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10 Health Benefits of Eating Pine Nuts (and How to Avoid Pine Mouth Syndrome)

I'm a writer and, I must confess, hypochondriac. I am medical-office assistant certified and used to work as a certified pharmacy tech.

Pine nuts benefits can include weight loss and heart health.

Pine nuts benefits can include weight loss and heart health.

Big Treasures Come in Tiny Packages

Pine nuts may be small, but they are greatly precious. Don't underestimate their petite sizes. As with many things in life, big treasures come in small packages.

Unless you live in an area where the stone pine grows (Pinus pinea), you may not be very familiar with this type of nut. However, if you have happened to collect pine cones or have used them for some craft project, consider that the pine nuts grow under each cone scale.

For those fortunate to live in areas where stone pines grow, you may sometimes hear the popping-like sound produced by the pine cones opening on exceptionally scorching hot days.

Pine nuts have been used in cooking and feeding the populations of Europe, North America, Asia and Africa for hundreds of years. There are reports of humans using pine nuts in the Paleolithic era.

In modern times, pine nuts are cherished due to the fact that they are nutritious, handy and tasty snacks. They are often roasted to enhance their flavor and are part of many traditional recipes around the world.

While pine nuts are produced by many countries, China and Pakistan have becomes the main exporters over the past decade meeting the world's demand.

As for Italy, we cannot forget the importance of pine nuts in the preparation of pesto alla genovese and the castagnaccio. In the Mediterranean area, pine nuts are used above all to enrich sauces and salads.

10 Benefits of Eating Pine Nuts

As mentioned, the benefits of pine nuts are many. Pine nuts are rich in fat and quite caloric, and their protein content is also quite high. On top of this, they boast fibers and precious mineral salts, including zinc, magnesium, calcium and potassium.

1. A Source of Energy

Pine nuts are very energetic seeds, making them very suitable for athletes (a study found them suitable as a key component in "sports nutrition"), but they are also a treasure for debilitated people or those folks in their old age. Being rather high in their protein content, they can turn helpful during the recovery phase of an illness, or during periods of high stress.

Pine nuts are also optimal for pregnant women, children and adolescents, especially if anemic or recovering from an illness, and therefore, those in need of more energy from both a caloric and nutritional standpoint.

2. Good for Weight Loss

If you are planning on losing weight, consider that pine nuts can be helpful. However, just make sure to not eat too many due to their high caloric content.

When eaten in correct amounts, pine nuts are known for providing a sense of satiety (although for a brief amount of time) due to the fact that they contain particular substances, such as pinolenic acid, that are known for stimulating the release of hormones responsible for limiting the stimulus of hunger.

3. Keeping Things Moving

Pine nuts are healthy for the intestine. Their fiber content makes them particularly suitable for those suffering from constipation.

If things are slow in the bowel movement department, pine nuts may therefore turn into best friends considering that they help intestinal transit and promote peristalsis.

4. Lower High Blood Pressure

Pine nuts are known for containing a good amount of the amino acid arginine, which is known for promoting the production of nitric oxide, known for having a vasodilating effect.

Courtesy of this, pine nuts are ideal for regulating blood pressure, especially for those people suffering from hypertension.

5. Reduction of Cholesterol

Folks suffering from hypercholesterolemia may want to make pine nuts their best friend. This because pine nuts contain the "good" fats, omega 3 fats and other types of polyunsaturated fatty acids.

All these beneficial fats improve the lipid profile in the blood, reducing elevated cholesterol levels.

6. Source of Minerals

Pine nuts are powerhouses of many helpful minerals. Namely, magnesium, potassium, zinc and calcium. Iron is also present in a fair amount. More and more people are learning about the importance of minerals, and pine nuts offer a natural source.

7. Immune System Boosters

Pine nuts are also a great source of immune-boosting vitamins, particularly those of the group B. These vitamins along with the before mentioned minerals, make pine nuts a great ally of the immune system. By supporting the immune system, therefore, pine nuts significantly contribute to strengthening our bodily defenses.

8. Packed with Antioxidants

Pine nuts are known for having antioxidant properties and such properties derive from the vitamin E contained in them. Vitamin E is powerful in blocking the chain of reaction associated with the formation of free radicals, which are known for contributing to cellular aging and many inflammatory reactions.

9. Good for the Heart

Pine nuts, among other types of nuts, have been shown to reduce mortality, helping lower the chances for cardiovascular disease, atrial fibrillation and coronary heart disease.

10. Rich in Vitamin K

Normally, nuts are not important dietary sources of vitamin K1 (phylloquinone), but pine nuts and cashews are the only exceptions.

Low levels of vitamin K have been associated with low bone-mineral density increasing the risk for osteoporosis and fractures. Consuming pine nuts may therefore help lower this risk.

People taking anticoagulants must be careful because, when consumed in large quantities, too many pine nuts (and other foods rich in vitamin K1) may create a potential dietary interaction. Consider that 100 grams of pine nuts contain about 54 mcg of vitamin K (45% DV).

Risks for "Pine Mouth"

Cacogeusia, is a medical term used to depict an unpleasant taste in the mouth. Pine nuts, in particular, have been known to more specifically cause metallogeusia (a perceived metallic or bitter taste) approximately one to three days following their ingestion and lasting for about 14 days.

While there are a variety of species of edible pine nuts, including P. koraiensis, P. sibirica, P. pinea and P. sibirica, in particular, according to research, pine mouth is suspected to be mainly caused by the Pinus armandii species from the Chinese white pine, which has been considered an inedible species.

The problem has become so widespread that even a group on Facebook called Damn you Pine Nuts (Metallic Bitter Mouth ones anyway) aka Pine Mouth has been created to provide support for those dealing with this issue.

Despite a very thorough study conducted in France, is still unclear what may trigger this odd side effect. The study hypothesizes that it may be due to some unidentified toxin present in some varieties of non-edible pine nuts.

Fortunately, treatment is rather straightforward, all that is needed is to stop eating pine nuts and the unpleasant taste should go away after five days, although in some cases it can take as long as up to 42 days.

How to Avoid Pine Mouth

It may help to avoid pine nuts originating from China. Pine nuts not from China may cost more but may come without the risk for this insidious side effect.

It can also help to learn how to recognize P. armandii. Differentiating pine nut species is not easy though. There are many look-a-likes, but this article has pictures that can help you sort things out.

Jars of pesto should be avoided as they never label where their pine nuts may come from. There are many stories of people getting pine mouth from just eating pesto sauce.

If you already have pine mouth, consider that washing the tongue with a toothbrush can help remove a bit of the bitter taste.

According to an FDA advisory, anyone who experiences pine mouth is encouraged to contact the FDA district office in his or her area.

Additional Research

J. Med. Toxicol. (2010) 6:158–159 DOI 10.1007/s13181-009-0001-1 “Pine Mouth” Syndrome: Cacogeusia Following Ingestion of Pine Nuts (Genus: Pinus). An Emerging Problem? Marc-David Munk

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2021 Alex Ferris


Alex Ferris (author) on April 20, 2021:

I am glad to hear you found this guide on pine nuts benefits interesting.

Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on April 19, 2021: