Jillian Kubala, MS, RD

Author: Expert reviewer:

April 17, 2023

Jillian Kubala, MS, RD

Registered Dietitian

By Jillian Kubala, MS, RD

Registered Dietitian

Jillian Kubala, MS, RD is a Registered Dietitian based in Westhampton, NY. She holds a master’s degree in nutrition from Stony Brook University School of Medicine as well as an undergraduate degree in nutrition science.

Lauren Torrisi-Gorra, M.S., RD

Expert review by

Lauren Torrisi-Gorra, M.S., RD

Registered Dietitian

Lauren Torrisi-Gorra is a Registered Dietitian with a Grand Diplôme in Culinary Arts from the French Culinary Institute and a bachelor’s in Communication and Media Studies from Fordham University. After a decade working in the culinary and media worlds, Lauren pursued her ultimate passion and received her master’s degree in Clinical Nutrition and Dietetics at New York University.

Arugula and parmesan salad with pine nuts in white bowl

Image by vaaseenaa / iStock

April 17, 2023

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You probably know pine nuts for their buttery taste and soft texture. In addition to their delicious flavor profile, pine nuts are rich in important nutrients and offer some impressive health benefits.

Read on to learn more about pine nuts, including their nutrition and health benefits, how they compare to other nuts, and fun ways to add them to your diet.  


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What are pine nuts?

Even though pine nuts are considered a tree nut by the FDA1, they’re actually the seeds of pine trees.

These little gems can be found tucked inside pine cones and are harvested after the pine cones are dried in the sun. Even though all pine trees contain pine nuts, there are only a few varieties that produce pine nuts large enough for commercial sale, including2 Pinus koraiensis (Korean pine) and Pinus siberica (Siberian pine). 

Pine nuts are typically pricier than other nuts and seeds because of the time and effort it takes to harvest and process them. They have a delicate, pine-like flavor and a soft texture. They’re commonly used in pasta dishes and in baked goods like cookies and breads. A popular nut in Italian cooking, they also star in recipes like pesto and pignoli cookies.


Pine nuts are small tree nuts that have a delicate, buttery taste. They tend to be more expensive than other nuts because the process of extracting them from pine cones can be tricky.


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Nutritional information

Pine nuts may be tiny, but they provide an impressive amount of nutrients, including healthy fats, protein, vitamins, and minerals. 

Here’s the nutrition breakdown3 for a 1-ounce (around a handful) serving of dried pine nuts: 

  • Calories: 191
  • Protein: 3.88 grams
  • Carbs: 3.71 grams 
  • Fat: 19.4 grams
  • Fiber: 1.05 grams 
  • Vitamin E: 2.64 milligrams
  • Vitamin K: 15.3 micrograms
  • Iron: 1.57 milligrams
  • Magnesium: 71.2 milligrams
  • Phosphorus: 163 milligrams
  • Copper: 0.374 milligram
  • Zinc: 1.83 milligrams
  • Manganese: 2.5 milligrams


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Like all nuts and seeds, pine nuts are calorie-dense and high in fat. Most of the fat in pine nuts is in the form of polyunsaturated fats, which can help protect heart health4 by helping lower LDL cholesterol levels. 

Pine nuts are high in several important vitamins and minerals, including vitamin E, zinc, magnesium, and manganese.

Vitamin E and zinc both play important roles in immune function5, including supporting the function of T-cells, which help protect the body against infection. Pine nuts are exceptionally high in manganese6, a mineral that’s essential for the growth and maintenance of bone and connective tissue and the production of enzymes that help protect cells against oxidative damage caused by free radicals. 

Health benefits of pine nuts

Because pine nuts are chock-full of health-promoting compounds, like vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and fatty acids, adding them to your diet could help boost your health in several ways. Here are a few of the potential benefits of the nut—from a reduced risk of heart disease to a healthier weight.


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They contain pinolenic acid (PNLA).

PNLA2 is a type of polyunsaturated fatty acid that makes up about 20% of the fat in pine nuts. Scientists are still studying its effects on human health, but this compound seems to have powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

Researchers think that eating PNLA-rich pine nuts may be helpful for people with inflammatory disorders like rheumatoid arthritis. However, research is limited at this time, and more studies are needed to fully understand PNLA’s effects on human health.


They may help protect against stomach cancer.

Gastric intestinal metaplasia (GIM) refers to changes in the lining of the stomach that increase a person’s risk of developing stomach cancer.

A 2022 study published in Nutrition Bulletin that included over 86,000 Korean adults found that men who consumed peanuts, pine nuts, and almonds five or more times per week had a 41% lower risk of developing GIM7. This association was not observed in the female participants. This means that eating more nuts, including pine nuts, may help reduce the risk of stomach cancer, at least in some people. 


