Pine Nuts: Nutrition, Health Benefits & More

Pine nuts 101

Even if you couldn’t recognize a pine nut on your own, you’ve probably eaten one if you’ve ever had basil pesto, a traditional Italian sauce in which pine nuts are a staple.

But that’s far from their only use. With nutty and earthy notes, pine nuts are great for snacking, cooking or sprinkling on dishes to add texture and crunch.

So obviously they are tasty. But are they good for you? We asked nutritionists about the nutrients, health benefits and more of pine nuts.

What are pine nuts?

It may come as a surprise, but despite their name, pine nuts are not part of the nut family. They are actually seeds that come from certain types of pine trees.

Many of the pine nuts from Canada and the United States are harvested from wild trees in the pinyon pine group, such as Pinus edulisor Colorado pinyon, and a few others.

However, when it comes to global production and export, most pine nuts come from the stone pine tree, Pinus pinea.

If you plant a pine tree today, you can expect to wait 15 to 25 years for it to produce tiny seeds. This time frame is one reason for the high price tag of pine nuts.

What do pine nuts look like?

The seeds have the shape of an oval or an elongated kernel and have an ivory or beige shade. Usually they are harvested by hand, another reason why they are more expensive than other seeds.

Usually the shell is removed before packaging. People eat pine nuts raw or roasted.

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Pine nut nutrition

“Pine nuts, in particular, are great sources of plant-based protein, iron, magnesium, vitamin E, B vitamins, calcium, and phosphorus,” says Uma Naidoo, MD, a nutritional psychiatrist, professional chef, nutrition specialist, and the author of This is your brain about food.

Here are the nutrients in 30 grams of raw pine nuts:

Calories: 200

Fat: 21 g (27 percent daily value or DV)

cholesterol: 0 (0 percent DV)

Sodium: 0 (0 percent DV)

Carbohydrates: 4 g (1 percent DV)

Fiber: 1 g (4 percent DV)

sugars: 1 gram

Egg white: 4 g (8 percent DV)

Calcium: 0 mg (0 percent RDA)

Iron: 1.8 mg (10 percent RDA)

Magnesium: 71.2 mg (17 percent RDA)

Potassium: 169 mg (3 percent RDA)

Phosphorus: 163 mg (13 percent RDA)

Vitamin E: 2.64 mg (18 percent RDA)

Health benefits of pine nuts

Thanks to all their health-promoting nutrients, pine nuts can have positive effects on your body.

Keep in mind that just because the compounds below have been linked to health benefits, it doesn’t mean there is evidence that pine nuts provide such benefits.

More research is needed to determine whether pine nuts can directly affect your health, and how.

They can improve brain health

Pine nuts contain antioxidants, which are beneficial compounds that can minimize the impact of unstable atoms, known as free radicals, on the body.

“Antioxidants help lower cellular stress in the brain and reduce inflammation, and [they] have been linked to a reduced risk of dementia and cognitive decline,” explains Dr. Naidoo out.

Of course, that doesn’t mean there’s evidence that pine nuts can help your brain specifically. Still, it doesn’t hurt to get antioxidants where you can, including from pine nuts.

They’re not the only compound in pine nuts that has been linked to better brain health. An abundance of fatty acids, such as omega-3s, is another reason why pine nuts can benefit your brain.

“Omega-3 fatty acids promote brain function and reduce inflammation and have been linked to improved mental health and an overall healthier brain,” explains Dr. Naidoo out.

A study in Pharmacological assessments found exactly that. The authors note that omega-3 fatty acids were beneficial for overall brain health, aided in brain function and reduced inflammation.

But the link is far from confirmed, according to Danielle Gaffen, a registered dietitian nutritionist and nutrition consultant in San Diego.

More research is needed to determine whether pine nuts can contribute to cognitive function and brain health,” she says.

They can be good for the heart

Packed with minerals and healthy fats, these tiny seeds have heart potential

“Pine nuts are packed with heart-healthy unsaturated fats — both poly and mono — that are important for heart health and general health, and a host of other health-promoting nutrients, including magnesium,” says Melina B. Jampolis, MD, a researcher. internist, board-certified physician nutritionist, and author of: Spice Up, Live Long.

She cites magnesium as another health-promoting nutrient that may benefit heart function.

They may also be beneficial for your cholesterol.

“Like many nuts, pine nuts have been shown to regulate cholesterol levels, even raise HDL cholesterol and prevent plaque buildup in arteries,” says Gaffen.

