Chestnuts

The chestnut (Castanea) group is a genus of eight or nine species of deciduous trees and shrubs in the beech family Fagaceae, native to temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere.

Chestnuts belong to the family Fagaceae, which also includes oaks and beeches. The four main species are commonly known as American chestnuts, with some species called chinkapin or chinquapin, Chinese, European and Japanese.

Chestnut trees are of moderate growth rate (for the Chinese chestnut tree) to fast-growing for American and European species. Their mature heights vary from the smallest species of chinkapins, often shrubby, to the giant of past American forests, C. dentata that could reach 60 m. Between these extremes are found the Japanese chestnut (C. crenata) at 10 m average followed by the Chinese chestnut (C. mollissima) at about 15 m, then the European chestnut (C. sativa) around 30 m.

The name “chestnut” is derived from an earlier English term “chesten nut”, which descends from the Old French word chastain (Modern French, châtaigne).

The name Castanea is probably derived from the old name for the sweet chestnut, either in Latin or in Ancient Greek. Another possible source of the name is the town of Kastania in Thessaly, Greece; more probable, though, is that the town took its name from the most common tree growing around it.

In the Mediterranean climate zone, chestnut trees are rarer in Greece because the chalky soil is not conducive to the tree’s growth. Kastania is located on one of the relatively few sedimentary or siliceous outcrops. They grow so abundantly there, their presence would have determined the place’s name.Still others take the name as coming from the Greek name of Sardis glans (Sardis acorn) – Sardis being the capital of Lydia, Asia Minor, from where the fruit had spread.

History

The sweet chestnut was introduced into Europe from Sardis, in Asia Minor; the fruit was then called the Sardian nut. It has been a staple food in southern Europe, Turkey, and southwestern and eastern Asia for millennia, largely replacing cereals where these would not grow well, if at all, in mountainous Mediterranean areas. Evidence of its cultivation by man is found since around 2000 BC. Alexander the Great and the Romans planted chestnut trees across Europe while on their various campaigns. A Greek army is said to have survived their retreat from Asia Minor in 401–399 BC thanks to their stores of chestnuts. Ancient Greeks, such as Dioscorides and Galen, wrote of chestnuts to comment on their medicinal properties—and of the flatulence induced by eating too much of it. To the early Christians, chestnuts symbolized chastity. Until the introduction of the potato, whole forest-dwelling communities which had scarce access to wheat flour relied on chestnuts as their main source of carbohydrates. In some parts of Italy, a cake made of chestnuts is used as a substitute for potatoes. In 1583, Charles Estienne and Jean Liébault wrote, “an infinity of people live on nothing else but (the chestnut)”. In 1802, an Italian agronomist said of Tuscany that “the fruit of the chestnut tree is practically the sole subsistence of our highlanders”, while in 1879 it was said that it almost exclusively fed whole populations for half the year, as “a temporary but complete substitution for cereals.

Boundary records compiled in the reign of John already showed the famous Tortworth Chestnut in South Gloucestershire, as a landmark; and it was also known by the same name of “Great Chestnut of Tortworth” in the days of Stephen. This tree measured over 50 feet (15 m) in circumference at 5 feet (1.5 m) from the ground in 1720. The chestnut forests on Mount Etna contain many trees that are said to be even larger. Chestnut trees particularly flourish in the Mediterranean basin. In 1584, the governor of Genua, which dominated Corsica, ordered all the farmers and landowners to plant four trees yearly, among which a chestnut tree – plus olive, fig and mulberry trees (this assumedly lasted until the end of Genoese rule over Corsica in 1729). Many communities owe their origin and former richness to the ensuing chestnut woods. In France, the marron glacé, a candied chestnut involving 16 different processes in a typically French cooking style, is always served at Christmas and New Year’s time. In Modena, Italy, they are soaked in wine before roasting and serving, and are also traditionally eaten on Saint Simon’s Day in Tuscany. It is traditional to eat roasted chestnuts in Portugal on St. Martin’s Day.

