Water chestnuts, also known as Chinese water chestnuts, are tuberous, aquatic vegetables that grow underwater in marshes, ponds, paddy fields, and shallow lakes. A water chestnut is a grass-like plant widely distributed in Southeast Asia, Africa, Australia, and some Pacific and Indian Ocean islands. Although a water chestnut resembles an actual chestnut, it is not a nut but a vegetable with a thick brown peel and an inner crisp white flesh that contains a high amount of water. Water chestnuts are commonly used as ingredients in Asian dishes such as stir-fries, chop suey, curries, and salads.
While technically the entire plant is called a water chestnut, most people refer to the tiny, spherical “corms” that are removed from the plant and consumed cooked or raw.
Water chestnuts (Eleocharis dulcis) are often confused with water caltrops (Trapa natans), which are also referred to as water chestnuts. Water caltrops look like bats or buffalo heads and taste like yams or potatoes.
Water chestnuts are somewhat sweet and crisp when eaten raw. When cooked, they gain a firm and crunchy texture, with a mild nutty flavor that can be easily overwhelmed by the spices or sauces with which they are served.
After harvest, water chestnuts are stored at low temperatures such as 39.2°F to prevent loss of water and delay sprouting.
Throughout Asia, water chestnut corms are fed to cattle and used as mulch or compost.
10 health benefits of water chestnuts
Eating water chestnuts is regarded as beneficial to the body. They contain essential nutrients and antioxidants that improve the overall health of the body and provide health benefits, such as:
- Provide antioxidants
- Water chestnuts are rich in antioxidants, especially ferulic acid, gallocatechin gallate, epicatechin gallate, and catechin gallate that protect the body against harmful free radicals.
- Although most of the antioxidants are present in the peel, the flesh contains a good number of antioxidants. Ferulic acid keeps water chestnut crispy and fresh even after cooking.
- Slow down tumor growth
- Reduce the risk of diseases
- The high antioxidant content in water chestnuts may lower the risk of some diseases. Free radicals that build in the body may reduce the body's natural defenses from functioning properly, resulting in oxidative stress.
- Oxidative stress has been related to an increased risk of chronic illnesses such as type II diabetes, heart disease, and many malignancies. Fortunately, antioxidant-rich foods such as water chestnuts may help prevent this.
- Lower calorie consumption
- Water chestnuts are very low in calories. Half a cup of sliced water chestnuts contains about 50 calories. Although the caloric content is low, water chestnuts are highly nutritious and contain fiber, proteins, copper, potassium, manganese, riboflavin, and vitamin B6. They contain about 74 percent of water and 9 grams of carbohydrates.
- Promote weight loss
- Improve digestive health
- Water chestnuts are abundant in fiber that aids in the proper digestion of food. Fiber helps digestion by promoting bowel movement and the growth of good bacteria in the gut. It also softens stools by absorbing water, allowing them to pass more easily and thereby preventing constipation.
- Lower high blood pressure and its associated risks
- Water chestnuts contain potassium that aids in the reduction of high blood pressure.
- Studies suggested that high potassium intake in people with high blood pressure showed disease in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. The same study found that people who ate more potassium had a 24 percent lower risk of stroke.
- Another study showed that people with high potassium intake had a 21 percent lower risk of stroke and overall reduced risk of heart disease.
- Good for the hair
- Fight inflammation
- Water chestnuts contain antioxidants such as fisetin, diosmetin, luteolin, and tectorigenin that aid in cell repair and reduction of inflammation. These antioxidants are mainly present in the peels of water chestnuts and protect the body from several diseases.
- Provide filling fiber
- Water chestnuts are high in dietary fiber that offers several health benefits. Fiber makes you feel fuller and satisfied, reducing excess food intake, improving digestion, reducing blood cholesterol levels, and regulating blood sugar levels.
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