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They may help decrease heart disease risk.

Research findings suggest that eating more nuts could help decrease your risk of heart disease. A 2023 review that included 42 studies and over 1.8 million people found that, compared with people with the lowest nut consumption, people who ate the most nuts had a 19% lower risk of overall heart disease8 and a 23% lower risk of dying from heart disease. 

Many other studies9 have also shown that nuts and seeds are protective against heart disease.


They may promote longevity.

Incorporating more nuts into your diet may help you live longer and protect you from common diseases like cancer. A 2022 review9 published in Advances in Nutrition found that eating just a handful (28 grams) of nuts per day was associated with a 21% reduced risk of heart disease, an 11% reduced risk of death from cancer, and a 22% reduced risk of death from all causes. The review also found that nut consumption helped protect against death from respiratory diseases, infectious diseases, and diabetes. 


They may help you to maintain a healthy body weight.

Nuts like pine nuts are a good source of satiating nutrients, like protein and fiber, and eating more nuts may help you maintain a healthy body weight. A 2019 review published in BMJ Nutrition, Prevention and Health found that U.S. adults who ate more nuts on a daily basis were less likely to gain weight over time10 and had a lower risk of developing obesity compared to people who consumed fewer nuts.


They are a good source of protein.

People following plant-based diets can boost their protein intake by sprinkling some pine nuts on plant-based dishes like salads, grain bowls, and pasta. Just 1 ounce of pine nuts provides 3.88 grams of protein.

Protein helps you feel full after eating and plays a number of important roles in health, from helping you grow or maintain your muscle mass to protecting your body against harmful pathogens. 


They provide important vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

Pine nuts are high in many nutrients that tend to be low in modern-day diets. For example, 1 ounce of pine nuts covers roughly 17 to 22% of the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for adults for magnesium, a mineral that’s essential for blood sugar regulation and helps your body deal with stress. Most people’s11 diets are low in magnesium-rich foods, so eating pine nuts is a smart way to boost your intake of this important nutrient.

Pine nuts also provide fiber and antioxidants12 like phytosterols and carotenoids, which help protect against cellular damage. The dietary fat in pine nuts helps to enhance the bioavailability of the carotenoids and provide optimal absorption13.


Pine nut oil may be good too.

In addition to the benefits above, research shows that supplementing with concentrated pine nut oil may offer a variety of health benefits.

For example, study findings suggest that pine nut oil supplements may help reduce appetite14 and benefit blood sugar control. However, these findings can’t be applied to eating whole pine nuts. Pine nut oil supplements provide high doses of concentrated pine nut oil, which differs from the nutritional composition of whole pine nuts. 

Allergies and side effects

Even though pine nuts are nutritious and have been linked with a number of health benefits, they aren’t suitable for everyone. 

Pine nuts are considered a tree nut and aren’t safe for people who are allergic to tree nuts. Pine nut allergies can cause life-threatening symptoms, including swelling of the tongue and throat and difficulty breathing. If you have a tree nut allergy, it’s important to steer clear of all tree nuts.

It’s also important to keep in mind that pine nuts are rich in calories. While this makes them a great choice for a quick, filling snack, it’s important to not overdo it when you’re eating pine nuts, or any other nut for that matter. Overconsuming calories from any source, no matter whether it’s nutritious, can cause you to gain weight. Sticking to a handful of nuts is a smart way to keep your portion sizes in check. 

Lastly, eating pine nuts may cause a condition called “pine mouth” or Pine Nut Syndrome (PNS)15. PNS is an uncommon taste disorder that causes a person to develop a bitter, metal-like taste in their mouth 12 to 48 hours after consuming pine nuts. This bitter taste usually gets worse after consuming other foods and can last up to four weeks. While PNS is strange, it’s not dangerous, and symptoms usually resolve on their own after a few days.

Pine nuts vs. other nuts

Here’s how pine nuts stack up against other commonly consumed nuts in terms of taste, texture, and nutrition profile:

Pine nuts vs. cashews:

Pine nuts are higher in calories than cashews but contain fewer carbs and less protein. Both cashews and pine nuts have a soft texture and buttery taste, which is why cashews are commonly recommended as a substitute for pine nuts. 

Pine nuts vs. almonds:

Pine nuts have a softer texture and a more buttery flavor than almonds. Pine nuts are higher in calories than almonds but contain fewer carbs and less protein. 

Pine nuts vs. pistachios:

Pistachios and pine nuts share some similarities. They’re both common in Italian cuisine and have a soft texture. However, they have a slightly different taste, and pistachios are green in color, while pine nuts are ivory-colored. Pine nuts are higher in calories than pistachios but contain fewer carbs and less protein. 