Their popularity declined during the last few centuries, partly due to their reputation of “food for poor people”. Many people did not want to take chestnut bread as “bread” because chestnut flour does not rise. Some slandered chestnut products in such words as the bread which “gives a sallow complexion” written in 1770, or in 1841 “this kind of mortar which is called a soup”. The last decades’ worldwide renewal may have profited from the huge reforestation efforts started in the 1930s in the United States to establish varieties of C. sativa which may be resistant to chestnut blight, as well as to relieve the strain on cereal supplies.

The main region in Italy for chestnut production is the Mugello region; in 1996, the European Community granted the fruit Protected Geographic Indication (equivalent to the French Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) status to the Mugello sweet chestnut. It is markedly sweet, peels easily, is not excessively floury or astringent, and has notes of vanilla, hazelnut, and, more subtly, fresh bread. There is no unpleasant aroma, such as yeast, fungus, mold or paper, which sometimes occur with other chestnuts. The main regions in France for chestnut production are the départements of Ardèche, with the famous “Châtaigne d’Ardèche” (A.O.C), of the Var (Eastern Provence), of the Cévennes (Gard and Lozère départements) and of the Lyon region. France annually produces over 1,000 metric tons, but still imports about 8,000 metric tons, mainly from Italy.

17 Amazing Benefits

  1. Strengthens Our Bones & Teeth

Regular and moderate consumption of chestnut is very beneficial for making our bones and teeth stronger because of the presence of phosphorus,  magnesium, and calcium in it. Calcium and phosphorus are two vital nutrients that play a very important role in keeping our bones healthy as they are the main composition of bones.

In addition to this, magnesium also plays an important role in keeping our teeth healthy as they form the hard enamel around the teeth and protects our bones from decay and degeneration. As chestnuts are rich in phosphorus and magnesium so they help in keeping our bones stronger. Although the level of calcium in chestnuts is low but it still helps.

  1. Provide Relief From Diarrhea

Diarrhea is a common digestive problem that can be very dangerous when not treated on time. It can result in dehydration , loss of salts and minerals from our body, weakness, and other health complications. In the worst case, it can even cause death by depleting body fluids and as per WHO, Diarrhoeal disease is the second major cause of death in children under five years. Even in adults, untreated diarrhea can cause serious health problems. Because of these reasons, it is important to get diarrhea treated as early as possible.

It has been found that chestnut especially the bark of the chestnut tree has been found to be very effective in providing relief from diarrhea and other related condition. To use chestnut tree bark for relief from diarrhea, boil  a standard 3 spoons of crushed bark or equivalent chestnuts with shells in one-liter water and then let it cool to room temperature. The water so obtained will be rich in Tannins and taking a controlled quantity of this water ( tannins-rich ) will help in providing relief from diarrhea.

It is important to note that it is not advisable to use this method for treating diarrhea among infants and children as their stomach is very sensitive and even a small mistakes in proportion can be dangerous for them. For treating diarrhea among infants and children , it is better to consult with your doctor.

  1. Provides Relief From Dryness And Itching Caused By Respiratory Problems

Respiratory diseases like a cough and cold can sometimes be very irritating as they cause a feeling of dryness and itching in our neck and mouth, and make it difficult for us to even breathe and speak properly.

Chestnut is very effective in providing relief from the persistent feeling of dryness and itching caused by the common respiratory diseases like a cough, cold, sore throat, bronchitis etc. This is because of the expectorant properties of the chestnuts. Expectorants are drugs that are also added to cough syrups as they signal the body to produce more hydrating secretion and provide relief from dryness and itching.

  1. Maintains Elasticity Of Blood Vessels

Chestnuts are very effective in maintaining the elasticity of blood vessels in our body because of the presence of essential fatty acids like linoleic acid, palmitic acid and Oleic acid in chestnuts. These fatty acids  are very safe for our body and are required by our body for maintaining the good health. These fatty acids are low in cholesterol and they can even help in bringing down the bad cholesterol (LDL cholesterol ) level of our body.

