Chilgoza (Neoza) Pine Nuts (Pinus Gerardiana)

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Chilgoza (also called Neoza in India) are pine nuts grown on chilgoza pine tree (Pinus Gerardiana). These nuts are actually edible seeds of chilgoza pine tree. However, there are different types of Pine nuts available in the market obtained from different pine species. According to different species, pine nuts may differ in size, taste, and nutritional value. The commonly available pine nuts are chilgoza nuts.

Chilgoza pine nuts are small, tasty and nutrient dense nuts. They are completely loaded with good quality and healthy monounsaturated fatty acid and antioxidant.

Health Benefits of Chilgoza

Due to such a healthy composition, chilgoza pine nuts play an important role in lowering high cholesterol level and keep heart diseases at bay. Chilgoza fights oxidative stress and protects each cell from harmful damage caused by free radicals. Chilgoza nuts work by suppressing the appetite and thus they help in weight loss too.

Nutritional Benefits of Chilgoza Pine Nuts

Chilgoza nuts are extremely nutritious and great source of different nutrients. It is an excellent source of healthy fat and a significant source of protein. It also contains small to moderate amount of carbohydrate. As chilgoza nuts are dense source of energy due to presence of high amount of fat, its moisture content is low. Vitamins present in chilgoza nuts include thiamine (vitamin B1) and riboflavin (vitamin B2). Small amount of vitamin C has also been discovered in different varieties of pine nuts including chilgoza. Besides this, chilgoza also contains some minerals such as potassium, magnesium and phosphorus in abundant amounts. Other minerals present in moderate amount include iron, zinc, calcium, manganese and copper.

Rich in Healthy Fat

Nuts have always been a rich source of fat. Like other nuts, chilgoza pine nuts are also a very rich source of fat. Research has reported that out of the total fat present, 90% of the fat is unsaturated (healthy fat) – 51% is LINOLEIC FAT and 37% OLEIC ACID. (Ref. 1)

Such high amount of linoleic acid has shown to play an important role in the protection of heart and thus, it prevents the onset of coronary heart disease. Among all the pine species, chilgoza has the highest amount of healthy fat. Pine nuts also contain 13-15% saturated fat (unhealthy if consumed in large amount). Among them, the main saturated fat includes PALMITIC, STEARIC and LIGNOCERIC ACID. Other saturated fatty acid present in minute amount include ARACHIDIC, MYRISTIC and BEHENIC ACID. Such a healthy fat composition is a clear indicator that chilgoza pine nuts are very beneficial in lowering high cholesterol levels and thus, improves the overall lipid profile.

Good Source of Protein

Sometimes, it becomes very difficult to meet protein demands through vegetarian diets. Research has shown that besides containing great amount of fat, chilgoza pine nuts are also considered as an important source of plant protein. A well-balanced combination of essential amino acids present in chilgoza nuts makes it a good source of protein. Pine nuts also contain lysine, an essential amino acid that is present in very less amount in cereal grains. Thus, pine nuts can be added to cereal grain based diets to improve the overall protein content.

For Example: Chilgoza pine nuts can be added to breads to balance the overall protein content.

Furthermore, research has also found that protein isolates (pure form of protein in which other non-protein components are removed) from pine nuts are effective in lowering high blood pressure in individuals with hypertension. (Ref. 2)

Good Source of Antioxidants

Research has explored that pine nuts have a great antioxidant potential. Besides huge amount of antioxidants, pine nuts have an amazing ability to scavenge free radical and to fight oxidative stress. Different antioxidants present in pine nuts include:

  1. GALLOCATECHIN
  2. CATECHIN
  3. LUTEIN
  4. LYCOPENE
  5. CAROTENOIDS
  6. TOCOPHEROLS

Out of all the antioxidant compounds present, GALLOCATECHIN was present in the highest amount. Four different types of TOCOPHEROLS are present in pine nuts out of which GAMMA-TOCOPHEROL accounts for the highest. Research has also showed that roasting pine nut kernel reduced the amount of tocopherol and carotenoids present in it. (Ref 3, Ref. 4)

Therapeutic Benefits of Chilgoza

Besides providing an amazing taste and flavour, chilgoza pine nuts also help in the treatment, prevention and management of various diseases and disorders. However, they are small in size, but they are a great source of energy. People who are low on energy should make pine nuts their regular snack. Furthermore, individuals with infections, altered lipid profile and heart diseases also have various reasons to love pine nuts. Let’s throw some light on the therapeutic roles of chilgoza pine nuts:

High Cholesterol Levels

Chilgoza contains huge amount of healthy unsaturated fat that is very beneficial for lowering high cholesterol levels. The presence of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acid in chilgoza helps in the reduction of LDL (unhealthy) – low-density lipoprotein cholesterol. Furthermore, chilgoza nuts also contain TOCOPHEROLS, SQUALENE and PHYTOSTEROLS. As compared to cashew nut, pecan and Brazil nut, chilgoza pine nuts contain higher amount of alpha-tocopherol. Tocopherols are powerful antioxidant that lower high cholesterol level and protects the heart. SQUALENE, a health-promoting compound present in pine nuts has shown to reduce levels of LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol and triglycerides in individuals with high cholesterol levels. Phytosterols are plant sterols that compete with cholesterol for absorption and thus, lower the level of LDL and total cholesterol.

