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Health Food of the month - Chesnuts

October 2017

chesnuts

Chesnuts are back in fashion


Previous Health Foods of the Month...

Seaweed

Ice cream

Apricots


 

Diet & Supplements Index

Waitrose Recipes

We tend to think of chestnuts as a Christmas food and indeed as a fabulous stuffing it is synonymous with traditional turkey meals.

They are also associated with Dickensian London, when it was a common sight to see street-side carts full of hot tasty chestnuts for sale.

But there is a lot more to chestnuts than ghosts of Christmas past!

First, to clear up any confusion, the chestnuts we like to eat are sweet chestnuts which come from the sweet chestnut tree. This is not the same as the conkers and chestnuts we get from the common horse chestnut tree. Horse chestnuts are much more common in forests and gardens across the UK but are inedible, even toxic.

The sweet chestnut or castanea sativa is a large, long lived deciduous tree native to Europe and some parts of Asia. It has been growing in Europe for over 3,000 years but today is cultivated across the world.

Imported sweet chestnuts can usually be found throughout the year in various supermarkets, but autumn is the time in the UK when our own sweet chestnuts start to become available. They are very popular in America where sweet chestnuts are now grown although some are also imported each year from Europe.

Apart from their lovely unique taste, chestnuts also offer a range of good things for our health. They are not a powerhouse of super foods, but they do offer useful content. For a start, unlike other nuts and seeds, they are fairly low in calories and fats. Chestnuts are instead full of starch and so can be compared to potatoes and sweet potatoes. They are a very good source of fibre offering around 8.1g of fibre for each 100g of chestnut.

But even better is the mineral and vitamin content of chestnuts. For a start, they are very rich in vitamin C (43g of vitamin C in 100g of chestnuts) and are also strong antioxidants. Chestnuts are also full of folates, very unusual for what is really just a nut. Chestnuts offer 62 µg of folates for every 100g, something that will help the formation of red blood cells in your body.

Chestnuts are also a great source of minerals including iron, calcium, manganese, phosphorous, magnesium and zinc and they even contain small levels of copper and potassium.

This tasty nut also provides lots of important B complex vitamins, including niacin, B6, thiamine and riboflavin.

One additional benefit of chestnuts is that they are, like almonds and also hazelnuts, gluten free, so can be useful for people on gluten free diets.

Fresh chestnuts from this year’s crop should be coming into the shops from now on. It is important to find fresh nuts as they can spoil quickly in air, especially when they are stored in warm humid conditions.

A common mistake is to think of them like other nuts and believe they will last for a long time. It is better to treat chestnuts like vegetables and store in the fridge and use fairly quickly.

They can be eaten raw although usually are preferred when boiled or roasted, and there are many recipes offering very tasty ideas based around chestnuts. Marron glace is based on chestnuts, when they are soaked in water before being dipped and heated in sugar vanilla syrup. Chestnuts are also a key ingredient in many American recipes including their Thanksgiving turkey. They even have a National Chestnut Week in America, this year from October 8th to the 14th.

The BBC has a useful page on chestnuts and chestnut recipe ideas.

 


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