Pine nuts, the seeds of various species of pine trees, are the main ingredient in pesto. The nuts have been eaten for thousands of years in countries such as Pakistan and Turkey, as well as by American Indians in the United States. The nuts supply a wealth of key nutrients and have compounds that might protect you from certain health problems.
The Benefits of Fat
Though a 1-ounce portion of pine nuts contains 19.4 grams of fat, only 1.4 grams are saturated. The rest of the fat in pine nuts is unsaturated -- the type that should be included in a nutritious diet. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats might help improve your cholesterol levels when you use them instead of saturated fats, according to the American Heart Association. This in turn helps reduce your risk of heart disease.
Packed with Protein
European pine nuts, which are the most commonly purchased in the United States, are a good source of protein. An ounce of pine nuts contains about 4 grams of protein, which doesn't sound like a lot, but it's quite a bit for such a small amount of food. Protein helps supply you with energy, and it is also broken down into amino acids, which are used to continuously replace proteins -- the building blocks of cells and tissues -- in your body.
Many Minerals in Pine Nuts
Pine nuts supply a good dose of potassium and magnesium, two minerals that can help keep your heart healthy, according to the authors of "The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods," Michael T. Murray and Joseph E. Pizzorno. An ounce of the nuts also supplies 1.57 milligrams of iron, which is 20 percent of the 8 milligrams men need each day and 9 percent of the 18 milligrams women require daily. Iron is a major component of hemoglobin, which helps carry oxygen to all the parts of your body. The same ounce also delivers 1.83 milligrams of zinc, a mineral essential for wound healing. That translates to 23 percent of the 8 milligrams of zinc women need daily and 17 percent of the 11 milligrams men should have each day.
Numerous Vitamins, Too
Pine nuts contain small amounts of several B vitamins, which help with the metabolism of food. An ounce also delivers 2.65 milligrams of vitamin E, which acts an antioxidant to protect your cells from damage. That amount is equal to 18 percent of the 15 milligrams of vitamin E adults need each day. That same ounce of pine nuts also supplies 15.3 micrograms of vitamin K, which is 17 percent of the 90 micrograms women need each day and 13 percent of the 120 micrograms men require. Vitamin K helps your blood clot normally.
Pine Nuts in Your Diet
Pine nuts can be incorporated into your diet in more ways than just using them to make pesto. Toasting pine nuts brings out their flavor, Murray and Pizzorno note. Place them in a 350-degree oven for six to eight minutes or a dry skillet for two to three minutes to toast them. Sprinkle a wilted spinach salad with toasted pine nuts or add them to a pancake or quick bread recipe. Toss grilled vegetables or meat with toasted pine nuts or roll a log of soft cheese in chopped pine nuts and serve it as a tasty appetizer.