Nuts are natural sources of phytosterols and research has found that chilgoza pine nuts contain significant amount of phytosterols. Thus, a part of dietary fat or oil can be replaced with chilgoza pine nuts as a snack.

Another study observed beneficial role of pine nuts in lowering high cholesterol and high lipid levels. Such an effect was due to healthy fatty acid composition in pine nuts. Chilgoza nuts lower serum levels of total lipid, total cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL cholesterol, VLDL cholesterol and enzymes that play an important role in the synthesis of cholesterol. It further showed to increase the level of healthy cholesterol – high-density cholesterol (HDL).

Including chilgoza pine nuts in daily diet modulates lipid metabolism, that is, it increases the use of fat as a source of energy and reduces its storage in the body. Thus, pine nuts or pine nut oil can be made a part of regular diet. (Ref. 5)

Heart Diseases

The amount and type of fat consumed is directly linked to the onset of heart diseases. Therefore, fatty acid composition of high fat food plays an important role in the development or prevention of heart diseases. Chilgoza pine nuts have a very healthy fatty acid composition. 60-90% of the total fat present in pine nuts is unsaturated fatty acid, which is very healthy for heart.

Saturated fat when taken in large quantity may lead to the onset of heart disease. Chilgoza nuts contain just 13-15% of saturated fatty acid. With such a beneficial fatty acid composition, chilgoza nut reduces the formation and deposition of total cholesterol, LDL (unhealthy) – low density lipoprotein cholesterol, VLDL (unhealthy) – very low density lipoprotein cholesterol in the blood and arteries.

Furthermore, studies have shown that chilgoza pine nut increases the level of healthy HDL – high-density lipoprotein cholesterol that protects the overall heart health. Individuals with low HDL cholesterol levels and high total and LDL cholesterol levels are at greater risk of developing heart diseases.

Chilgoza pine nuts contain tocopherol and other antioxidant compounds that prevent the oxidation of lipids and thus, reduce the generation of harmful free radicals. Such a reduction improves heart health and protects it against diseases. (Ref. 6)

Source of Energy

It is very well known that nuts are an important source of fat, which makes them a concentrated source of energy. Pine nuts are a greater source of energy as compared to almonds, cashew nuts, pistachios, walnuts and peanuts. Besides this, the fat content of chilgoza pine nuts is also higher than that of the other mentioned nuts. This shows that chilgoza nuts provide greater satiety and feeling of fullness. Thus, chilgoza seeds are very beneficial for malnourished and undernourished individuals who want to gain healthy weight. Furthermore, individuals who require an energy dense diet such as cancer patients, HIV patients and individuals with tuberculosis can greatly rely on pine nuts as a source of energy. (Ref. 7)

Weight Loss

Pine nuts when consumed in large amount are helpful in weight gain, but when they are used as a small snack, they help in weight loss too. Especially, chilgoza pine nuts and Korean pine nuts act as appetite suppressant. Appetite suppressants are a very effective strategy to fight weight gain and to prevent the intake of extra-unwanted calories. Pine nuts contain long chain fatty acid that induces the release of a hormone called CCK-8. CCK-8 is a satiety hormone that provides a feeling of fullness and reduces appetite. Thus, a person may feel full and may stop eating further.

Korean Pine Nut on weight loss: Research found that Korean pine nut is 8 times more potent in releasing CCK-8 hormone as compared to Italian pine nuts. This was possible because Korean pine nuts (Pinus Koraiensis) contain higher amount of long chain polyunsaturated fatty acid and higher concentration of Pinolenic acid. Another satiety hormone called GLP-1 along with CCK-8 sends signal to the brain, which further delays gastric empting of food and reduces overall food consumption. This leads to decreased number of calories entering the system. Thus, eating pine nut helps in weight loss. (Ref. 8, Ref. 9)

Protects Against Infections

Scientific studies have found that extracts of pine nut shells possess anti-HIV activity. It prevents the adsorption (adhesion) of virus and thus reduces its spread. These extracts also inhibit Herpes simplex virus extract. Besides this, pine seed shell extract also protected against influenza virus. Such a beneficial effect was possible due to the presence of high molecular weight polysaccharides. However, further studies are required to understand the effect on these viruses when pine nuts are consumed as a food ingredient. (Ref. 10)

Chilgoza pine nuts also have antiviral properties. In India, it is commonly available, so Indian people can get similar benefits from chilgoza pine nuts.

