Pine Nuts: Health Benefits, Cooking, and Storage Tips
Pine nuts are actually seeds that come from pine cones. They have rich and sweet buttery flavor and are the healthiest kind of nut. Therefore, including them in your diet is always a wise decision. Pine nut allergy is extremely rare and they have no other medical contraindications. Pines that produce these nuts grow mostly in the cold forest of the northern hemisphere, Siberia and Canada in particular.
Health benefits of pine nuts are numerous and varied. The most notable of them are:
- They can act as appetite suppressors.
This is one of the reasons that explain why pine nuts should be included into any weight loss diet. This effect occurs because fatty acids from the nuts trigger the release of cholecystokinin, a hormone that suppresses appetite. According to the research, consuming only 3 grams of these fatty acids before breakfast can make you drop your food intake by 37%.
- They reduce the risk of heart disease.
Like with all other nuts, fats from pine nuts lower the level of LDL cholesterol, thereby protecting your arteries and boosting your cardiovascular health in general. This happens because the chemicals from the nuts enhance your liver’s LDL uptake. So your body gets rid of this “bad” cholesterol in a safe and natural manner.
- They provide you with an energy boost.
There are enough calories in pine nuts to provide your body with energy to burn for a few hours, which is why they make a perfect snack. Unlike junk food that also has a high calorie count, these nuts are packed with essential nutrients you need to consume daily. For example, half a cup of pine nuts provides you with over 50% of the daily required amount of magnesium as well as large amounts of iron and copper.
- They slow down the process of aging.
It’s impossible to stop the process of aging completely, but eating these nuts, which are packed with potent antioxidants, on a regular basis will definitely help you slow it down. Antioxidants protect every cell of your body from the detrimental effects of free radicals.
- They promote eye health.
Pine nuts can help prevent age-related macular degeneration because they contain lutein, an element known to ward off this condition.
What Is “Pine Nut Mouth”?
Despite the fact that pine nuts are exceptionally good for your health and the risk of developing an allergic reaction to them isn’t big, some people avoid them because they experienced “pine nut mouth”. This is a strange condition characterized by a bitter metallic aftertaste that occurs in your mouth after eating pine nuts. The issue may persist for up to 2 weeks.
Not everyone gets this aftertaste and scientists have so far failed to determine what exactly causes it and why it affects certain people. The only thing researchers agree on is that the condition will go away if you stop eating nuts. At the moment, it’s believed that only some nuts cause this effect. The condition isn’t dangerous, but it’s highly unpleasant. If you develop it, stay away from nuts for a few days, and then, try nuts from a different species of pine.
How to Toast Pine Nuts
Pine nuts can be eaten raw, but toasting will make them more flavorful and produce a delicious smell. You can toast these nuts in a skillet, oven, or toaster oven. This is how you should do it:
- This is the quickest method as you only need to put the nuts into a dry skillet and cook them for about 3 minutes until they turn golden. However, in this case, their color will be uneven and they won’t look as appealing as nuts toasted in an oven.
- Take a baking sheet and spread nuts over it in a single layer. Heat up the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and put the baking sheet in. Take it out every few minutes to stir the nuts. They should be done in 5-10 minutes when they turn evenly golden.
- Toaster oven.
Follow the same procedure as you would with an ordinary oven. The pros of this method are that a toaster oven isn’t as energy consuming and heats up much faster. However, be very careful not to burn nuts as heating elements are much closer to the baking sheet in this type of oven, so stir them more often.
How to Store Pine Nuts
Fresh shelled pine nuts contain moisture, so they will go sour very fast if you store them in an airtight container in your pantry. If you want them to stay fresh, they must be stored in either the fridge or freezer. You can keep them in the fridge if you are going to use them soon. Otherwise, follow the directions given below to freeze the nuts properly.
- Place the nuts in single-serving containers that can be sealed.
This way, you won’t have to freeze and unfreeze them regularly.
- Remove all air from the container.
Vacuum packing is the best option.
- Put the container in the freezer and turn the temperature to “freezing”.
Note that unshelled pine nuts have long shelf life and can be stored in a pantry.
Pine nuts make a delicious snack, but they also go well when used in granolas or cookies. They are often added to meat sauces and fish dishes due to their rich flavor.