Water Chestnut Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Water chestnuts, annotated

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Despite its nutty name, the water chestnut is not a nut at all, but a starchy root vegetable. Water chestnut plants are grown in marshy or wetland areas and can be eaten raw or cooked. They are best known as a popular ingredient in Chinese cooking. Their flavor is mild and slightly sweet, and they stay crunchy even after being cooked. Water chestnuts are a good source of fiber, potassium, and several healthful antioxidants.

Water Chestnut Nutrition Facts

The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for 4 raw water chestnuts (36g).

  • Calories: 35
  • Fat: 0g
  • Sodium: 5mg
  • Carbohydrates: 8.6g
  • Fiber: 1.1g
  • Sugars: 1.7g
  • Protein: 0.5g

However, in the U.S., canned water chestnuts are more readily available. The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for a half cup (142g) of water chestnuts, canned in water.

  • Calories: 50
  • Fat: 0g
  • Sodium: 8.5mg
  • Carbohydrates: 9g
  • Fiber: 2g
  • Sugars: 0g
  • Protein: 0g

Carbs

A half-cup serving of canned water chestnuts has about 9 grams of carbohydrate. The carbs are made up of starch and fiber.

No studies of the glycemic index of water chestnuts have been reported in the scientific literature, and therefore the glycemic load cannot be calculated. However, water chestnuts are considered a starchy vegetable.

Fat

Water chestnuts contain no fat.

Protein

Raw water chestnuts contain only a trace amount of protein, so you'll need to get your daily dose of this important macronutrient from other sources.

Vitamins and Minerals

A 1-cup serving of canned water chestnuts proves 4% of the daily value of vitamin C and 10% of the daily value of iron. Water chestnuts are a fairly good source of potassium, manganese, calcium, copper, and vitamin B6.

Health Benefits

We are not likely to eat water chestnuts in large enough quantities to gain significant nutritional benefits. But scientists are investigating the antioxidant compounds in water chestnuts, which may have medicinal properties.

Fight Inflammation

Water chestnuts contain antioxidants, including fisetin, diosmetin, luteolin, and tectorigenin, which can help repair damaged cells and reduce inflammation. This, in turn, can protect the body from numerous chronic diseases. These antioxidants are often found in the peel of the water chestnut.

Provide Filling Fiber

Water chestnuts are high in fiber, and fiber has numerous beneficial effects on health. It helps keep you full and satisfied, aids in digestion, and can help regulate cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

Reduce Risk of Stroke

Water chestnuts are a good source of potassium. A review of 11 studies on stroke and cardiovascular disease found that higher dietary intake of potassium "is associated with lower rates of stroke and may also reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and total cardiovascular disease."

Low in FODMAPs

People with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and Crohn's disease can sometimes reduce the symptoms of these conditions by eating foods low in FODMAPs (fermentable oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides and polyols, a type of carbohydrate). Water chestnuts are compliant with a low-FODMAP diet.

Allergies

Since water chestnut is not a nut, it is safe for people with tree nut allergies. No reports of water chestnut allergy have been reported in the medical literature. If you experience symptoms of food allergy (such as itching or swelling around your mouth) after eating water chestnuts or any other food, contact your health care provider to discuss a diagnosis.

Adverse Effects

Although the glycemic index of water chestnut has not been calculated, it is starchy. If consumed in large amounts, it could cause a spike in blood sugar.

Varieties

Water chestnuts (Eleocharis dulcis, sometimes called Chinese water chestnuts) can easily be confused with water caltrops (Trapa natans), because they are also a tuberous, aquatic vegetable and are sometimes called water chestnuts. Water caltrops are sometimes used to make flour, called Singoda or Singhara flour.

Most commonly in the U.S., you will find canned water chestnuts available for purchase. Asian markets may sell raw water chestnuts.

Storage and Food Safety

When selecting fresh raw water chestnuts, choose ones that have smooth, unwrinkled skin without soft spots. Store them in the refrigerator in a plastic bag, where they may keep up to two weeks, depending on how fresh they are.

Store unopened cans of water chestnuts in a cool, dry place. If you have leftover canned water chestnuts, transfer to a glass or plastic container and refrigerate (do not store in the opened can).

How to Prepare

Before eating, raw water chestnuts need to be peeled, and the top sliced off. Canned water chestnuts, which are more commonly available, should be rinsed to remove some of the sodium usually added in processing.

Chop into bite-sized pieces and toss onto a salad or mix into a curry or stir-fry. Or try this recipe incorporating water chestnuts: Asian sesame coleslaw with teriyaki chicken. Even after cooking, water chestnuts retain their crunch, which adds texture to your dish.

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