Pine Nut Kernels

Pine Nuts – Nutritional Profile

Once they have been shelled and dried, pine nuts have a complex and nutritious make up.  Analysis shows that a single 100g serving provides 13g of carbohydrate with 3.6g sugar and 3.7g of dietary fibre. They have a high fat content totalling 68.4g  of which only 4.9g is saturated.   They also contain 13.7g of protein.

A wide range of vitamins are present with vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene and B group vitamins including Thiamine, Riboflavin, Niacin, Folate and B6. Vitamin C, E and k are also present in significant quantities.

Minerals provide various substantial levels of RDA including iron (42%), magnesium (71%), and zinc (67%) with other significant but less substantial amounts provided by calcium (2%) and potassium (13%)

Current thinking in dietary nutrition considers Glycemic Index (GI) which is the rate at which carbohydrate is released into the bloodstream.  Low GI foods are regarded as more beneficial.

Pine Nuts – Health Benefits

Pine nuts are a rich source of minerals, vitamins and antioxidants and have numerous nutritional element such as phyto-chemicals associated with pigmentation in plants and with anti-inflammatory effect in humans.

They have a very high calorie count (in excess of 3,00 calories per 100 g) and this is derived from their  high fat content.   Having said that, the fat content is particularly rich in the more desirable   mono-unsaturated fatty acids that helps the body lower LDL or “bad cholesterol” whilst increasing HDL or “good cholesterol” in the blood.  Good cholesterol is responsible for keeping arteries flexible whilst bad cholesterol, following oxidisation leads to plaque constricting the arteries and causing arteriosclerosis and stroke.  The Mediterranean diet is rich in the all important monounsaturated fatty acids which are believed to reduce the incidence of coronary artery disease and strokes by ensuring the correct cholesterol profile.

Pine nuts contain essential fatty acids that alongside their known LDL cholesterol reducing function have been shown in recent research to have uses in weight loss because they curb appetite by activating enzymes such as cholecystokinin and glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) in the gut which suppress appetite.

They are also an excellent source of vitamin E; containing about 9.33mg per 100g which is about 62% of RDA. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that maintains the integrity of cell membranes of mucus cells by protecting it from harmful oxygen free radicals.

They are also free from gluten so become an important part of the dietary regimen for celiac who require gluten free foods.

Pine nuts provide a valuable and substantial source of B group vitamins such as thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine) and folates.   These vitamins are important in the management of cell metabolism and promote the immune system and nervous system.

Furthermore, pine nuts contain healthy amounts of a range of essential minerals, particularly potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc and selenium.  Potassium helps muscles and nerves function effectively by maintaining proper electrolyte balance in the body.  Calcium is well known for promoting healthy bones and also has an electrolyte function in some muscles, notably the heart.  Iron is only needed in small amounts but is essential in the production of haemoglobin which carries oxygen around the blood.  Magnesium is a mineral that is critical for enzyme release associated with energy production.  Zinc, again only required in small but critical quantities is responsible for a number of processes including, prostaglandin production, sperm production, proper thyroid function, blood clotting, cognitive functions, immune system function, foetal growth and bone mineralization.

>Pine Nuts – Product History

All pine nuts are edible however only a small number, about 20, of the types available provide kernels that are large enough to be worthy consuming.

Of the total crop worldwide, they are from a number of species.  The Korean Pine and the Chilgoza Pine in Asia and the Siberian Pine, the Siberian Dwarf Pine, the Chinese White Pine and the Lacebark Pine are the trees providing most of the commercial crop.  In Europe the Stone Pine is the main provider whilst in North America the Colorado Pinyon, the Single Leaf Pinyon and the Mexican Pinyon are the main crop providers.

Once harvested the unshelled pine nuts have a long shelf life provided they are kept dry.  Once they have been shelled their condition will deteriorate and they can become inedible after a few weeks.  As a consequence pine nuts are often frozen to prolong shelf life and preserve flavour.

Pine Mouth syndrome has been reported recently as a condition where the sufferer experiences a prolonged bitter, metallic after taste in the mouth that can last for weeks after eating pine nuts.  It is thought that cheap pine nuts imported from China have been the source of the problem.  The problem has been solved by importers using only suppliers from accredited sources but some rogue supplies still exist.