December: Chestnuts

by Carolyn Prieto

Chestnuts tend to be an underrated ingredient in the food world. Not many of us know much about them, except that they can be roasted on an open fire, as Nat King Cole famously sang! Not only are chestnuts a nostalgic holiday food, but they also provide several health benefits and other advantageous qualities.

  1. Chestnuts are a source of stable energy. Chestnuts have a high amount of carbohydrates, with 76 grams of carbs and 3 grams of fat. Carbohydrates are critical for short and long-term energy needs, and help with nervous system function since the brain relies on glucose for fuel.1
  2. They may help decrease blood pressure. Chestnuts have one of the largest amounts of potassium per serving among nuts – 847 milligrams of potassium per cup, which is 25% of the daily recommendation! Additionally, chestnuts contain only a minimal amount of sodium (2.9 milligrams per cup). These qualities, in addition to their folate content, contribute to the reduction of hypertension risk, the relaxing of blood vessels, and the maintenance of proper blood flow.1
  3. They’re a “brain food”, and good for the skin. Chestnuts contain B vitamins, which promote healthy skin, produce red blood cells, and improve brain function.2 Also, optimal B-vitamin status is associated with better cognitive health during the aging process.3 In times of stress when your brain is overworked and your skin has seen better days, you can include chestnuts in your diet. Who would have thought that this Christmas classic could come in handy the next time you’re cramming for an exam!
  4. Chestnuts are gluten free. For those with Celiac disease, fear not, chestnuts are gluten free!2 Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder where consuming gluten leads to damage in the small intestine.4 Sometimes it can be a challenge for those who avoid gluten to find foods that don’t cause abdominal upset, but chestnuts are a safe option.

Pumpkin with Chestnuts and Onions 5


  • ~ 6 cups pumpkin or other winter squash, peeled, seeded and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1.5 cups chestnuts, cooked, vacuum-packed
  • 2 red onions, peeled and cut into wedges
  • ½ bunch fresh thyme, washed and shaken dry
  • 1 tbsp olive or vegetable oil
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • nutmeg
  • salt and pepper


  1. Blanch the pumpkin or squash in boiling, salted water for 5 minutes, then drain through a colander. Drain well.
  2. Take the chestnuts out of the packaging and add to the pumpkin.
  3. Heat the butter and oil in a frying pan.
  4. Add the onions and sweat until translucent, then add the pumpkin, chestnuts and thyme, and fry for 10-15 minutes, turning occasionally.
  5. Season to taste with salt, pepper and nutmeg, and serve hot.


  1. Seven Health Benefits of Chestnuts. Published April 23, 2016. Accessed December 5, 2017.
  2. The Health Benefits of Chestnuts. Humanitas University. Published October 17, 2016. Accessed December 5, 2017.
  3. McGarel C, Pentieva K, Strain J.J., McNulty H. Emerging roles for folate and related B-vitamins in brain health across the lifecycle. Cambridge Core 2015; 74 (1): 46-55. Accessed December 9, 2017.
  4. What is Celiac Disease? Celiac Disease Foundation. Accessed December 6, 2017.
  5. Pumpkin with Chestnuts and Onions. Fine Dining Lovers. Accessed December 7, 2017.




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