The first of November is approaching and with this date, the traditional night of the castanyada in Catalonia, where chestnuts and sweet potatoes are consumed in all houses. But the custom of consuming chestnuts in the west of the country is also notable, where el magosto is a very popular festival in Galicia, El Bierzo, north of Extremadura and west of Toledo, as well as in Asturias under the name of amagüestu. In Navarra and Euskadi this custom is known as the gaztain jana.
The autumn pantry: the fruits and vegetables to eat this season
That is to say that the chestnut is a food deeply rooted in our cultural tradition and gastronomic for many centuries, despite being a tree native to Asia. If it has been maintained in our diet despite not being an abundant dried fruit and occurring exclusively in the autumn season, it is because some of its characteristics are exceptional and its qualities for cooking are remarkable.
Here we tell you ten curiosities of chestnuts that you will be surprised to know.
1. Despite being a dried fruit, it looks more like a cereal
Its composition is very shocking if you take into account that it is a dried fruit, since they are much more similar to a cereal. The reason is that its meat is mealy, with 44% carbohydrates and only 1.25% fat and 1.63% protein.
2. They are mostly water
52% of chestnuts is water, which actually makes them a very low calorie dried fruit. On the other hand, if we consume them roasted, we must bear in mind that they will lose part of their water, but their low digestibility -they are very floury- will also make us eat them in moderation.
3. They are rich in fiber
In addition, a good part of the hydrates are both insoluble and soluble fiber, which causes them to greatly delay the absorption of free sugars. Despite their sweet taste, they are suitable in moderation for diabetics. If we add to the fact that the glycemic index does not raise its low caloric power, we will be facing one of the most suitable nuts to accompany a diet.
4. They can be eaten raw
Indeed, although it is normal to consume them roasted, they can be eaten raw, although due to their high content of tannins and insoluble fiber they can be too indigestible. If eaten raw, the advantage is that the fruit preserves the entire range of vitamins: C and a good part of those cataloged in group B, as well as folic acid. For this, it is recommended to leave them stored for seven to ten days after harvesting to lower the tannic index, as well as to consume them in moderation.
5. It is very important to chew them well
Being rich in starch, its structure is very mealy; For the starch to release the sugars that give it a pleasant flavor, it is necessary for the enzymes in the saliva to break it down little by little. A leisurely chewing where the food is mixed well helps this.
6. They have a powerful laxative effect
Both due to the presence of high contents of insoluble fiber and tannins and due to its low fat content, by stimulating the production of bile salts in the gallbladder, these will not affect the uptake of fats but will instead stimulate intestinal transit movements , favoring bowel movements in people with constipation problems.
7. They are diuretic
They have a very important contribution of potassium -almost half a gram per 100 grams-, a regulator of the cell membrane that stimulates the decrease in blood pressure and diuresis.
8. Prevent cramps
Although not in the proportions of milk, the contribution of calcium chestnuts is interesting -120 mg per 100 grams-, but above all it stands out for the 30 mg of magnesium per 100 grams that make it, together with the contribution of potassium, a dried fruit ideal to prevent involuntary muscle contraction that occurs in cramps.
9. They can be used to make bread
In fact, as they have a high proportion of starch, they have a floury texture that allows them to be dried and then peeled with heat, but without cooking, to later grind them and get the so-called “flour.pilongas chestnuts“, typical of the Galician area. With this flour, traditional breads and pastries are usually made. On the island of Córcega, porridge is made with the flour called to polenta and that are eaten with cheese.
10. They are perfect for vegans
In addition to all the aforementioned contributions, their high fiber content, their low fat and caloric value, chestnuts stand out because their protein fraction contains all the essential amino acids for humans, thus being classed as high quality protein. That said, it should be noted that the protein is only 1.63% of the chestnut and therefore its contribution is low; but they are interesting as a complement for vegan people.
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