Bad  cholesterol is very dangerous for our cardiovascular health as it can deposit plaque of fat in the inner lining of arteries of our heart and increases the risk of various cardiovascular diseases like heart problem, strokes, irregular heartbeat etc. Regular and moderate consumption of chestnuts ensure that fat doesn’t get deposited on the inner lining of our blood vessels and it also helps in keeping our blood vessels healthy by maintaining their elasticity.

  1. Prevents Free Radicals Damage

Regular and moderate consumption of chestnuts helps in removing toxins from our body because of the presence of high level of antioxidants like Vitamin C, Gallic acid and Ellagic acid in them.

These antioxidants fights with the free radicals of our body stabilizes the unstabilized ions and prevents them from doing damage to our body. Free radicals can even damage our immune system, making us more prone to diseases, but antioxidants prevent this and make our immune system stronger.

  1. Maintains Thyroid Function

The presence of Ellagic acid in chestnuts make them very effective for supporting the thyroid functions of our body. Ellagic acid suppresses the hormone responsible for hyperthyroidism /overactive thyroid function and helps in keeping overactive thyroid gland  under control.

The thyroid gland is the largest endocrine gland in our body that secretes triiodothyronine and thyroxine hormones. It regulates the rate at which our body uses energy, synthesize protein and sensitivity of our body towards other hormones.

  1. Keep Our Digestive System Healthy

Regular and moderate consumption of chestnuts is very effective in keeping our digestive system healthy and providing relief from various gastrointestinal problems like constipation, anal irritation, piles etc. because of the presence of dietary fibers and water in it . Water and dietary fibers present in chestnuts play an important role in providing relief from constipation as they make stool smooth and ensures that it get excreted out without any problem.

This also helps in reducing the risk of intestinal complication like diverticulosis, a condition where small areas on the inner lining of the intestinal walls get inflamed.

In addition to this, fibers present in chestnuts also helps in reducing bad cholesterol level of our body and stabilizes blood sugar level and is thus beneficial for people suffering from diabetes.

  1. Promotes Weight Loss

Regular and moderate consumption of chestnuts is very effective in promoting weight loss and helps in weight management because of the presence of dietary fibers and water in it. The presence of dietary fibers and water helps in keeping our body satisfied for a longer time and decreases our urge to eat again and again.

As overeating is a major cause of weight gain, so by controlling overeating , chestnuts helps in controlling weight gain.

Chestnuts are well suited for weight loss program not only because of the presence of dietary fibers and water but also because of their low energy quotient ( in comparison to other nuts like almonds and walnuts ).

  1. Good For Pregnant Women

It is very important for any pregnant women to take good care of her diet as what she eat and drink plays an important role in determining the overall health of the baby developing in her womb, as growing fetus derives all its nutrients from the mother’s body and for this reason, it is important for the mother to eat a healthy diet and ensure that she is getting all the vital nutrients like vitamins and minerals required for maintaining her health and for maintaining the development of fetus developing in her.

Moderate consumption of chestnuts is very beneficial for pregnant women as it provides important nutrients like calcium,phosphorus, magnesium etc. The presence of these nutrients helps in making the bones for pregnant women stronger, balance electrolyte level and thus prevents frequent cramping experienced by many pregnant women.

It also helps in providing relief from nausea which is experienced by the majority of pregnant women especially during their first trimester of pregnancy.

  1. Maintains Electrolyte Balance

Consuming chestnuts is very effective in maintaining the electrolyte balance of our body because of the presence of a safe level of potassium and magnesium in chestnuts. The electrolyte is nothing but a salt solution ( made from sodium, magnesium, potassium and carbonates etc. ) that conducts electricity.

In our body, the electrolyte is important as it helps in transporting of neurotransmitters from the brain to different parts of our body and vice versa. This electrolyte balance gets lost naturally through excretion and sweating, but consuming chestnuts ensure that electrolyte balance is maintained properly. Chestnuts are not rich in magnesium and potassium but also carries a good amount ( around 60 %) of water ( an important part of electrolyte solution).

