Pine Nuts Benefits and Allergy – All You Need to Know

The crunchy, buttery, slightly sweet, and utterly delicious seeds of pine trees, which together with basil, make the scrumptious Italian pesto. They are packed with a wide range of plant-derived nutrients. From essential minerals and vitamins to heart-healthy fats, these little teardrop-shaped seeds are a great source of all things healthy. But, unfortunately, not everyone can enjoy these little packs of goodness. Pine nuts are one of the food allergens and may also cause dysgeusia (a temporary taste disorder) to some people, called the pine nut syndrome.

This article aims to explore all that pine nuts have to offer – both benefits and potential side effects, so if you want to get more knowledge about these edible seeds of pine trees, keep reading…

Pine Nuts Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

As mentioned above, pine nuts are packed with a wide range of powerful and beneficial nutrients. But, what exactly do they have to offer?

Let’s take a look at the nutritional breakdown of pine nuts before we delve into its benefits. An ounce (28 g) serving of pine nuts contain:

  • Calories – 188
  • Fat – 19.2 g
  • Saturated Fat – 1.4 g
  • Monounsaturated Fat 5.3 g
  • Polyunsaturated Fat – 9.5 g
  • Protein – 3.8 g
  • Carbohydrates – 3.7 g
  • Fiber – 1 g
  • Sugar – 1 g
  • Omega 6 – 9410 mg
  • Omega 3 – 31.4 mg

In addition to these macro-nutrients, pine nuts also contain a wide range of minerals and vitamins. These include manganese, magnesium, zinc, iron, vitamin B complex, E and K1, to name a few.

Due to this impressive nutrient profile, pine nuts offer a wide range of health benefits. Let’s take a look at some of them:

· Promote Heart Health

Pine nuts, or tree nuts in general, contain a good amount of monounsaturated fats, which help reduce the levels of LDL cholesterol and thus, decrease the risk of heart disease.[1] Pine nuts also contain manganese, magnesium, and vitamins E and K. These beneficial nutrients, together with the healthy fats, make the perfect blend of heart-healthy nutrients.

The pinolenic acid in pine nuts also helps reduce LDL cholesterol and improves the levels of good cholesterol.

Several research studies have shown that including tree nuts in our diet helps lower the risk of heart disease.[2]  

· Improve Brain Function and Can Also Reduce the Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease

The fact that pine nuts are part of the MIND Diet says a lot about their benefits for brain health.

For those who do not know, the MIND diet is a carefully-crafted diet to reduce the risk of severe cognitive decline that could lead to dementia. According to a research study, the MIND Diet can help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s by up to 35%.

Pine nuts are also a source of iron, which is known to boost your brain function and help improve your cognition and focus. Iron-deficiency is a major cause of impaired motor and cognitive development in children.[3]

Pine nuts may also help reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and mood disorders[4].

· Help Manage Weight

Some studies have found that the pinolenic acid present in pine nuts can help suppress our appetite by initiating the release of the satiety hormone. This, when coupled with the healthy nutrient profile of pine nuts, can help you feel full, which eventually can lead to weight loss by reducing your calorie intake.

However, this doesn’t mean you start eating pine nuts every time you feel hungry. As with every other food item, moderation is the key here. Consume pine nuts regularly, but in less quantity, because they are high in fat. Also, this benefit or theory doesn’t apply to pesto pasta.

· Good for Eye Health

Pine nuts contain lutein and zeaxanthin, which are plant pigments with antioxidant properties called carotenoids. While our body can use a wide range of carotenoids, only very few can reach the macula of the eyes and lutein and zeaxanthin are among those few. When present in enough quantities in your body, these two elements offer great help in preventing eye diseases, particularly macular degeneration, glaucoma, and cataracts.

Pine nuts also contain beta-carotene, which is a plant substance that is readily converted into vitamin A inside the body. Vitamin A improves vision and eye health in general.

· Anti-Aging

The seeds of pine trees are an excellent source of vitamin E – 100 grams of nuts contain about 9.3 mg of vitamin E, which is about 62% of the RDA.

Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant and helps prevent premature aging by fighting against free radicals. According to the National Health Office of Dietary Supplements, vitamin E neutralizes free radicals, which are the major culprit behind cell damage, several skin issues, and premature aging.[5]

Vitamin E also has anti-inflammatory properties – inflammation is known to be a contributing factor in aging as well as the root cause of many health problems.

· Great Energy Booster

The healthy and rich nutrient profile of pine nuts makes them a great energy booster. So, the next time you need a pick me up or crave for something to nibble on in between meals, eat pine nuts to quickly replenish your energy instead of a store-bought energy bar.

In addition to providing you with a quick energy boost, pine nuts also help improve energy levels in the long run by providing magnesium to the body (low levels of magnesium can cause fatigue) and helping to build and repair tissues. Tissue damage can cause muscle weakness and fatigue. Magnesium also plays a key role in the process of glucose and fat breakdown. Simply put, the mineral helps to convert food into energy inside the body.

Pine Nuts Allergy and Potential Side Effects

Although pine nuts are packed with a wide variety of useful compounds, not everyone can benefit from them. Here are some of the potential downsides or negative effects people may experience with pine nuts:

· Pine Nut Allergy

Pine nuts may trigger an allergic reaction in people who have nut allergies. However, this doesn’t always happen. According to medical experts at Tufts University, since pine nuts are seeds (and not nuts), it is possible that some people with known nut allergies may not experience any negative effect by consuming pine nuts. However, it is recommended that people who have nut allergies consult their doctor to determine if it is safe for them to eat pine nuts.

People who experience an allergic reaction with pine nuts can have mild to severe symptoms. Although less common, there have been reports of cases where pine nuts had triggered potentially life-threatening allergic responses, such as anaphylaxis.

· Pine Nut Syndrome

Also known as pine mouth, this is a temporary taste disorder in which people experience a bitter or an intense metallic taste in the mouth after eating pine nuts. The symptoms typically start appearing within 12 to 48 hours after consumption and can last anywhere from two days to three weeks.

Although the condition isn’t harmful, what makes it dreadful is that the already intense metallic flavor in your mouth worsens whenever you eat or drink anything. This makes it extremely difficult to consume anything.

The exact cause of pine nut syndrome is not known yet. However, scientists have found some evidence that the condition is caused by pine nuts that come from Pinus Armandii or Chinese White Pine due to the presence of a specific toxic element.

The Final Word

Pine nuts are nutrient-dense, healthy, and flavorful seeds that are widely consumed all over the world both for their scrumptious taste and health benefits. From salads and sauces to desserts, pine nuts are also used in a variety of ways in the culinary world.

Despite the fact that they are packed with healthy nutrition and healthcare experts recommend including them in your diet, make sure you consume them in moderation.

Lastly, people who have a nut allergy should consult their doctor before consuming pine nuts to ensure their safety. Do not take any risk because nothing is more important than your health.

[1] https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/fats/monounsaturated-fats

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3931001/

[3] https://www.the-scientist.com/news-opinion/iron-builds-a-better-brain-41504

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25373528

[5] https://www.lesielle.com/int/en/blog/vitamin-e-benefits-16

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