Pine nuts are edible kernels extracted from the seed of a variety of species of pine tree. The seeds are typically thick-shelled and grow inside of pine cones that look very similar to the pine cones that grow on more common pines grown for timber. Cone harvesting and extraction and preparation of the kernels are time-consuming and costly – contributing to the high prices at which pine nuts sell. Pine nuts are highly nutritious and keep well for many months if stored properly in dry, cool conditions and out of direct sunlight. They are extremely versatile in cooking due to their mild flavor, creamy and subtle when raw and richer and nuttier when lightly toasted. They add interest, flavor and texture to many sweet and savory dishes. They are a truly natural product – essentially unchanged over centuries – requiring no insecticides or fungicides to either grow the trees or prepare the kernels for market.
In Afghanistan, chilgoza pine is distributed in eastern and southeastern provinces. This region is classified as the Eastern Forest Complex and comes under Palearctic realm and Himalayan Highland Province (Sayer & Van der Zon, 1981). Scattered populations are distributed in Paktika, Paktia, Khost, Nangarhar, Kunar, Laghman, Logar, Nuristan and Kapisa Provinces (MAIL, 2012). Significant stands (mixed and pure) are found in Nuristan; Alisheng & Alingar Districts of Laghman; and, Khogyani, Hisarak, Pachiragam, Sherzad, Dara-i-Nur and Shinwar Districts of Nangarhar (Kuhn et al., 2006). In Kunar, Nuristan, Laghman, Kapisa and Nangarhar, the chilgoza is distributed between 2100 – 3350 m asl (Farjon, 1984) and in Paktia and Paktika Provinces it is found between 1800 – 2300 m asl (Alam, 2011; Nedialkov, 1973). Chilgoza pine becomes dominant between 2100 – 2500 m asl.
Despite what their name implies, pine nuts are not actually a nut at all. Pine nuts are actually seeds harvested from certain types of pine cones. If you're wary of high-fat foods, you might shy away from pine nuts. However, pine nuts contain healthy fats that provide several health benefits. Here are some details on why you should consider adding pine nuts to your grocery list.
Carbs An ounce of dried pine nuts provides just under 4 grams of carbohydrate, with 1 gram of fiber and 1 gram of natural sugar.
Fats Pine nuts derive their majority of calories from fat with 19 grams per ounce. Most of the fatty acids in pine nuts are from polyunsaturated fat (9.5 grams), followed by monounsaturated fat (5.3 grams). Pine nuts have minimal saturated fat, about 1.4 grams per ounce. Roasted pine nuts with added oil are higher in fat.
Protein Pine nuts provide just under 4 grams of protein per ounce, making them lower in protein than true tree nuts, like walnuts, almonds, and pistachios.2
Vitamins and Minerals Pine nuts are high in magnesium, iron, zinc, calcium, phosphorus, vitamin E, and vitamin K.
Health Benefits Nuts and seeds are a nutritious addition to most any meal plan. The higher fat content of pine nuts provides unique benefits that are worth considering.
Improves Glycemic Control Pine nuts offer a good balance of protein, fats, and fiber to keep blood sugar levels stable. Along with a favorable macronutrient profile, pine nuts have beneficial micronutrients for diabetes management as well. The magnesium in pine nuts and tree nuts has been shown to improve glucose uptake by insulin.3 Additionally, the monounsaturated fat in pine nuts reduces hemoglobin A1c levels, a key marker of blood sugar control.
Supports Heart Health Pine nuts provide several cardiovascular benefits that prevent heart attacks and stroke.4 Consuming three servings or more of pine nuts or tree nuts per week (compared to none) lowers the risk of heart failure and atrial fibrillation. The L-arginine in nuts and seeds improves endothelial function by boosting the availability of nitric oxide (a natural vasodilator). Pine nuts are also rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds that promote heart health in both the long-term and short-term.
