Do you like water chestnuts? You have probably eaten them in Asian cuisine where they make a slightly sweet, crunchy addition to many dishes. But, what the heck are they? And, can dogs eat water chestnuts? Despite the name, water chestnuts are not nuts. They have some nutritional benefits and they are safe for dogs to eat, in moderation.
Learn more about water chestnuts and how your dog can benefit from them in our short guide.
Water Chestnut Nutrition
If you look for information about water chestnuts (sometimes called Chinese chestnuts), be aware that they are not the same as chestnuts. Chestnuts from sweet chestnut trees are edible while horse chestnut trees contain the toxin aesculin, making horse chestnuts inedible. It can be confusing if you are searching for information about “chestnuts.”
Water chestnuts are not a nut and they are not related to any kind of chestnut tree. They are called water chestnuts because they resemble chestnuts in shape and coloring. They are actually an aquatic tuber vegetable. They grow in marshes, under water, in the mud. They are native to southeast Asia, parts of Africa, and Australia although it does grow as an invasive species in some parts of the U.S. today. It was introduced as an ornamental plant to the United States in the mid-1800s.
Raw water chestnuts contain 4 percent protein, 1 percent fat, and 95 percent carbohydrates. A serving of water chestnuts (½ cup) contains only about 60 calories. Most of the calories in water chestnuts come from carbohydrates.
Water chestnuts are very low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium. They are a good source of dietary fiber, riboflavin, vitamin B6, potassium, copper, and manganese
The estimated glycemic load for a serving of water chestnuts is 6 which is very low.
As a source of fiber, 100 grams of water chestnuts provide 12 percent of the daily recommended value for women and 8 percent for men. Eating lots of fiber helps promote regularity, lowers blood cholesterol, and helps regulate blood sugar levels.
Water chestnuts also contain lots of antioxidants. Antioxidants help protect the body from free radicals that can be harmful. When free radicals accumulate they can overwhelm the body’s natural defenses and produce oxidative stress. Oxidative stress has been linked to a higher chance of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and some kinds of cancer. Eating foods that contain antioxidants may help protect against free radicals.
Water chestnuts are very rich in the antioxidants ferulic acid, gallocatechin gallate, epicatechin gallate. and catechin gallate. Some of these same antioxidants keep water chestnuts crunchy even after cooking.
It’s also thought that water chestnuts may help lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease.
Water chestnuts are rich in potassium. Many studies have linked diets that are rich in potassium with a reduced risk of stroke and high blood pressure. Stroke and high blood pressure are two risk factors for heart disease.
According to an analysis of some studies, people with high blood pressure who consumed more potassium saw their systolic blood pressure (upper value) and diastolic blood pressure (lower value) lowered by 3.49 mmHg and 1.96 mmHg, respectively. People who consumed the most potassium had a 24 percent lower risk of developing a stroke.
According to another study that included more than 247,000 people, those who consumed the most potassium had a 21 percent lower risk of stroke and a lower overall risk of heart disease.
Water chestnuts may also aid in weight loss by helping people feel full with fewer calories. Water chestnuts are made up of 74 percent water. They are a high volume food that can make you feel full even though they contain few calories.
Water chestnuts contain lots of the antioxidant ferulic acid. Ferulic acid has been linked to a lower risk of several different kinds of cancer such as breast cancer, skin cancer, thyroid cancer, and bone and lung cancer cells.
Most of the research on water chestnuts and cancer comes from test tube studies so more research with humans is necessary.
Can Dogs Have Water Chestnuts?
Yes, dogs can have water chestnuts, in moderation. Many dogs like water chestnuts because of the crunch. They have a crisp, sweet, almost apple-like flesh. The flesh will stay crisp even after you boil or fry them.
If you’re giving your dog water chestnuts you should wash and peel them first.
The best way to give your dog water chestnuts is raw/fresh, slightly boiled or cooked in some other way. The canned version of water chestnuts are not recommended because of the preservatives, such as sodium, with which they may be packed.
Do not add salt or other spices to the water chestnuts you give your dog.
Water chestnuts are generally peeled and diced or sliced. For dogs we do recommend peeling the water chestnuts on the odd chance that a dog might choke on the peel. It’s unlikely but it could happen. These crisply little vegetables can be grated in dishes such as stir fry, chop suey, curries, salads, and omelets. They can even be pickled or candied.
Water chestnuts can even be dried and ground to use as a flour alternative. They are high in starch so they are a natural thickener.
They are easily available in Asian markets and many grocery stores.
How Many Water Chestnuts Can You Give Your Dog?
Since water chestnuts are low in calories (½ cup contains only 60 calories) you might be tempted to let your dog eat all he wants. However, you should keep in mind that they are comparatively high in fiber and carbohydrates. Eating too many water chestnuts could upset your dog’s digestive tract leading to diarrhea and other tummy troubles.
As with other human foods, it’s best to let your dog eat just a few water chestnuts at first to see if he likes them and make sure he doesn’t have a bad reaction to them. If things go well, you can let him have a few more the next time. Use moderation.
How Often Can You Give Your Dog Water Chestnuts?
Due to the high carbohydrates and fiber, it’s probably best not to give your dog water chestnuts more than once or twice per week. If you give them more often, they may negatively affect your dog’s digestion.
Water chestnuts are safe for dogs to eat in moderation. Raw or fresh water chestnuts are usually preferred though you can also cook them lightly. Peeling them is a good idea before giving them to your dog so the peels won’t be a choking hazard. It’s generally best to steer clear of canned water chestnuts because of the preservatives and high amounts of sodium used in canning.