As you can see, pine nuts are higher in calories and lower in carbs than many other nuts. Because they’re low in carbs, they’re a favorite among people following low-carb diets, like the keto diet.

Compared to other nuts, pine nuts are generally more expensive. For example, 1 pound of raw almonds costs $7.99 on Amazon, while a 1-pound bag of raw pine nuts costs $25.95.

Raw or roasted pine nuts: Is one healthier?

Most people prefer roasted nuts and seeds because the roasting process improves the flavor, aroma, and texture of nuts. Roasting15 also increases the shelf life of nuts and can help remove certain contaminants. 

Roasting can impact the antioxidant activity and nutritional content of nuts like pine nuts, but it depends on factors like roasting temperature and roasting time. For example, some studies suggest that while roasting nuts at low temperatures16 or for shorter heating times may increase phenolic compounds, roasting nuts at very high temperatures or for long time periods can decrease phenolic antioxidant levels.

Even though roasting may lead to some changes in the nutritional composition of nuts like pine nuts, studies show that eating lightly roasted nuts can benefit health in the same ways as eating raw nuts. 

For example, a 2017 study published in the European Journal of Nutrition found that the consumption of both raw and roasted hazelnuts for 28 days each led to similar improvements in cholesterol17 and blood pressure levels. 

The verdict

You can enjoy both raw and roasted nuts in your diet. Research shows that one is not necessarily healthier than the other. 

Pine nut butter

Pine nut butter is hard to find and is much more expensive than more common nut butters, like peanut butter. It’s said to have a rich, decadent taste that pairs well with both sweet and savory ingredients.

Pine nut butter can be drizzled on baked goods like sweet bread and adds a silky texture, and buttery taste to dishes like soups and risottos. You can purchase pine nut butter online or make your own at home by blitzing pine nuts in a blender or food processor.

Pine nut recipes

Pine nuts are delicious on their own as a snack, and there are plenty of other ways to incorporate the buttery bites into your diet:

  • Use them as a meal topping: “I love to toast them in a dry pan and use them as a topping for salads, pastas, soups, and vegetable dishes,” Amy Shapiro, M.S., R.D., tells mindbodygreen.
  • Add them to toast: Shapiro also likes to sprinkle pine nuts onto toast for an extra boost of protein
  • Make them into a nutritious pasta sauce: This pine nut pasta sauce combines raw pine nuts with lemon juice, olive oil, and salt for a simple yet delicious pasta sauce. You can also add basil and Parmesan to this recipe to create a vibrant pesto.
  • Add some crunch to veggie burgers: These portobello mushroom burgers are stuffed with a satisfying mix of spinach, pine nuts, and goat cheese.

Pine nuts pair well with sweet and savory ingredients, so don’t be afraid to experiment with pine nuts and use them in your favorite recipes. 

Buying & storage tips

Pine nuts are high in fat, so it’s important to store them properly so they don’t go rancid. Keeping pine nuts away from heat and protecting them from sunlight can help them last longer.

The best way to keep pine nuts fresh is to store them in your fridge or freezer. According to the University of California, nuts can retain their freshness for a year or more in the fridge and for up to two years in the freezer. In comparison, nuts kept at room temperature only maintain their quality for a few months.  

When purchasing pine nuts, it’s best to buy them from a reputable company. If pine nuts smell “off,” it’s a sign that they may have gone rancid. If your pine nuts have an unpleasant smell or sharp taste, it’s best to throw them away.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are pine nuts anti-inflammatory?

Yes! Pine nuts contain a variety of anti-inflammatory substances, such as vitamin E and pinolenic acid. 

Do pine nuts have side effects?

Although rare, eating pine nuts may cause a condition called “pine mouth” or Pine Nut Syndrome (PNS), a taste disorder that causes a person to develop a bitter, metal-like taste in their mouth 12 to 48 hours after consuming pine nuts. This condition is unpleasant but isn’t dangerous. 

How many pine nuts should I eat?

Sticking to a small handful, around 30 grams, is a smart way to stick to a healthy portion size of pine nuts and leave room for other healthy foods in your diet. 

The takeaway

Pine nuts are rich in health-supporting nutrients like vitamin E, magnesium, and polyunsaturated fats. Use pine nuts to add some crunch to dishes like salads and grain bowls or sprinkle them in oatmeal, soups, and pasta dishes for a boost of protein, vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats. Adding pine nuts to your diet is a smart way to lower your risk of a variety of health conditions, like heart disease, obesity, and certain cancers. Eating more nuts and seeds in general may also help you live a longer, healthier life.