a dietician
As you can tell, dieticians are nutty about this tree nut. You may be eager to give chestnuts a try now, too. There are a few items to know before you indulge.
How should you eat chestnuts?
Preparation is key.
“Chestnuts are best cooked because they can have a bitter flavor due to their tannins,” Sauceda said. “Tannins are a polyphenol, so they do have health benefits, but too much tannins can come with side effects like irritating your gut.”
Costa agreed that chestnuts are best cooked.
“Pierce the chestnuts’ skin and roast them in an oven at 400°F for about 20 to 30 minutes,” Costa said. “Alternatively, you can boil pierced chestnuts for 20 to 30 minutes. Once cooked, let chestnuts cool a bit before peeling to enjoy.”
How, exactly, should you enjoy chestnuts? Let’s just say you have tons of options.
Roasted chestnuts. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. “Roasting is a simple and delicious way to enjoy chestnuts,” Costa said. “The heat caramelizes their natural sugars and brings out their nutty flavor.”
Chestnut soup. Combine seasonal favorites by adding chestnuts to soup. “Chestnuts add a creamy texture and hearty flavor to soups,” Costa said. “They are particularly delicious in pureed vegetable soups like pumpkin or butternut squash.”
- Winter veggies. Speaking of veggies, Sauceda loves adding chestnuts to seasonal produce. “You could also combine chestnuts with another classic winter food, Brussels sprouts,” she said. “Roasting both the chestnuts and Brussels sprouts will bring out a sweetness to each food. You could also add some bacon for even more flavor.”
Chestnut stuffing. If you weren’t all that impressed with this year’s stuffing on Thanksgiving, try a do-over for the winter holidays (or a just-because dinner party). “Adding chopped, roasted chestnuts to the stuffing adds a nutty and unique taste to the dish,” Costa said. “They also provide a nice contrast in texture to the bread and other ingredients.”
- A sweet treat. Forget baking. “For a dessert, you could do a simple recipe like combining chestnuts with sugar to make candied chestnuts,” Sauceda said.
- Chocolate-dipped chestnuts. Alternatively, chocolate lovers can try this Costa favorite. “The combination of smooth chocolate and raw crunchy chestnuts or buttery roasted chestnuts is simply irresistible,” she said.
How many chestnuts can I eat per day?
There’s not necessarily a limit, and the answer to this question is highly personal.
“Chestnuts, in their raw form, are generally safe for consumption by most individuals,” Costa said. “However, due to their tannic acid content, they have the potential to incite stomach discomfort, feelings of nausea, or even liver damage in those who suffer from liver disease or kidney-related issues.”
Costa said people with tree nut allergies should also exercise caution, and Sauceda said that the carbohydrate content may mean that people with diabetes need to limit consumption.
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