Pine nuts are not technically a nut, but rather the edible seeds of the pine tree genus, which have been consumed in Asia and Europe since Palaeolithic times. They can be eaten as a snack, and added to fish, meat, vegetable dishes, salads and bread. Pine nuts are an essential component of the favourite basil sauce, Italian pesto.
There is between 10 and 34% of protein in a pine nut, depending on the species, and they contain some dietary fibre. They are high in fats, but notably in the mono-unsaturated fatty acids, such as oleic acid, which help to reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and to increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, making them valuable in the treatment of cardiovascular disorders.
Pine nuts also contain the unique pinolenic acid, an omega-6 essential fatty acid, which has been found by researchers to trigger the release of enzymes which suppress hunger, and could thus have great potential for weight loss diets.
They are also an excellent source of the B complex vitamins and vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant which protects cells from harmful free radicals; and many minerals, including phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, selenium, and especially the free-radical scavenging antioxidant, manganese.