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When most of us think of pine nut recipes, our minds go to pesto, made from ground pine nuts, basil, and olive oil—hardly a diet food. Korean pine nuts, however, contain a unique fatty acid that makes counting calories easier

What are pine nuts?

When most of us think of pine nut recipes, our minds go to pesto, made

from ground pine nuts, basil, and olive oil—hardly a diet food. Korean pine nuts, however, contain a unique fatty acid that makes counting calories easier.

Pine nuts are the edible seeds produced by pine trees. All pine nuts are edible, but only about twenty species of pines produce seeds that are large enough to be valuable as food.

The familiar Italian recipes for pesto are based on pine nuts harvested from the stone pine, which has been cultivated for its nuts for at least 5,000 years. In the United States, the Hopi, Shoshone, Paiute, and Washoe tribes have traditionally harvested the nuts of the pinyon pine.

These nuts have entered American cuisine as a toasted addition to rice and pasta dishes. Because they are large and easy to shell, they are extremely popular and valuable wild-crafted crop in the western United States. For a time, the Trading Post system on some American Indian reservations even used them as a form of money.


The only nuts that contain the pine nut oil that reduces appetite come from Asia

The pine nuts of medicinal significance, however, are the pine nuts eaten in Asia. Afghanistan is the most importance source of the nuts of the "Korean pine" that appear in Chinese cuisine. While other kinds of pine nuts are elongated and cylindrical, Korean pine nuts (sometimes mislabeled as "Chinese" pine nuts) are nubby, like kernels of corn. These nuts are also the source of a unique fatty acid called pinolenic acid.

Methods used in harvesting pine nuts make a huge difference in their nutritional value. Unshelled pine nuts keep for months or years in the freezer. Shelled pine nuts can go rancid in just a few days if exposed to heat or humidity. Only Korean pine nuts contain the pinolenic acid that has an effect on appetite control.


Continue reading after recommendations

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  • Pasman WJ, Heimerikx J, Rubingh CM, et al. 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(1):10.