They can help control blood sugar levels

Healthy fats and minerals like magnesium can help maintain blood sugar levels.

“The unsaturated fat, especially in place of carbohydrates, can help improve blood sugar control, and magnesium helps the body respond better to insulin, which can also improve blood sugar control and reduce the risk of diabetes,” says Dr. jampolis.

Those aren’t the only nutrients that help maintain even blood sugar levels.

“[Pine nuts] contain some fiber and plant protein, which help reduce the risk of diabetes, as well as polyphenols that can help regulate blood sugar and reduce inflammation, which is often associated with diabetes and insulin resistance,” says Dr. jampolis.

And don’t forget the sugar and carbohydrate content.

Pine nuts are generally low in sugar and contain good amounts of vegetable fats and proteins, making the [the] risk of high blood sugar or blood sugar spikes that can lead to diabetes over time,” says Dr. naidoo.

That low carb content also makes them a great snack or topping for people with diabetes.

They may be able to improve the skin

Pine nuts contain vitamin E, which is beneficial for many parts of the body, including the skin.

“Vitamin E promotes healthy hair, skin, and nails,” says Dr. naidoo.

Whether pine nuts can directly improve the skin is, of course, another matter – and should be studied.

Risks or Side Effects of Eating Pine Nuts

They contain a lot of calories

There is nothing wrong with a sprinkle of these seeds on salads or other dishes.

Keep in mind that pine nuts are high in calories. dr. Jampolis suggests checking portion size.

“We can get their nutritional benefit from just a handful or a few tablespoons a day,” says Dr. naidoo.

You could be allergic

People who are allergic to nuts or peanuts aren’t automatically allergic to pine nuts (after all, they’re not actually a nut), but it’s possible they are.

Allergies to pine nuts are similar to tree nuts, and reactions can range from mild to severe, Gaffen says. Severe reactions can include anaphylaxis, a potentially life-threatening reaction that can narrow your airways, blocking your ability to breathe.

It is recommended that you talk to your doctor before eating them.

“If you have a peanut or tree nut allergy, it’s best to get tested for a pine nut allergy by a doctor before you consider yourself safe,” says Dr. naidoo.

They can cause a strange reaction

Although uncommon, pine nuts can literally leave a bad taste in your mouth.

Eating pine nuts occasionally can cause some people to experience a bitter or metallic taste that lasts from a few days to two weeks.

“There is a high risk of something called pine mouth or pine nut syndrome, where people develop a bitter taste in their mouth 12 to 48 hours after eating pine nuts that can last for weeks,” says Dr. jampolis. “This is not an allergy, and the cause is unknown.”

Cooking with pine nuts

With their light and delicate taste, pine nuts are versatile and easy to eat. Gaffen suggests pairing them with sauces, pastas, breads and other baked goods, salads, and sautéed vegetables such as green beans, spinach, or asparagus.

“They can be eaten alone as a snack, mixed into a homemade nut and seed mix, or added to a salad or vegetable dish,” says Dr. naidoo.

You can eat them just as they are, but consider roasting them in a pan to bring out the flavors.

“Roasting them, especially with herbs or spices, is a delicious way to enjoy them as a topping for vegetables or salads,” says Dr. Jampolis, which suggests toasting with cinnamon or nutmeg to add to yogurt as a topping.

Or try them in sweet dishes or desserts. Italian Pignoli cookies are known for their pine nuts.

Recipes with pine nuts

Looking for more ideas? Make one of these 20 pine nut recipes. Or try Dr. Jampolis below.

Caper Pesto Glazed Sea Bass

Thanks to Dr. Melina B. Jampolis

Servings: 1


2 tablespoons capers

3 tablespoons parsley

1 teaspoon pine nuts, toasted

1/8 teaspoon fresh garlic, finely chopped

Juice of half a lemon

4 tablespoons olive oil

6 ounces sea bass fillet, deboned and skinned

Kosher salt, to taste

White pepper, to taste

Travel directions:

  • Place the capers, parsley, pine nuts, garlic, lemon juice and olive oil in a food processor or blender. Mix on the highest setting until everything is well incorporated. Put aside.
  • Season the sea bass with salt and white pepper.
  • In a non-stick pan, add a little olive oil. Heat over medium heat until the pan starts to smoke lightly.
  • To avoid oil splatter, add the fish from front to back and sear for three minutes until golden brown. Turn the fish over and cook for another three to four minutes.
  • Make sure the fish is cooked. Spread the top of the fish with pesto and serve.

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