The benefits of acorns

The benefits of acorns

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Acorns are nuts that grow on an oak tree. These trees grow in large numbers around the globe.

Being the staple food for various societies in the early days, today acorns are not consumed as often ( 1 ).

Although these nuts have many beneficial properties, it is still being studied whether they are safe to eat.

In this article, we will consider whether acorns are edible, what nutrients they contain, their advantages and disadvantages.

 

Acorns are generally safe to eat.

Acorns have gained a bad reputation because they contain tannins – a group of bitter plant compounds that can be harmful when consumed in large quantities.

Tannins are considered anti-nutrients, which means that they reduce your body’s ability to absorb essential nutrients from food ( 2 ).

In addition, consuming large amounts of tannins can lead to adverse health effects, such as severe liver damage and cancer ( 3 ).

However, most tannins are washed out of acorns if you pre-soak the nuts for the night , or cook them. Although there are no studies of the toxicity of raw acorns for humans, these nuts are rarely eaten raw ( 4 ).

In fact, humans have safely consumed acorns for thousands of years ( 5 ,  6 ,  7 ).

While raw acorns contain a large number of potentially harmful plant compounds called tannins, properly prepared acorns contain few tannins and are generally safe to eat.

Acorns are very nutritious

Although the exact nutrient profile depends on the type of acorn, they are all filled with essential nutrients.

Acorns are especially rich in potassium , iron, vitamins A and E, as well as a number of other important minerals ( 8 ).

In addition, these nuts are low in calories. Most of their calories come in the form of healthy unsaturated fats ( 9 ).

A 1 ounce serving of dried acorns (28 grams) contains the following nutrients ( 1 ,  10 ,  11 ):

  • Calories:  144
  • Protein:  2 gr.
  • Fat:  9 gr.
  • Carbohydrates:  15 gr.
  • Fiber:  4 gr.
  • Vitamin A: 44%
  • Vitamin E:  20%
  • Iron:  19%
  • Manganese:  19%
  • Potassium:  12%
  • Vitamin B6:  10%
  • Folate:  8%

Scientists have also identified over 60 beneficial plant compounds in acorns, including catechins, resveratrol, quercetin, and gallic acid – powerful antioxidants that can help protect your cells from damage.

These antioxidants are associated with numerous health benefits, such as low risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer ( 12 ,  13 ).

Acorns contain many healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and plant components. They are especially good sources of vitamins A and E.

The beneficial properties of acorns

Acorns can have several health benefits if they are properly prepared and not consumed raw.

May improve bowel health

Bacteria in your gut play a key role in your overall health. An imbalance of these bacteria has been associated with obesity, diabetes, and bowel disease ( 14 ,  15 ,  16 ,  17 ).

Acorns are an excellent source of fiber, which nourishes beneficial intestinal bacteria ( 18 ,  19 ).

In addition, acorns have long been used as a herbal medicine for treating abdominal pain, bloating, nausea, diarrhea, and other common digestive problems ( 20 ).

In a two-month study of 23 adults with persistent indigestion, those who took 100 mg of the extract of the stomach had less abdominal pain than those who took the capsule from corn starch. However, a highly concentrated extract was used in this study. It is not known whether whole acorns will have the same effect. More research is needed on their digestive effects.

Rich in antioxidants

Antioxidants are compounds that protect your cells from damage caused by potentially harmful molecules called free radicals ( 21 ).

Studies show that diets high in antioxidants can help prevent chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers ( 22 ,  23 ,  24 ).

Acorns  are rich in antioxidants,  such as vitamins A and E, as well as many other plant compounds ( 25 ,  26 ,  27 ).

One animal study found that antioxidant-rich acorn extract reduces inflammation in rats with impaired reproductive function ( 28 ). However, human studies are necessary.

Abundant in the Wild

More than 450 species of oaks grow around the world and produce acorns. It is mainly in the northern hemisphere.

From autumn to early spring, hundreds, if not thousands, of mature acorns can be found on the ground beneath these trees. These nuts are considered safe to eat, but you should beware of rotten nuts. Green, immature specimens should also not be collected.

When harvested in the wild, acorns can be a free, nutritious, and sustainable choice of local food.

Acorns that are loaded with fiber and antioxidants can have several benefits. These include improving bowel health and reducing the risk of chronic diseases.

Raw acorns in tree

 

 

Potential harm to acorns

Although acorns offer several benefits, they also have potential disadvantages.

Raw can be unsafe

As mentioned above, tannins in raw acorns act as antinutrients, reducing the absorption of certain food compounds. They are also associated with certain types of cancer and can cause liver damage when consumed in large quantities.

Some people report nausea and constipation from raw acorns, although this has not been confirmed by studies. Moreover, tannins give these nuts a bitter taste.

Therefore, it is not recommended to eat raw acorns.

You can easily remove the tannins by soaking the nuts or boiling them. This process eliminates their bitterness and makes them safe to eat.

May cause allergic reactions

Acorns are a nut that is one of the most common allergens in the world. Up to 1.2% of the population of Western countries are allergic to one or more nuts ( 29 ).

Allergic reactions to tree nuts range from mild itching, itchy throat and lacrimation to anaphylaxis, a potentially life-threatening response that can cause extreme breathing difficulties ( 30 ).

If you are allergic to other hazelnuts, you should avoid acorns unless your doctor has authorized them.

It may be difficult to prepare

Collecting and preparing acorns can take a long time. Although common in the wild, they are usually not sold at grocery stores.

You may need to order them online if you cannot find your own source.

You should also wash tannins out of them to reduce their bitterness and ensure they are safe to eat. This can be done by boiling or soaking.

Although this process is quite simple, it may seem cumbersome – especially since other nuts are easily accessible and much easier to eat.

Acorns can have several flaws, including allergic reactions. In addition, raw acorns nourish poisonous tannins and are not recommended for consumption.

How to eat acorns

Raw acorns contain a large amount of tannins – a chemical that makes them bitter and possibly unsafe in large quantities.

However, tannins can be removed in several ways.

One of these methods is boiling. The following steps are recommended:

  1. Look for fully ripe brown acorns with lids attached to them. Avoid green immature acorns, as they have more tannins.
  2. Rinse the acorns thoroughly to remove all contaminants such as dirt and small insects. Throw away rotten nuts.
  3. Remove hard shells using a nutcracker.
  4. Cook raw acorns in a saucepan for 5 minutes or until the water turns dark brown. Strain the nuts in a colander, throwing out dark water.
  5. Repeat this step until the water boils.

After washing tannins, nuts are considered safe to eat. You can dry them in the oven at 190 ° C for 15–20 minutes for a quick and nutritious snack.

To satisfy your cravings for sweets, try frying them with honey or sprinkle with cinnamon after baking. Dried acorns can also be ground into flour for use in bread and baking.

Acorns must be cleaned and boiled to reduce the level of harmful tannins. Then they can be fried for a light snack or chopped into flour for baking.

Conclusion

Are acorns edible? Yes, only if they are cooked or soaked in water. Raw acorns are considered unsafe because of their tannins, which are toxic when consumed in large quantities.

Properly prepared acorns are completely edible and full of nutrients such as iron and manganese. Delicious fried, they can also be crushed into flour.

If you are interested in whole, fresh, natural foods, acorns can be a tempting addition to your diet.

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