Top 5 Health Benefits of Chestnuts

timthumbThis time of year, many stores are already playing holiday music including songs about roasting chestnuts. While a lot of people think it’s premature for such songs to be playing, the one thing we are singing the praises about are the chestnuts (Castanea sativa) themselves. The nut not only tastes delicious roasted, but is filling and packed with healthy benefits.

Here are 5 reasons to start enjoying chestnuts now (music optional).

1. Celiac Patients, Rejoice!

Chestnuts do not contain gluten, the binding protein in grains that upsets the small intestine and causes a host of symptoms. This is the reason why many gluten-free foods contain chestnut.

2. Antioxidant Powerhouse

With just over 3 ounces containing 72% of the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI), chestnuts are very rich in vitamin C. In fact, they’re the only nut that has vitamin C, making them stand out from other nuts. Strong teeth, bones and blood vessel walls are some of the benefits vitamin C provides the body. This, coupled with their high content of the trace mineral manganese, allows chestnuts to aid in faster healing and protection against the harm of free radicals, reducing the risk of some cancers and heart diseases.

3. Stable Energy Levels

Unlike many other nuts, chestnuts are high in carbohydrates (43 grams for every 3-ounce serving). But before shunning the high carb notion, know that the carbs in chestnuts are complex, so they are digested slower than simple ones. This means energy levels stay constant compared to simple carbs, which only provide sporadic yo-yo energy bursts.

4. Lowers Cholesterol

Chestnuts contain approximately 21% of the Recommended Daily Intake of dietary fiber, which is necessary to help reduce blood cholesterol. They’re also rich in monounsaturated fatty acids like oleic acid and palmitoleic acids, which studies show help boost the good cholesterol (HDL) while lowering the bad (LDL).

5. Contains Folate

About 3 ounces of chestnuts provide 35% of the Recommended Dietary Allowance RDA of folate. Folate, a water-soluble B vitamin that occurs naturally in certain foods like chestnuts, plays a role in preventing neurological defects in the fetus, making it an ideal choice for pregnant women. It is also known to help with the building blocks of life, responsible in part for making DNA, RNA and red blood cells. In fact, many countries including the United States, Canada and South Africa have mandatory folic acid fortification programs in place to ensure people receive adequate amounts in their diets. So important are folates that in 1998, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began requiring manufacturers to add folic acid to breads, cereals, pastas and other grains.

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