Pine nuts have been cherished since ancient times immemorial and Roman soldiers ate them. Even Greek authors have mentioned them as early as 300 BC. Pine nuts contain lots of healthy nutrients as other nuts, including healthy monounsaturated fats and antioxidants, but pine nuts are not actually nuts at all.
Where Do Pine Nuts Come From?
Pine nuts happen to be the seeds of pine trees. One will find them between the scales of pine cones, but while all pine trees do yield pine nuts, only about 20 species, in fact, have pine nuts which are large enough to be eaten. It takes nearly 18 months for most pine nuts to mature, although some species can also take as long as three years. Ten days before the green cone does start to open, the nuts are ready for harvesting.
The cones are actually dried in a burlap bag in the sun for 20 days, to speed up the process of drying as well as opening. The cones are then smashed (as a way to quickly release the seeds) and the seeds are then separated by hand from the cone fragments.
Pine nuts do have a second shell, which also has to be removed before eating. The shell varies from very thick to thin and therefore easier to handle.
Once harvested from the cone, pine nuts must be shelled, and they should be consumed shortly after. Unshelled pine nuts are rather prone to rancidity due to their high oil content, so in order to be sure, one has to store them in one’s fridge.
Pine nuts are acknowledged as a delicacy in several parts of the world. They are commonly eaten raw or roasted, and their sweet nutty flavor and crunchy texture do lend itself well to snacking, vegetable dishes and, of course, sauces like pesto.
1. Suppress one’s appetite:
If one is trying to lose weight, eating pine nuts can help. Research does show that fatty acids derived from pine nuts lead to the release of high amounts of cholecystokinin (CCK), an appetite-suppressing hormone.
Women who consumed three grams of the fatty acid pinolenic acid prior to breakfast observed that it slowed the absorption of food in their gut and decreased their food intake by 37 percent.
2. Boost energy:
Pine nuts do indeed contain nutrients that of course help boost energy, including monounsaturated fat, protein, and iron. Pine nuts also happen to be a good source of magnesium, low levels of which can lead to fatigue.
One-half cup of pine nuts does provide nearly half of the daily recommended amount of magnesium.
3. Reduce heart disease risk:
Pine nuts do contain a synergistic blend of compounds known to support heart health. These do include monounsaturated fat, magnesium, vitamin E, vitamin K, and manganese.
Pinolenic acid in pine nuts does support healthy cholesterol levels and may have LDL-lowering properties by enhancing the liver’s LDL uptake.
4. Anti-aging antioxidants:
Pine nuts do contain a wealth of antioxidants, that include vitamins A, B, C, D and E, and lutein. Antioxidants are essential to one’s health as they are believed to help control how fast one age by combating free radicals, which are at the heart of age-related deterioration.
Antioxidants help defend one’s cells against attack by reactive oxygen species (ROS).
5. Vision health:
Pine nuts do contain lutein, a carotenoid that can help ward off eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD). One macula is a small area just two millimeters wide, located in the back of one’s eye, in the middle portion of one’s retina.
As AMD tends to progress, tiny, fragile blood vessels that happen to leak blood and fluid begin to develop in one’s retina, causing further damage.
However, there happens to be pigment in one’s macula that appears to act as a blue-light filter in order to protect one’s macular region against oxidation by light. In addition, this macular pigment can also scavenge free radicals.