Pine Nut Oil: Pine nut oil possesses antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, antiseptic, antihypertensive, expectorant and diuretic effect.

Ill Effects of Eating Pine Nuts

Taste Alteration

A study observed that people who ate a small amount of pine nuts (less than 10 grams) developed a metallic and bitter taste. Slight abdominal discomfort was also reported. The occurrence of chemical agents during shell removal may be responsible for such symptoms. (Ref. 11)

Pine Nut Allergy

Few researches have observed allergies and hypersensitivity reactions in individuals after ingesting pine nuts. An individual was presented with oedema of the face, breathing difficulties and itching of the skin after he consumed pine nuts. He tolerated the intake of walnuts, hazelnuts, peanuts and other ingredients, but did not tolerate the intake of pine nuts. In such a case, individuals should immediately seek medical advice. (Ref. 12)

Pine Mouth Syndrome

In Pine Mouth Syndrome, a person may perceive a bitter or metallic taste in the mouth followed by consumption of 10 to 15 pine nuts. Such a taste was further exacerbated by ingestion of drinks and sweet foods. This metallic taste was worse on the second day and the condition improved gradually without any treatment over the period of 5 days. Such a metallic taste may be due to quick decomposition or degradation of fat from pine nut oil. (Ref. 13)

Different Ways to Eat Chilgoza Pine Nuts

Chilgoza Pine Nuts are also added to various dishes such as sauces, pesto, candies, cakes and breads. They can also be added to vegetable and meat preparations.

  • Eat them raw or roast them as mentioned earlier
  • Pine nuts be even be eaten in baked form
  • Make your salads tasty by sprinkling pine nuts on them
  • Pine nut is the main ingredient in the preparation of pesto
  • Add pine nuts to cakes and breads to give them a nutty taste
  • Pine nuts can be added to granola bars along with other nuts
  • Give your soup a tasty crunch by adding some pine nuts
  • Pine nuts can be added to some desserts such as custards and puddings

Effect of Storage on Pine Nuts

The storage time and the place where pine nuts are stored, both have a huge impact on the nutrient composition of pine nuts. Here are some changes that take place during storage:

  • A research found that the percentage of sugar and protein present in pine nuts increased during the first 3 months of storage, but a steady decline was observed up to 12 months.
  • On storage, the moisture content of pine nuts reduces.
  • Pine nuts being a part of nut family do contain high amount of oil. The amount of this oil present in pine nuts reduces when they are stored for a long period.
  • A study observed greater nutrient loss when pine nuts were stored at room temperature as compared to storage at 2 degrees Celsius.
  • The loss of nutrients in chilgoza pine nuts can be reduced by storing them in earthen storage pot. Storage in earthen pot lowers the loss of moisture and oil from pine nuts. Earthen pots maintain a proper balance between exchanges of gases and thus, they produce a favourable environment for storage.
  • The highest loss of nutrients present in pine nuts was observed when they were stored in tin boxes.
  • In addition to this, pine nuts can even be stored in cloth bags safely for a period of nine months. The percent incidence of fungi reduces with such storage.
  • Besides cloth bags and gunny bags, wooden boxes and cardboard boxes also remain free from growth of fungi.
  • Maximum spoilage is observed when pine nuts are stored in plastic jars, polythene bags and tin boxes.
  • Store chilgoza pine nuts in zip lock bags or air tight container and place it in the refrigerator. It can be stored in the refrigerator safely for at least 3 months. (Ref. 14)

About Pine Nuts, History & Origin

Pine nuts have a crunchy, nutty and buttery taste. They belong to the family Pinaceae, in the genus Pinus. Other names include:

  • CHILGOZA
  • PIGNOLI
  • PINYON
  • PINON NUTS
  • CEDAR NUTS

Pine nut, which is very commonly known as ‘Chilgoza’, is a highly valuable nut. In India, it is mostly cultivated in the North-Western Himalayan regions due to its dry temperature. Western Himalaya is the largest producer of Chilgoza pine and northeast Asia is the largest producer of Korean pine. A huge proportion of pine nut production comes from Himachal Pradesh and the rest is imported from Afghanistan. There are at least 30 different species of pine nuts out of which only three species are internationally traded and used commonly for human consumption. (Ref. 15)

Pine nuts are covered in a shell, which is usually hard. Furthermore, this outer shell may be thin or thick, which depends up on the type of species. This outer shell or covering needs to be removed before consuming pine nuts. If you need to store pine nut for a long period, do not remove the outer shell. The shelf life of unshelled pine nut is lower as compared to pine nut with outer shell. European pine nuts are longer than Asian pine nuts; hence, they can be easily distinguished.

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