Pine Nuts: Nutrition Facts, Health Benefits and Drawbacks

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Pine nuts are one of the lesser known nut varieties, but they have been increasing in popularity over recent years.

These nuts have a tasty, buttery flavor and they work well as a snack and provide a delicious flavor when used in cooking.

This article examines their nutrition profile and the potential health benefits (and drawbacks) they offer.

Are pine nuts good for you?

What Are Pine Nuts?

Pine Nuts In a Metal Scoop Shovel.

Pine nuts are the edible seeds of the pine tree.

A hard shell surrounds these nuts, and this shell is enclosed within a pine cone. We can see the actual nuts themselves in the above image.

Asia dominates the global production of pine nuts, which are also known as pignoli/pinoli.

Surprisingly, North Korea is the number one producer.

Other countries producing large amounts of pine nuts include Russia, China, Pakistan, and Afghanistan (1).

Pine nuts also grow around the world, including in Europe and the United States.

The nuts have a mild flavor, and a nutty, and slightly sweet, buttery taste.

For this reason, they are a valued ingredient in cooking, and they are one of the main ingredients in pesto sauce.

Pine Varieties

Although there are dozens of pine tree varieties, only a small number are capable of growing seeds (pine nuts) big enough to eat.

The most popular species for commercial production of pine nuts include;

  • Korean Pine (Pinus Koraiensis)
  • Mexican Pinyon (Pinus Cembroides)
  • Chilgoza Pine (Pinus Gerardiana)
Key Point: Pine nuts are the edible seeds from pine trees, and their light, buttery taste makes them a popular snack and a flavorful cooking ingredient.

Nutrition Facts

Nutritionally, pine nuts have a lot to offer, and they are a rich source of nutrients.

The tables below show the macronutrient, vitamin and mineral profiles for the nuts (2).

Calories and Macros

Calories/MacronutrientPer oz (28 g) ServingPer 100 g
Calories188 kcal673 kcal
Carbohydrate3.7 g13.1 g
  – Fiber1.0 g3.7 g
  – Sugar1.0 g3.6 g
Fat19.2 g68.4 g
Saturated Fat1.4 g4.9 g
Monounsaturated Fat5.3 g18.8 g
Polyunsaturated Fat9.5 g34.1 g
  – Omega-331.4 mg112 mg
  – Omega-69410 mg33606 mg
Protein3.8 g13.7 g

Pine nuts are primarily a source of (polyunsaturated) fat, and they also contain moderate amounts of carbohydrate and protein.

Vitamins

Calories/MacronutrientPer oz (28 g) ServingPer 100 g
Vitamin K119% RDI67% RDI
Vitamin E13% RDI47% RDI
Vitamin B17% RDI24% RDI
Vitamin B36% RDI22% RDI
Vitamin B24% RDI13% RDI
Folate2% RDI8% RDI
Vitamin B61% RDI5% RDI
Vitamin B51 % RDI3% RDI
Vitamin ATrace1% RDI
Vitamin CTrace1% RDI

As the table demonstrates, pine nuts are an excellent source of vitamin K1 and a rare dietary source of vitamin E.

Minerals

Calories/MacronutrientPer oz (28 g) ServingPer 100 g
Manganese123% RDI440% RDI
Copper18% RDI66% RDI
Magnesium18% RDI63% RDI
Phosphorus16% RDI57% RDI
Zinc12% RDI43% RDI
Iron9% RDI31% RDI
Potassium5% RDI17% RDI
Calcium1 % RDI2% RDI
SeleniumTrace1% RDI
SodiumTraceTrace

Pine nuts are very high in manganese, copper, magnesium and phosphorus.

Aside from this, they contain most other essential minerals in small to moderate amounts.

Key Point: Pine nuts are very high in dietary fat, vitamins E and K, manganese, copper, and magnesium.

Health Benefits of Pine Nuts

Shelled and Unshelled Pine Nuts and a Pine Cone.

Owing to their impressive nutrient profile, pine nuts have several benefits.

1) Significant Source of Vitamin E

It can be quite difficult to find food sources of vitamin E, and nuts and seeds are one of the major providers.

Pine nuts are a particularly good source of the vitamin, and they contain 2.6 mg of vitamin E per ounce (28-gram) serving. This amount works out at 13% of the RDI for the vitamin (2).

Vitamin E plays numerous vital roles within the body.

Among these roles, vitamin E is well known for its antioxidant function, and the vitamin helps to inhibit damage caused by free radical reactions within the body (3).

Studies also show that vitamin E can stimulate and boost immune response (4, 5).

Key Point: Pine nuts are one of the best food sources of vitamin E.

2) Pine Nuts Are a Substantial Source of Manganese

Pine nuts offer one of the most concentrated sources of manganese in the world.

Since 100 grams of the nuts provides over 400% of the RDI for manganese, just a small one-ounce handful offers 123% of the RDI.

Manganese plays an essential role in the skeletal system, and alongside support minerals like calcium, copper, magnesium, and zinc, it can help to strengthen bones and improve bone mass density (6, 7).

