Remember that pine cone you got home from the hills? Those pine cones you have been keeping in your homes as decor items are actually powerhouses of nutrition. Pine nuts, derived from the cones, are notably rich in healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which are beneficial for heart health, according to Richa Anand, chief dietician at Dr LH Hiranandani Hospital, Powai, Mumbai.
Though they can certainly be included in your diet during the monsoon, it is important to ensure their quality and hygiene. “Moisture levels tend to be higher during this season, which can increase the risk of mould growth on nuts and seeds, including pine nuts. Therefore, when selecting pine nuts, opt for those that are well packaged, dry, and free from any signs of moisture or discolouration,” she said.
Let’s take a look at the nutritional benefits of including pine nuts in your diet.
Nutritional profile of pine nuts
- Calories: 191
- Total fat: 19 gm
- Saturated fat: 1.5 gm
- Monounsaturated fat: 10.7 gm
- Polyunsaturated fat: 4.9 gm
- Cholesterol: 0 mg
- Sodium: 0 mg
- Carbohydrates: 3.7 gm
- Dietary fibre: 1 gm
- Sugars: 1 gm
- Protein: 3.9 gs
- Vitamin E: 2.6 mg (17% of Daily Value)
- Vitamin K: 14.5 mcg (18% DV)
- Magnesium: 71 mg (17% DV)
- Phosphorus: 188 mg (27% DV)
- Zinc: 1.2 mg (11% DV)
- Copper: 0.4 mg (44% DV)
Health benefits of pine nuts
Highlighting the array of health benefits that pine nuts bring to the table, Anand listed the following:
Source of heart-healthy fats: Pine nuts are an excellent source of heart-healthy fats, primarily monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These fats have been shown to help lower levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides, reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Supports muscle and bone health: Pine nuts are rich in essential minerals such as magnesium, which plays a crucial role in various bodily functions. Magnesium supports bone health by aiding in calcium absorption, helps regulate blood pressure, and assists in muscle contraction and relaxation. Including pine nuts in your meals can contribute to maintaining strong bones, reducing the risk of hypertension, and supporting muscle health.
Great source of protein: Pine nuts also have notable protein content, making them an excellent addition to plant-based diets or as a protein source in various dishes. Protein is essential for tissue repair, immune function and the production of enzymes and hormones. By incorporating pine nuts, you can enhance your protein intake in a nutritious and flavourful way.
Packed with antioxidants: The high content of antioxidants, particularly vitamin E, in pine nuts is another significant benefit. Antioxidants play a critical role in protecting our cells from oxidative stress, which is associated with ageing and chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease. Consuming pine nuts regularly can contribute to a strengthened defence against cellular damage caused by free radicals.
Improves cognitive function: The monounsaturated fats and antioxidants in pine nuts have been linked to improved cognitive function and brain health. These nutrients support the health of blood vessels, which is crucial for maintaining optimal blood flow to the brain. This, in turn, can help enhance memory, concentration and overall cognitive performance.
Can diabetics eat pine nuts?
Pine nuts possess a favourable nutritional profile that can align well with the dietary needs of diabetics, according to Anand.
“Their relatively low carbohydrate content, coupled with a healthy dose of dietary fibre, can contribute to better blood sugar management,” she said.
Anand said the healthy fats found in pine nuts can also aid in stabilising blood sugar levels by slowing down the absorption of carbohydrates and improving insulin sensitivity. Moreover, the presence of essential minerals like magnesium in pine nuts can further support glucose metabolism and help regulate insulin activity.
However, as with any food, portion control remains vital.
Are they beneficial for pregnant women?
Pine nuts can offer beneficial nutrients for pregnant women when included as part of a balanced diet, according to Anand. The essential nutrients found in it are instrumental in promoting the growth and development of the baby’s tissues, bones and organs.
“The monounsaturated fats present in pine nuts contribute to the healthy development of the baby’s brain and nervous system. The protein content is essential for building and repairing tissues, supporting the formation of new cells and aiding in the production of enzymes and hormones. Additionally, the dietary fibre content in pine nuts can help alleviate constipation, a common discomfort during pregnancy,” Anand said.
However, she warned, considering the calorie density of pine nuts, pregnant women should be mindful of portion sizes to avoid excessive calorie intake. As part of a diverse and balanced diet, pine nuts can be incorporated into dishes like salads, stir-fries or yogurt parfaits to provide a delicious and nutrient-rich addition that contributes to a healthy pregnancy.
Things to keep in mind
When incorporating pine nuts into your diet, there are a few important considerations to bear in mind, Anand said.
Allergies: Pine nuts, like other nuts, can trigger allergic reactions in some people. If you have a history of nut allergies, it is advisable to exercise caution and consult an allergist before introducing pine nuts to your diet.
Weight gain: While the fats in pine nuts are healthy, overconsumption can contribute to excess calorie intake, potentially leading to weight gain.
Myths and facts
Anand said there are some myths about pine nuts that need to be debunked.
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Myth: Pine nuts are high in carbohydrates and sugars.
Fact: Pine nuts are actually relatively low in carbohydrates and sugars. A 1-ounce serving of pine nuts contains only around 3.7 gm of carbohydrates, with about 1 gm of sugar.
Myth: Pine nuts are too high in calories to be considered healthy.
Fact: While pine nuts are calorically-dense due to their healthy fat content, they can still be part of a balanced diet. Healthy fats, such as those found in pine nuts, are essential for various bodily functions, including heart health and cognitive functions.