The Health Benefits of Pine Nuts
Pine nuts are a high protein nut that come from pine cones that grow on pine trees. The pine family of trees produce both male and female pine cones, although nuts are only found in fertilized female cones. Harvesting of the nuts can be a fairly labor-intensive task since the cones need to be heated to help dislodge the nuts. This is why pine nuts are generally more expensive than other nuts.
There are well over a hundred varieties of pine, yet less then a handful produce seeds that are useful (many are too small). The main varieties of the pine nut are the Pinus pin, a Mediterranean stone pine, Pinus edulis, a pine that grows in southwest US and Pinus cembroides, a Mexican nut pine.
The seeds themselves although they fall under the same umbrella of pine nut, are also known as piñon, pignoli and pignolia.
Chinese varieties are known for their strong flavor, while European types have higher levels of protein. Their size can vary from about 1 – 5cm in length, with over a hundred seeds coming from one cone.
Pine nuts have been used for culinary purposes around the world for centuries. In ancient Greece they were thought to possess aphrodisiac qualities and preserved in honey; and Hopi and Navajo tribes have been recorded as using them as source of protein. They either ate them dried or ground the nuts into a course powder then mixed the paste with water to make porridge.
|Nuts, pine nuts, dried||Nutritional value per
100 g (3.5 oz)
|Energy||673 kcal (2816 kJ)|
|* Carbohydrates||13.08 g|
|Dietary fiber||3.7 g|
|* Fat||68.37 g|
|* Protein||13.69 g|
|* Vitamin A||29 IU|
|- lutein and zeaxanthin||9 mcg|
|Thiamine (Vit. B1)||0.364 mg|
|Riboflavin (Vit. B2)||0.227 mg|
|Niacin (Vit. B3)||4.387 mg|
|Pantothenic acid (B5)||0.313 mg|
|* Vitamin B6||0.094 mg|
|* Folate (Vit. B9)||34 mcg|
|* Vitamin C||0.8 mg|
|Vitamin E||9.33 mg|
|* Calcium||16 mg|
|* Iron||5.53 mg|
|* Magnesium||251 mg|
A comprehensive breakdown of nutrients can be found in the Nutrition Database where this food can also be added to a meal planner.
The Department of Agricultural Chemistry at the College of Life & Environmental Sciences at Korea University has undertaken considerable research to show that pine nut oil can help reduce cholesterol. Pine nut oil contains pinolenic acid, which affects the low-density lipoprotein (LDL) receptor activity of human hepatoma HepG2 cells. Essentially, pinolenic acid stimulates hepatic LDL uptake, which in turn lowers cholesterol levels in the body.
A further study in the Netherlands supports these findings, concluding that Korean pine nuts in particular, can work as ‘an appetite suppressant through an increasing effect on satiety hormones and a reduced prospective food intake’.
Oil has been extracted from the pine nuts and used as a dietary supplement which can help suppress the appetite.
Allergy provoking proteins are present in pine nuts and individuals allergic to peanuts and other nuts are advised to avoid pine nuts.
1. The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods by Michael Murray, Joseph Pizzorno, and Lara Pizzorno.
2. Benders’ Dictionary of Nutrition and Food Technology.
3. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference.
4. Hughes GM, Boyland EJ, Williams NJ, Mennen L, Scott C, Kirkham TC, Harrold JA, Keizer HG, Halford JC. The effect of Korean pine nut oil (PinnoThin) on food intake, feeding behaviour and appetite: a double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Lipids Health Dis. 2008 Feb 28;7:6. PMID: 18307772.
5. Pasman WJ, Heimerikx J, Rubingh CM, van den Berg R, O’Shea M, Gambelli L, Hendriks HF, Einerhand AW, Scott C, Keizer HG, Mennen LI. The effect of Korean pine nut oil on in vitro CCK release, on appetite sensations and on gut hormones in post-menopausal overweight women. Lipids Health Dis. 2008 Mar 20;7:10. PMID: 18355411.
6. Bakhtin IuV, Budaeva VV, Vereshchagin AL, Egorova EIu, Zhukova EIu, Saratikov AS. [Efficiency of Siberian pine oil in complex treating of people ill with benign hypertension] Vopr Pitan. 2006;75(1):51-3. PMID: 16739609.
7. Lee JW, Lee KW, Lee SW, Kim IH, Rhee C. Selective increase in pinolenic acid (all-cis-5,9,12-18:3) in Korean pine nut oil by crystallization and its effect on LDL-receptor activity. Lipids. 2004 Apr;39(4):383-7. PMID: 15357026.