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Chilgoza or pine nuts are seeds which belong to the evergreen pine tree. The pine tree flowers in the months between May-June whereas the cones ripen during months of September to October of the following year. The seeds are obtained from the cones which have ripened and are then plucked prior to opening. The scales of these cones are opened by heating them and the seeds can be shaken out of the cones with ease. The kernels which are also called giri or magaj are oleaginous in shape and they have a very delicate flavour.

These seeds are edible and are extremely nutritious. Although all pine trees yield the pine nuts, very few, about 20 species of these pine trees yield such pine nuts which are large enough to be eaten.

After they are harvested, these nuts must be shelled from the cones before consumption. Pine nuts which are unshelled are highly susceptible to spoiling. This is because of its high oil content. So, it is best to consume them fresh or store them in a fridge.

 Pine nuts are a delicacy in various parts of the world. The native Americans from the Great Basin had harvested these nuts for over 10,000 years. Pine nuts became quite popular in Asia and in Europe in the Paleolithic era. In fact, pine nuts were prescribed by Egyptian physicians for various kinds of ailments. Roman soldiers are said to have enjoyed the flavour and health benefits of these nuts. Ever since 300 BC, they have also been mentioned by many Greek authors. They have carminative and expectorant properties. Also, they act as a stimulant. In contrast to other nuts, the kernels of chilgoza have no cholesterol at all and are rich sources of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. The Chilgoza pine nut contains various different types of antioxidants which are Lycopene, Tocopherol, Gallocatechin, Carotenoid, etc. All of these antioxidants help promote optimal functions of the various body organs. Furthermore, pine nuts can be used in the form of a skin supplement as they can also keep the skin healthy. Whole pine nuts are consumed by a lot of people. As per a research, the level of antioxidants falls considerably when the nuts are roasted. So, it is advisable to eat this nut raw rather than having it in its roasted form.

Some basic facts about Chilgoza:

  • Scientific Name: Pinus gerardiana

  • Family: Pinaceae

  • Common Name: Chilgoza, Pine nuts

  • Sanskrit name: Nikochak

  • Parts used: The nut is the most edible part of a chilgoza.

  • Native Region and Geographical Distribution: Chilgoza is native to Northwestern Himalayas. It is grown in northwest India, Afghanistan, and Pakistan at an elevation of 1800-3350 m

  • Fun fact: Neje is the name given to pine nuts which grow in the Himalayas. They grow at an altitude ranging between 1800 and 3500 meters. These have a high price in the market which makes them one of the most important cash crop among the local lot.

  1. Pine nuts nutrition facts
  2. Pine nuts health benefits
  3. Pine nuts side effects
  4. Takeaway

One gets different vitamins, minerals, and other nutritional benefits in every 100 g serving of chilgoza or pine nuts. Pine nuts are high in fat content and they have a high calorie count. Chilgoza or pine nuts are a very good source of proteins.

It contains fibre. It is rich in vitamins like vitamin K and Vitamin E. It also contains Riboflavin, Thiamine, copper, manganese, magnesium, zinc, iron and phosphorus.

As per the USDA Nutrient Database, 100g of dried chilgoza contains the following values

Nutrients Value per 100 g
Water 2.28 g
Energy 667 kcal
Protein 13.69 g
Fats 68.37 g
Carbohydrates 13.08 g
Fibres 3.7 g
Sugars 3.59 g

 

Minerals Value per 100 g
Calcium 16 mg
Iron 5.53 mg
Magnesium 251 mg
Phosphorus 575 mg
Potassium 597 mg
Sodium 2 mg
Zinc 6.45 mg

 

Vitamins Value per 100 g
Vitamin C 0.8 mg
Vitamin B1 0. 364 mg
Vitamin B2 0.227 mg
Vitamin B3 4.387 mg
Vitamin B6 0.094 mg
Vitamin B9 34 mg
Vitamin A 1 µg
Vitamin E 9.33 mg
Vitamin K 53.9 µg

 

Fats/Fatty acids Value per 100 g
Saturated 4.899 g
Monounsaturated 18.764 g
Polyunsaturated 34.071 g

Pine nuts for heart

Chilgoza or pine nuts are considered to be very good for a healthy heart. These nuts are loaded with monounsaturated fat, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, Magnesium and Manganese, all of which are said to support a healthy heart. The pine nuts are also abundantly rich in pinolenic acid which maintains cholesterol levels to the optimum. They are also believed to have LDL lowering functions. This property is achieved by enhancing LDL uptake of the liver. Low LDL contents in the blood are in turn responsible for reducing the risk of atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, and heart diseases.

Pine nuts for eyes

Pine nuts or chilgoza are abundantly rich in a carotenoid called lutein. Studies suggest that lutein can help fight against AMD i.e age-related macular degeneration. The macula is located at the back of the eye in the middle of the retina, two millimetres wide. It might so happen that the macula and retina become diseased and damaged with time. However, lutein is a natural eye pigment that protects the macular region. This pigment in the macula acts as a blue-light filter and protects it from oxidation by light. Foods which are rich in Lutein can thus be very beneficial for the eye health.