Sufficient intake of manganese is also necessary for prolidase activation, an enzyme that assists with wound healing (8).

Key Point: Pine nuts are among the highest sources of dietary manganese.

3) May Help To Boost Satiety

One of the biggest keys to satiety is consuming enough protein, which is widely regarded to be the most satiating macronutrient (9, 10).

Other than that, lifestyle factors like sufficient sleep and general happiness/mood also play a role (11, 12).

Due to early in-vitro (taking part outside a living creature) trials, researchers previously thought that triacylglycerols from pine nuts might offer some unique satiating benefits above and beyond this.

Although promotion of this belief persists, randomized studies in human participants have shown this not to be the case.

In a randomized controlled trial, pine nut triacylglycerols had no significant effect on appetite suppression or energy intake (13).

However, choosing pine nuts as a snack (especially in replacement of common high-sugar options) may help with satiety due to the protein, fiber, and micronutrient profile of the nuts.

Key Point: Pine nuts are a nutritious snack choice, but they don’t offer any unique satiety benefits.

4) Rich In B Vitamins

B Vitamins On a White Background.

Pine nuts are a decent source of B vitamins, and they contain a reasonably high amount of vitamins B1 and B3.

Vitamin B1 (Thiamin) is essential for converting the food we eat into energy that we can use, muscular contraction, and nerve signaling (14).

Similar to vitamin B1, B3 (Niacin) also plays a role in the conversion of food into energy.

Additionally, some studies suggest that vitamin B3 may have photoprotective properties.

In plain English, this means that the vitamin may help to protect the skin against UV-induced damage (15).

The vitamin B1 and B3 content of pine nuts is 24% and 22% of the RDI respectively.

Key Point: Pine nuts are a good source of B-complex vitamins.

5) Pine Nuts Are Relatively High In Protein

Almonds are the king of protein among nuts.

However, pine nuts also offer a good source of protein, and they provide nearly four grams per one-ounce (28-gram) serving.

Per 100 grams, pine nuts supply 13.7 grams of protein, which is much higher than nuts like macadamia or pecans (2).

While nuts are not a “complete protein,” the protein content they contain still contributes beneficial amino acids to our diet.

6) A Source of Caffeic Acid

Pine nuts are a source of polyphenols; specifically, the compound they contain in the highest amount is called caffeic acid (16, 17).

Caffeic acid is also found in coffee, and it is one of the more bioavailable polyphenols. One recent randomized controlled trial found that consuming dietary sources of caffeic acid increases the plasma concentration of the compound (18, 19).

Various studies suggest that caffeic acid is capable of exerting anti-inflammatory effects. However, more research from human trials is necessary. (20, 21, 22).

However, if this compound is of particular interest, sources such as coffee, red wine, and olive oil are more concentrated options.

Key Point: Pine nuts contain caffeic acid, a type of polyphenol that may provide anti-inflammatory functions.

Drawbacks

Like all foods, there are some potential drawbacks to consuming pine nuts.

1) Pine Nut Allergy

Diagram Illustrating the Effects of Anaphylactic Shock.
Diagram Illustrating the Effects of Anaphylactic Shock.

Similar to other nuts, pine nuts may also cause allergic reactions in some individuals.

Pine nuts contain a major protein allergen known as ‘Pin p 1,’ and the nuts can cause a range of allergic responses, causing symptoms that range from mild to severe (2324, 25).

In a worst-case scenario, pine nuts have been known to cause anaphylaxis (anaphylactic shock), a potentially life-threatening allergic response (26).

Key Point: Nut allergies can be very dangerous, and there are documented cases of severe allergic reactions from pine nuts.

2) “Pine Nut Syndrome”

Pine nuts have been known to cause some strange—but not dangerous—side effects in some people.

The term ‘pine nut syndrome’ (or sometimes ‘pine mouth syndrome’) is used to describe these effects.

These side effects revolve around an extremely bitter aftertaste that can last for days (or even weeks) after eating the nuts.

Although the mechanisms which cause pine mouth syndrome are currently not fully understood, it appears that one specific species of pine nut (Pinus armandii – ‘Chinese white pine’) can contain a toxin which causes the condition (27, 28).

Pine nut syndrome usually kicks in within 12 to 48 hours after eating pine nuts (29).

Key Point: There are cases of pine nuts causing a strong bitter/metallic taste after consumption. The cause of this syndrome is a mystery, and it can last for several weeks.

How To Cook With Pine Nuts

Pine nuts add a lot of flavor to food, and it is easy to use them; add a handful to any dish.

Some people prefer to lightly toast pine nuts before cooking, as this deepens their flavor and adds even more taste to dishes.

For some ideas, there is a wide range of pine nut recipes here.

Final Thoughts

Pine nuts are a nutrient-dense nut that offers a delicious nutty and buttery flavor.

The nuts are rich in vitamins and minerals, provide a decent amount of protein, and they can upgrade the taste of various dishes.

For more on nuts, see this complete guide to pecans.