Aids Cognition In the same way that pine nuts improve circulation for heart health, they also supply essential nutrients to the brain, preventing cognitive issues like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's disease, and age-related dementia.4 Increasing pine nut intake of elderly adults boosts cognitive function and reduces depressive symptoms. Using pine nuts as a substitute for some of the saturated fats in your meal (such as replacing the cheese on top of a salad or as a savory snack choice instead of beef jerky) might be especially effective in promoting brain health.
Prevents Colon Cancer A large-scale case-controlled study in Korea determined the consumption of peanuts, pine nuts, and almonds, was associated with reduced colon cancer rates for men and women.5 The combination of fiber and antioxidants in pine nuts makes them a healthy choice for good digestion and cancer prevention.
Reduces Waist Circumference People who eat pine nuts and tree nuts have a lower body weight, body mass index (BMI), and a smaller waist circumference than those who don't, according to NHANES data from 2005–2010.6 These findings support previous studies that have shown no increase in body weight as a result of eating these foods, despite their high energy density. It's also possible that nuts and seeds have a lower calorie content than previously thought, because of some of the calories are trapped in indigestible fiber. The fats in pine nuts make them a satisfying food that reduces appetite and promotes a healthy weight.
Allergies Pine nut allergies can cause mild to severe reactions, including anaphylaxis. If you're allergic to pine pollen or peanuts, you may experience a cross-reactivity to pine nuts.7 Symptoms can include chest tightness, hives, and vomiting. Speak to an allergist if you suspect that you're allergic to pine nuts.
Pine nuts are one of the calorie-rich edible nuts. 100g of dry kernels provide 673 calories. Additionally, they comprise numerous health benefits, promoting phytochemicals, vitamins, antioxidants and minerals. Their high caloric content chiefly comes from fats. Indeed, the nuts are especially rich in monounsaturated fatty acids like oleic acid which helps lower LDL or "bad cholesterol" and increases HDL or "good cholesterol" in the blood. Pine or cedar nuts contain essential fatty acid (the omega-6 fat), pinolenic acid. Recent research has shown its potential use in weight loss by curbing the appetite. Pinolenic acid triggers the release of hunger-suppressant enzymes cholecystokinin and glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) in the gut. Also, pinolenic acid has thought to have LDL-lowering properties by enhancing hepatic LDL uptake. Likewise in almonds, pine nuts too are an excellent source of vitamin E. Vitamin E is a powerful lipid soluble antioxidant, required for maintaining the integrity of the cell membrane of mucosa and skin by protecting it from harmful free oxygen radicals. Furthermore, pine nuts are one of the gluten-free tree nuts and, therefore, are a popular ingredient in the preparation of gluten-free food formulas. Such formula preparations can be a healthy alternative for people with wheat allergies and celiac disease. Pine nuts are an excellent source of the B-complex group of vitamins such as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine) and folates. These vitamins work as co-factors for enzymes in cellular substrate metabolism inside the human body. Furthermore, pine nuts contain healthy amounts of essential minerals like manganese, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc and selenium. Pine nuts are one of the richest sources of manganese. Manganese is an all-important co-factor for antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase. Therefore, consumption of pine kernels helps the human body develop resistance against infectious agents and scavenges harmful oxygen-free radicals.
Pine nuts are wonderfully healthy and nutritious food. They are rich in the kind of healthy fats now considered to be important in a healthy diet. Fatty acids found in pine nuts include linoleic acid and pinolenic acid which both are the subject of research into their role in regulating blood pressure, suppressing appetite for those trying to control their weight and preventing and treating stomach ulcers and as well as covic 19 (Corona virus). More surprising to some is that pine nuts are very rich in protein.
Some studies have found at least trace amounts of every one of the 28 amino acids needed for human metabolism. The European stone pine nut has the highest protein content of all the nut pines at 34% by weight. As a result of the high protein content they have lower oil content than other pine nuts (48% as against 65% for Chinese sourced nuts). They also contain antioxidants (including vitamins A, B, C, D, E and K as well as lutein) which are claimed to prevent disease and aging by eliminating free radicals. Pine nuts have almost no sodium, and contain useful amounts of other minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorous and iron. And finally, they contain moderate amounts of dietary fiber.