(Read more: Macular degeneration prevention)

Pine nuts as antioxidants

Pine nuts contain a host of antioxidants. This includes Vitamins A, B, C, D, E, and lutein. Antioxidants combat free radicals which are the root cause of age-related deterioration. Therefore, they are crucial to our health and are believed to control the rate at which we age.

Our bodies circulate a number of nutrients which have antioxidant properties and manufacture antioxidant enzymes. However, a regular consumption of pine nuts is surely going to add to those antioxidants by helping delay the appearance of wrinkles and make you look young for long.

(Read more: Antioxidant food sources)

Pine nuts as energy boosters

Pine nuts contain monounsaturated fats, proteins, and iron among other nutrients that help in boosting energy. According to a review published by the American Nutrition Association, magnesium helps the patients who are suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome. Studies suggest that pine nuts are a good source of magnesium and are thus amazing energy boosters. Half a cup of pine nuts provides approximately half of the recommended daily amount of magnesium, which is a huge benefit.

Pine nuts suppress appetite

Eating pine nuts is believed to help those trying to lose weight. Researches show that fatty acids which are derived from pine nuts might lead to the release of cholecystokinin (CCK) in high amounts which is an appetite-suppressing hormone.

Another research claims that the food absorption in the gut was decreased for women who consumed three grams of pinolenic acid (a fatty acid present in pine nuts) prior to consumption of breakfast. Also, their food intake was found to have decreased by 37 percent.

(Read more: Weight loss diet chart)

Pine nuts for diabetes

Apart from being healthy and flavourful, nuts can also help in controlling diabetes. These are said to help increase the insulin sensitivity which leads to an increased uptake of glucose from the blood. In addition, they are known to have a low glycemic index which means they don't increase the blood sugar levels significantly.

In a clinical study, 117 diabetic adults were given nuts as a part of the meal for three months. All of the adults were on oral hypoglycemic medications and none were on insulin. This study was published in Diabetologia and it stated that the glycemic control of individuals with type 2 diabetes improved when the carbohydrates were replaced by nuts in the meal.

So substituting your part of your meal with pine nuts or chilgoza can help you to lower the risk of diabetes.  

Pine nuts for bones

Pine nuts are a good source of Vitamin K which helps to build bones. Researches say that this vitamin can help in the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis. Not only does it increase bone mineral density but it also reduces the risk of bone fractures.

So, grab a handful of pine nuts to enjoy stronger and healthier bones.

Pine nuts for stomach

Regular consumption of pine nuts can keep your gut healthier and a healthy gut is directly associated with an improved life quality. Chilgoza is abundantly rich in fibre, and fibre itself has many health benefits. Even though fibre is not digested by our body but it is significant for the growth of the natural microflora in the colon. Additionally, the fibre present in it also helps us to remain full for a longer time thus keeping us from overeating.

Pine nuts for celiac patients

Pine nuts are one among the gluten-free foods. Hence, they are considered to be great ingredients which can be included in gluten-free formulas/recipes.

People who suffer from celiac disease and are allergic to wheat find a great alternative in such formula preparations.

Pine nuts for cancer

A handful of chilgoza or pine nuts may help in preventing cancer. According to a systematic review and meta-analysis published in Nutrition Reviews, the researchers compared two group of people; a group of people who consumed nuts 4-5 times a week and another group of people who consumed nuts once a week. It was found that the people who consumed pine nuts on a regular basis had a 15% lower risk of developing cancer, specifically in pancreatic, endometrial and colorectal cancer.

Chilgoza or pine nut is an extremely beneficial and nutritious food option. However, there are some not very serious side effects if one is allergic to it, or if it is not consumed in moderation.

  • Chilgoza may cause pine nut syndrome or pine mouth
    There might be a change in the way our taste buds perceive due to regular consumption of pine nuts. A few people have reported developing a metallic and bitter taste after 12 to 48 hour of consuming pine nuts. This condition is called Pine nut syndrome or pine mouth. It is said to last for about a week.
  •  Chilgoza allergy
    There might be certain groups of people who are allergic to nuts. Pine allergy can cause symptoms like rashes and itching. It might also cause indigestion, bloating, difficulty in breathing, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Pine nuts or chilgoza have been consumed as a tasty snack, vegetable dish or even as a sauce since ancient times.

Pine nuts can indeed provide us with a range of health benefits if they are consumed in moderation. One can consume pine nuts raw or roasted. A glass full of pines is sufficient enough to fill one with nutrients which keep away hunger and prevents waistline growth.

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References

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  15. Jéssica Pinto Polet et al. Physico-chemical and sensory characteristics of gluten-free breads made with pine nuts (Araucaria angustifolia) associated to other flours . Journal of Culinary Science & Technology, 11 Dec 2017
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