  1. Keep Our Heart Healthy

Eating chestnuts is very effective for keeping our heart healthy and preventing us from various cardiovascular diseases like heart attack, heart stroke etc. because of the presence of nutrients like vitamin B12, Vitamin B6, and folates in it. Vitamin B6 helps in regulating the homocysteine level in our body.High level of homocysteine ( a nonprotein amino acid) can cause inflammation and damage to blood vessels, and cause blockage in arteries and obstruct the passage of oxygenated blood to the heart.

In addition to this, the presence of vitamin B12 and folate in chestnuts helps in reducing the risk of development of hyperhomocysteinemia. Chestnuts also help in reducing bad cholesterol level of  our body and prevents damage to the inner lining of arteries.

  1. Reduces The Risk Of Anemia

Regular and moderate consumption of chestnuts is very effective in reducing the risk of anemia because of the presence of iron and copper in it. Iron and copper are two important elements that are required for the production of blood. Iron also plays an important role in improving the function of hemoglobin, responsible for carrying oxygen to various parts of the body.

In addition to this, copper present in chestnuts binds with the oxygen molecule and helps in its transportation. Deficiency of iron can even  cause fatigue, headache, weakness , shortness of breath , tongue swelling etc. and as chestnuts are rich in iron so eating chestnuts prevents us from all these symptoms.

  1. Reduces The Risk Of Development Of Kidney Stones And Gallstones

Consuming chestnuts on  a regular basis but in a moderate quantity is very effective in reducing the risk of development of kidney stones because of their low oxalate levels.  Oxalate is an ion that is responsible for increasing the risk of development of kidney stones. In fact, calcium oxalate is infamous for developing gallstones and kidney stones and because of this reason it is advised to eat a low oxalate diet that decreases the risk of these stones.

Chestnuts have very low oxalate level and they are also a good source of potassium which helps in regulating and controlling the production and distribution of calcium in the body and ensures proper deposition of calcium in bones and minimizes the level of calcium that gets dissolved in the blood stream.

In this way, it reduces the formation of calcium oxalate and thus reduces the risk of gallstones and kidney stones development.

  1. Provides Astringent Benefits

Chestnuts are very effective in providing relief from pain, swelling and inflammation caused by the wear and tear of body tissues, and helps in quick healing of wounds and treats hemorrhoids. These benefits of chestnut are because of the anti-inflammatory and astringent properties of chestnut ( due to the presence of tannin in it).

In addition to this, the presence of vitamin C in chestnut also plays an important role in providing anti-inflammatory benefits to chestnuts.

  1. Maintains Stable Energy Level

Unlike other nuts, chestnuts are high in complex carbohydrates which means eating chestnuts can help in maintaining the stable energy level. A single 3 ounce serving of chestnuts provide as much as 45 grams of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are important because they help in maintaining both short term and long term energy level and also helps in proper functioning of our nervous system.

As the carbohydrates received from chestnuts are complex so they are digested slowly ( in comparison to simple carbohydrates) and maintains even energy level for a long time. Some other nuts that are a good source of energy are almonds, walnuts etc.

  1. Improves Brain Function

Chestnuts are good for our brain as they as helps in improving the brain function because of the presence of B vitamins in chestnuts. These B vitamins like vitamin B6, Vitamin B12 etc. helps in the production of red blood cells, synthesis of proteins, burning of carbohydrates and fats for energy and thus enhance brain function.

Chestnuts are high in B vitamins and a single 3 ounce serving of chestnuts provide around 21 percent of the recommended daily value of vitamin B6, 15 percent of folate, 14 percent of thiamine and 9 percent of riboflavin. All the nutrients plays a very important role in keeping our brain healthy and for ensuring its proper function.

  1. Boost Immunity And Reduces Diseases Risk

Regular and moderate consumption of chestnuts is very effective in making our immune system stronger and for reducing the risk of various diseases because of the presence of antioxidants like vitamin C and manganese in it. These antioxidants fights with the free radicals of our body, stabilize them and prevents them from doing damage to our body (including the immune system).

A 3 Ounce serving of chestnuts provides around 1 microgram of manganese which is 50 percent of the recommended daily dosage of our body. Manganese not only fights with free radicals but also helps in the production of connective tissue and helps in the clotting of blood.