Pine nuts nutrition facts
Crunchy, delicious pine nuts are small edible seeds of pine tree. Pine kernels are indeed very good source of plant derived nutrients, essential minerals, vitamins and "heart friendly" mono-unsaturated fatty acids that help benefit in reducing cholesterol levels in the blood.
Botanically, pine trees belong to the family of Pinaceae, genus Pinus Rosaceae, of Genus: Pinus. Some other common names are pinon nuts, pignoli, cedar nuts, chilgoza, pinyon pinenuts...etc.
Pine trees grow in the wild cold and taiga forest regions of northern hemisphere particularly of Siberia and Canada. They are straight erect trees with large stem and reach up to 75 feet in height with pyramidal or umbrella like dense foliage spread.
The flowers of pine tree subsequently develop into cone. The female cones take 2–3 years to mature after pollination. At maturity, the female cones are 3–35 cm long. Each cone has numerous spirally arranged scales, with two seeds on each mature scale. The scales at the base and tip of the cone are small and sterile, without seeds. At maturity, the cones usually open up to release the seeds.
Two prominent species known for their large edible kernels include Pinus sibirica and Pinus koraiensis. Pine nuts feature tough dark brown color coat or shell. Stone pines have long slender kernel in comparison to oriental pines, which are broad, large and have higher fat content. Inside, the kernel has cream white color and delicate buttery flavor and sweet taste.
Chilgoza pine nuts (Pinus gerardiana) are another distinct pine varieties found in western Himalayan forests of Pakistan, India (Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh), and Afghanistan. Chilgoza pines have similar appearance as stone pines; featuring long slender, pointed seeds.
Health benefits of pine nuts
Pine nuts are rich in calories, vitamins, antioxidants and minerals and packed with numerous health promoting phyto-chemicals.
The high caloric content of pines comes from their fats. However, the nuts are especially rich in mono-unsaturated fatty acids like oleic acid (18:1 undifferentiated fat) that helps to lower LDL or "bad cholesterol" and increase HDL or "good cholesterol" in the blood. Research studies suggest that Mediterranean diet, which is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, helps to prevent coronary artery disease and strokes by favoring healthy blood lipid profile.
- Pine or cedar nuts contain essential fatty acid (?-6 fat) pinolenic acid. Recent research has shown its potential use in weight loss by curbing the appetite. Pinolenic acid causes the triggering of hunger suppressant enzymes cholecystokinin and glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) in the gut. In addition, pinolenic acid may have LDL-lowering properties by enhancing hepatic LDL uptake.
Like almonds, pines are an excellent source of vitamin E; contain about 9.33 mg per 100 g (about 62% of RDA). Vitamin E is a powerful lipid soluble antioxidant, required for maintaining the integrity of cell membrane of mucus membranes and skin by protecting it from harmful oxygen free radicals.
Furthermore, like almonds and peanuts, pines are free from gluten and therefore are a popular ingredient in the preparation of gluten free food formulas. Such formula preparations are in fact healthy alternatives in people with wheat food allergy and celiac disease.
Pinenuts are excellent source of B-complex group of vitamins such as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine) and folates. These vitamins functions as co-factors for enzymes during cellular substrate metabolism.
Furthermore, pine nuts contain healthy amounts of essential minerals like manganese, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc and selenium. At 8.802 mg per 100 g (about 383% of daily recommended intake), pines are one of the richest sources of manganese. Manganese is an all-important co-factor for antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase. It is therefore consumption of pines helps body develop resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful oxygen free radicals.
Pine nut oil has delicate flavor with sweet aroma and is used in many traditional medicinal applications since ancient times. The main chemical components in pine oil are borneol, bornyl acetate, ? and ?-phallandrene, ?-pinene and ?-pinene. Its emollient property helps to keep skin well protected from dryness. It has also been used in cooking, and as “carrier or base oil” in traditional medicines in aromatherapy, in pharmaceutical and cosmetic industry.
|Principle||Nutrient Value||Percentage of RDA|
|Total Fat||68.37 g||228%|
|Dietary Fiber||3.7 g||10%|
|Pantothenic acid||0.313 mg||6%|
|Vitamin A||29 IU||1%|
|Vitamin C||0.8 mg||1%|
|Vitamin E||9.33 mg||62%|
Selection and storage
In the wild, fallen seeds are generally gathered beneath the trees. In the markets, one may find shelled as well as unshelled pine nuts displayed for sale.
When you are buying whole, unshelled nuts, look for the nuts that feature bright brown color; compact and uniform in size, and feel heavy in hand and feature good metallic sound when poured down from a height. They should be free from cracks, mold, and spots and free of rancid smell.
Shelled pines are also put for sale in air-tight plastic bags. Buy fresh nuts from authentic sources.
Unshelled nuts have long shelf life and can be stored for many months. Shelled kernels deteriorate soon if exposed to warm, humid conditions. Therefore, store shelled nuts in airtight jars and store in the refrigerator.
Preparation and serving methods
Raw whole pinon nuts are generally cut open at processing units using larger sheller machines. Smaller nut sheller equipment or hand held pliers usually are being used for domestic uses.
Traditionally whole pine nuts are wrapped in a gunny bag and hit repeatedly against a hard surface. Additionally they can also broken by pounding individual nuts as in peanuts by pinching between thumb and index fingers.
Here are some serving tips:
Siberian pine nuts generally enjoyed as they are. Additionally they are also eaten roasted, salted or sweetened.
They also used in granolas, biscuits, cookies, chocolates and crunch bar preparations.
The nuts also used in salads especially sprinkled over fruit/vegetable salads.
Pinon nuts are used in desserts, particularly sundaes and other ice cream based recipes.
They are frequently added to meat, fish and vegetable dishes.
Pine nut oil is used in salad dressing and in cooking.
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