Pine nuts, a fundamental ingredient of basil pesto, but not only, are the precious seeds of some pine trees and boast remarkable nutritional properties.
We all know pine nuts, which are the seeds of the fruit of some species of pine trees. Pine nuts are therefore oil seeds, widely used in the culinary traditions of northern Europe, Asia and in general the Mediterranean area, it is no coincidence that the “pine nut” requires dry soils and sunny areas to be cultivated, even if it manages to adapt well to other conditions, but the Mediterranean areas are the most favorable to its growth.
The pine nuts ripen in late summer and autumn and it is in this period that it is possible to extract them from the pine cones that contain them. The collection of pine nuts, then, also continues in the first winter months and this is precisely the period in which they are found in season. Like all dried fruit, pine nuts are also rich in beneficial properties for health. So let’s see the nutritional values and benefits of these small oil seeds.
Pine nuts: calories and nutritional properties
Being oil seeds, it is easy to understand how pine nuts are rich in fat and quite caloric, in fact they provide about 600 calories per 100 g. Lipids represent about 50% of the content of pine nuts, but mostly they are unsaturated fatty acids, including linoleic acid. The protein content is also quite high (about 30%) and there is no shortage of fibers and precious mineral salts, including zinc, magnesium, calcium and potassium.
Nutritional values per 100g of pine nuts:
- Kcal: 595
- Carbohydrates: 4 g
- Fat: 50.3 g
- Proteins: 31.9 g
- Fibers: 4.5 g
- Waterfall: 4.3 g
- Iron: 2 mg
- Soccer: 40 mg
- Sodium: 1 mg
- Potassium: 780 mg
- Phosphorus: 466 mg
- Zinc: 6.5 mg
- Magnesium: 270 mg
- Copper: 1.32 mg
- Sulfur: 150 mg
- Selenium: 0.7 μg
- Vitamin B1: 0.39 mg
- Vitamin B2: 0.25 mg
- Vitamin B3: 2.7 mg
- Vitamin E: 13.65 mg
Pine nuts: the health benefits
As we have just seen, pine nuts are very energetic seeds, so they are excellent for athletes and also for debilitated people as tonic, even in old age, also given the rather high protein content.
They are therefore highly recommended in the convalescence phase, in periods of particular stress and also in the nutrition of children who need to build new tissues and therefore supply themselves with energy both from a strictly caloric point of view and from a nutritional point of view. For the same reason they can be introduced into the diet of pregnant women. The benefits they bring to our health are many, let’s see them below.
✓ Useful against hypertension
Pine nuts contain a good quantity of the amino acid arginine, which favors the production of nitric oxide, which in turn has a vasodilating power, so the pine nuts can regulate blood pressure by modulating it, especially in case of hypertension.
✓ Recommended in case of hypercholesterolemia
Pine nuts, thanks to the “good” fats they contain, including omega 3 fats and other polyunsaturated fatty acids, are able to improve the lipid profile in our blood, helping to lower cholesterol levels.
Pine nuts contain important mineral salts, all essential for the health and good functioning of our body, and in particular magnesium, potassium, zinc, calcium. Iron is also present in a fair amount, and helps prevent iron deficiency anemia.
✓ Allies of the immune system
Vitamins, in particular those of group B, and the mineral salts present in pine nuts are essential for the proper functioning of the immune system. By supporting the immune system, therefore, pine nuts strengthen our defenses.
✓ Excellent for intestinal well-being
Pine nuts are good for the intestine. The fibers contained, in fact, represent 4.5% of the nutrient content of pine nuts, which means that these seeds are particularly suitable for those suffering from constipation, as they help intestinal transit and promote peristalsis.
✓ Useful as antioxidants and anti-inflammatories
These seeds have antioxidant properties, which derive from the vitamin E contained in them. This vitamin is able to block the chain of reactions that leads to the formation of free radicals, the cause of cellular aging and many inflammatory reactions.
How many pine nuts to eat
Before seeing some tips on how to use pine nuts, let’s see how many you can eat per day. Recall that pine nuts belong to dried fruit and, as such, a standard portion is equivalent to about 20 grams per day. This quantity, equal to about 1 tablespoon or a little more, brings more or less 120 kcal and is sufficient to guarantee us all the benefits seen above.
How to use pine nuts in cooking
A very simple, excellent way to consume pine nuts is natural, as a snack, for those who, for example, do not have much time to eat a healthy snack, or during breakfast. It is then possible to use them in many preparations of sweet or savory dishes.
As we all know, pine nuts are a key ingredient in basil pesto, but they can be used to make other types of vegetable-based sauces and dressings. They can be used whole, after being toasted, also to give a touch of crunchiness to cooked vegetable dishes or to enrich mixed salads.
In addition, they are well suited for making sweet preparations, such as shortcrust pastry desserts that we can enjoy in a rich breakfast or to prepare homemade energy bars based on cereals and fruit.
Contraindications of pine nuts
If taken in adequate quantities, pine nuts have no contraindications. In a healthy person the suggested amount is, as we said above, about 20 grams per day, but of course overweight people must pay particular attention to limit the quantities and frequency of intake, since, as we have said, it is a fairly caloric food.
Being rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids, which have anticoagulant power, pine nuts, if taken in high quantities, could interfere with the action of anticoagulant drugs. In some people they could trigger allergic reactions. Finally, due to the high potassium content, they should be reduced in those suffering from kidney diseases.
Pine nuts: prices and purchase
It is possible to buy the pine nuts already shelled both in shops specialized in organic food and in large-scale distribution, or online. The price, it must be admitted, is not very low, averaging around 15 USD per hectogram. In fact, the lucky ones will be able to stock it up if they have areas around them where domestic pines grow: in addition to collecting the pine nuts already fallen on the ground, in autumn you can collect the semi-open pine cones and with a lot of patience, extract the precious pine nuts!