When you take a walk around the city of Bratislava, at this time of year, you will start noticing mobile carts with cooked corn, jacket potatoes, and especially the popular roasted chestnuts. Since we are also fans of these fall/winter treats and we just love the season, here are some ideas why you should just get some chestnuts and how to enjoy them.

Golden richness hidden in the shell

Chestnuts have been used in Asian and Mediterranean cuisines for much longer than we´d expect, especially in China where they pack up on their nutrients by cooking and roasting them for astonishing 6000 years. No wonder, since their nutritional value is so impressive. 100g serving of chestnuts contains only 195 calories, which in comparison with our beloved and admired hazelnuts is 3 times less. Its fiber content varies depending on sources between 3 and 8g per serving which even at the lowest number helps them classify as a low-glycemic food, helping you with weight-loss by releasing carbohydrates slowly and thus making you less prone to snacking on high-calorie foods later.
A feature we must mention as in other healthy foods is the capability to prevent cardio-vascular diseases thanks to the right kind of fatty acids. The particular compounds in chestnuts that make this happen are palmitic and oleic acid, those that are present in olive oil in high amounts and lower LDL but increase HDL cholesterol, and thus prevent coronary heart disease leading to strokes and clogged arteries. It is quite understandable now why people from Mediterranean area and Asians suffer much less heart disease than the rest of the world. Continuing with vitamins, chestnuts are also very successful antioxidants thanks to a content of 72% RDA of vitamin C, and important minerals like iron, calcium, and magnesium. Furthermore, they contain the whole 100% RDA of thiamin, also known as B1.

Beware of cross-allergy

There seems to be almost no reason not to love them, however, nothing is 100% pure health. The trick with chestnuts is their ostensible connection to allergies. In a study from Korea, the researchers found an allergenic protein which causes a high-histamine reaction, especially in sensitive individuals. It poses a threat, because due to its similarity to oak tree allergenic pollen, it can affect those allergic to oak tree, unaware of the cross-reaction. To be on a safe side, be sure not to eat a whole bunch of them and be more cautious if you´re allergic to anything because your body´s immune system is therefore a little weaker. Otherwise, enjoy.

Get creative with this treasure

With chestnuts you can be really creative. As they are so starchy, they offer more uses in the kitchen than other nuts. We personally love the cakes and sweet stuff made of chestnuts. The first thing that pops into my head when hearing the word “chestnuts” is the famous childhood treat – chestnut puree, only sweetened on a nice big portion of whipped cream. Not exceptionally healthy with the added ingredients but definitely worth a try. You can use chestnuts in any kind of tort or cake for the dough or as a topping. Moreover, if you mix it with some water after cooking the chestnuts, they will not crumble but develop this creamy smooth texture, just perfect for decoration instead of whipped cream or gelatin.
A little less traditional approach would be the salty side of chestnuts. As already mentioned above, since they are very starchy, they can be easily substituted for many other ingredients, for example corn, potatoes, or chickpeas. If you are not one of those allergic to chestnuts but you have sensitivity towards potatoes, you can basically exchange mashed potatoes for a chestnut puree, naturally, without the sugar. Even then though, the mash will have this characteristic sweetness which can be further flavored with various spices like coriander or thyme to create a very special side dish. However, if you´re not an experimenter type of person, you can just crumble it on the top of your salad or eat it right from the oven – they will be delicious regardless of their position in your menu.

OUR TIP: Chestnut pancake (French crepe) with chocolate and nuts

by Katarína Vicová

Nutrition and you (2015). Chestnuts nutrition facts. Retrieved from: http://www.nutrition-and-you.com/chestnuts.html

Roizman, T. (2015). What are the health benefits of eating chestnuts? Retrieved from: http://www.livestrong.com/article/470050-what-are-the-health-benefits-of-eating-chestnuts/
Roy, P. (2014). [picture]. Making delicious Christmas memories. Retrieved from: http://www.ottawaathome.ca/Food/2014-12-01/article-3958430/Making-delicious-Christmas-memories/1