Health Benefits of Water Chestnuts

The water chestnut, also known as the Chinese 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 are popular in many Chinese dishes, such as stir-fry and chop suey. 

Health Benefits

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:

Improved Blood Pressure

The potassium in water chestnuts may reduce your risk of stroke and high blood pressure, which are both linked to heart disease. Studies have found that people who consume large portions of potassium have a significantly lower risk for stroke and high blood pressure.

Cancer Prevention

The antioxidants in water chestnuts may reduce your risk of developing some types of cancer. Studies show that antioxidants can significantly slow the growth of cancerous cells.

Weight Loss

People following a weight loss plan may benefit from water chestnuts’ low-calorie content. The water chestnut is a high-volume food that may curb hunger without adding many calories to your diet.

Digestive Health

Water chestnuts are high in fiber, which helps the body digest food more efficiently. Fiber aids in digestion by helping food move through the large intestine. Fiber also absorbs water, which softens stools and allows them to pass more smoothly. 

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Nutrition

Water chestnuts are nutritious because they are high in fiber, low in calories, and contain no fat. They also contain several vitamins and healthy antioxidants. 

Water chestnuts are an excellent source of:

Nutrients per Serving

A half-cup serving of sliced water chestnuts contains:

Things to Watch Out for

If eaten raw, the water chestnut plant may transmit an infectious parasite called fasciolopsiasis. While canned water chestnuts pose little risk, be sure to thoroughly wash water chestnuts if you buy them fresh. 

How to Prepare Water Chestnuts

You can eat water chestnuts raw, boiled, grilled, pickled, or from a can. 

Water chestnuts are unusual because they remain crisp even after being cooked or canned due to their ferulic acid content. This quality makes water chestnuts a popular choice for stir-fry and as a topping on many Chinese dishes. In the US, one of the most common dishes prepared with water chestnuts is American–Chinese chop suey. 

Fresh water chestnuts have a sweeter flavor than the canned variety. To enjoy fresh water chestnuts, you should thoroughly wash, peel, and eat them raw. Or, steam them and add them to a stir-fry, soup, or salad. Many people enjoy water chestnuts as a snack, especially when they are pickled or candied. 

You can also dry water chestnuts and grind them into a thickening agent or flour that you can use for baked goods. 

Here are some ways to use water chestnuts in recipes:

  • Add water chestnuts to a stir-fry with spicy meats or savory greens 
  • Use water chestnuts as a filling for lettuce wraps 
  • Stuff water chestnuts into vegetarian egg rolls
  • Sauté water chestnuts with green beans and ginger
  • Wrap water chestnuts in bacon and bake until crispy
  • Add water chestnuts to chicken or tuna salad recipes for added crunchiness
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on September 19, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “Eat More, Weigh Less?”

Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry: “Compositional Analysis of Chinese Water Chestnut (Eleocharis dulcis) Cell-Wall Material From Parenchyma, Epidermis, and Subepidermal Tissues.”

Encyclopedia of Food Sciences and Nutrition: “Water Plants.”

Journal of Food Science: “Antitumor, Antioxidant, and Nitrite Scavenging Effects of Chinese Water Chestnut (Eleocharis dulcis) Peel Flavonoids.” 

MedlinePlus: “Fiber.”

Permaculture Research Institute: “Water Chestnuts.”

Transactions of the American Clinical and Climatological Association: “Why Your Mother Was Right: How Potassium Intake Reduces Blood Pressure.”

Tropical Parasitology: “Laboratory experience with the development of Fasciolopsis buski eggs.”

© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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