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Chestnuts are a superfood for sailors.

When planning for an offshore passage, chestnuts might not be the first thing that comes to mind when jotting down your provisioning list. Yet they take a deserved spot in our Superfood for Sailors blog. In fact, before delving into the world of nutrition, I never quite saw these nuts as a sailing essential or acknowledged their impressive nutritional profile. To me, chestnuts were simply a cosy ingredient in a nut roast, signalling the arrival of autumn. Reminiscing about our time in Spain, I vividly recall the comforting aroma of roasted chestnuts wafting through the winter air, enticing passersby with their warmth and flavour.





These humble nuts, often associated with festive street stalls, served as a delightful reminder that even in the chilliest months, there's comfort and nourishment to be found in the simple pleasures. It is with this in mind, that I believe chestnuts are a fantastic addition to your galley staples. Let's delve deeper into why chestnuts are a superfood for sailors.


The delicious chestnut is by no means a new superfood on the block. While it's difficult to pinpoint an exact timeframe for their origin, archaeological findings and historical records suggest that chestnuts have been a part of human diets and cultures for millennia.  References to chestnuts can be found in ancient texts, literature, and artwork from various civilisations, including the Greeks, Romans, Chinese, and Japanese.


In medieval Europe, chestnuts were a staple food, especially in mountainous regions where grains were hard to grow. They were often ground into flour to make bread, cakes, and porridge, earning them the nickname "the bread of the poor."


Chestnut trees can live for hundreds, even thousands, of years. The Hundred-Horse Chestnut in Sicily is considered the oldest known chestnut tree, estimated to be between 2,000 and 4,000 years old. According to legend, it sheltered a queen and her 100 knights during a storm.







Chestnuts are unique among nuts due to their low-fat content and high carbohydrate content. They are more similar in composition to grains than other nuts, making them a nutritious and energy-sustaining food and a quick and easy way to keep your body topped up with energy whilst sailing.

 

Sustained Energy


Chestnuts provide a steady release of energy due to their high carbohydrate content, making them perfect for long voyages.

Nutritional Fact: One serving of chestnuts (about 10 kernels, or 84 grams) contains approximately 45 grams of carbohydrates, which are primarily complex carbs that help sustain energy levels.

 

Rich in Dietary Fibre


High fibre content aids in digestion and prevents constipation, which can be a common issue during long periods at sea.

Nutritional Fact: A serving of chestnuts contains about 4 grams of dietary fibre, which supports digestive health and helps maintain a healthy gut.

 

Boosts Immune System


Chestnuts are rich in vitamin C, which helps boost the immune system, crucial for maintaining health especially as fresh fruit and vegetable supplies become low on longer offshore passages or when sailing in remote areas.

Nutritional Fact: One serving provides approximately 20% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C, an antioxidant that supports immune function and skin health.

 

Heart Health


Chestnuts are low in fat and contain heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, which help maintain healthy cholesterol levels.

Nutritional Fact: With less than 1 gram of fat per serving, chestnuts are an excellent choice for a heart-healthy diet. They also contain potassium, which helps regulate blood pressure.

 

Gluten-Free and Nutrient-Rich


Chestnuts are naturally gluten-free and packed with essential nutrients, making them a safe and nutritious option for those with gluten sensitivities.

Nutritional Fact: Chestnuts provide important vitamins and minerals such as vitamin B6, folate, copper, and manganese, contributing to overall health and well-being.

 

Chestnuts can be used in a wide variety of recipes both savoury and sweet. They can be roasted, boiled, candied (marrons glacés), made into soups, stuffing, desserts, and even brewed into a form of beer (AlthoughIhavenevertrued it!). Chestnut flour is also gluten-free, making it popular in gluten-free baking. 


How to buy them


For the boat, I buy them cooked and peeled either in packets or tins.  You can also find chestnut paste in supermarkets and chestnut flour can be sourced in zero-waste stores and some supermarkets. 


I use the flour for cakes such as the Italian Castagnaccio.  It is a dense cake with chestnut flour, olive oil, nuts and raisins. Traditionally, it is naturally vegan, gluten-free and sugar-free.  The name derives from Castagna, which is chestnut in Italian.  It is the perfect after-snorkel treat onboard with a cup of rooibos or chai tea (a personal favourite!).


I use the tinned or packaged chestnuts to make chestnut and cocoa power balls and I share my recipe here with you so you will see just how easy it is to incorporate these amazing nutrient-rich nuts into you seafaring snacks.




 

At Small Vegan Kitchen we think Chestnuts are a great superfood, rich in complex carbohydrates, fibre, and essential vitamins like C and B6. They provide sustained energy, crucial for long days at sea, and their antioxidant properties support immune health.


Additionally, chestnuts are low in fat, making them an ideal, nutrient-dense choice for maintaining overall health and peak performance at sea.


We love them so much we have decided to share not one but two recipes this month. For our savoury recipe "Chestnut and Mushroom Risotto" click here.


For our Chestnut and Chocolate Power Balls click here. If you enjoyed the recipe please click the heart button in the blog to show us you loved it.




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