The water chestnut is a grass-like plant native to Asian countries like China, India, the Philippines, and Japan. The water chestnut also grows in Australia, tropical Africa, and some Pacific and Indian Ocean islands. Despite its name, the water chestnut is not a nut. It’s actually an aquatic vegetable often grown underwater in marshy and muddy areas.
Although the water chestnut is technically the entire plant, most people refer to the small, round “corms” that are cut from the plant and eaten cooked or raw. Water chestnut corms are often fed to cattle and used as mulch or compost throughout Asia. Water chestnuts contain several antioxidants that may reduce your risk of many chronic diseases and conditions. Eating water chestnuts can provide other health benefits like:
1. Providing antioxidants
Water chestnuts are an excellent source of antioxidants. Antioxidants help the body’s immune system fight free radicals, which are potentially harmful molecules. When free radicals accumulate to a certain extent, they can cause a state of oxidative stress, impacting the body’s natural defenses and damaging cells. Oxidative stress is linked to an increased risk of developing chronic illnesses, including cancer. However, some research suggests that the antioxidants found in water chestnut peel can help neutralize the effects of free radicals on the body.
2. Slowing tumor growth
Water chestnuts contain an antioxidant called ferulic acid. There is some evidence that ferulic acid can help reduce or slow the growth of cancer cells. For example, a test tube study of breast cancer found that ferulic acid both helped kill and reduce the growth rate of the cells. However, determining whether the compounds in water chestnuts can help fight cancer will require more research in humans.
3. Lowering calorie consumption
Water chestnuts are very low in calories. Half a cup of sliced water chestnuts contains just 60 calories.
Despite having a low-calorie count, water chestnuts contain many nutrients, including:
4. Lowering high blood pressure and associated risks
High blood pressure can contribute to several health issues, including stroke and heart disease. Potassium, a nutrient in water chestnuts, is linked to reducing blood pressure. The researchers also found moderate-quality evidence to suggest that a higher potassium intake could reduce the risk of stroke by 24 percent. This review considered a higher intake to consist of 3,500–4,700 milligrams (mg). Half a cup of sliced water chestnuts contains 362 mg of potassium. Adding extra potassium to a healthful diet may help lower high blood pressure and its associated risks.
5. Control Blood Sugar
The fiber in chestnuts can also help balance your blood sugar. Eating high fiber foods ensures your body slowly absorbs starches. This helps avoid spikes in blood sugar, which can be dangerous for people with diabetes. Plus, chestnuts have a low glycemic index value of 54. Foods rated lower on the glycemic index won't cause major changes to your blood sugar levels when you eat them.
Water chestnuts are easy to prepare and eat. Grocery stores that stock international foods often offer them canned or whole. To use a whole, freshwater chestnut, peel away the outer brown skin to reveal the white flesh beneath. A person can eat the flesh raw. They can also be fried, grilled, boiled, or sautéed to provide a sweet, crunchy addition to a meal. Depending on the dish, a person may serve them whole, sliced, diced, or ground up. They are popular in stir-fries, chop suey, and many curries. People also enjoy candied or pickled water chestnuts as a snack. Or, to them in a flour mixture or as a thickening agent, dry water chestnuts out and grind them up.