When most people hear the word “acorn”, they no longer think of a viable food source for humans, but this was not always the case. An acorn is the nut of an oak tree. An acorn contains a single nut in a hard outer shell, typically topped by a cupule, which is where the nut attaches to the oak branch. You can find them falling from oak trees especially across the Mediterranean. However, acorns used to be an important dietary staple for many early cultures, as they were widely available and served many of the same dietary needs as grains do today.

Acorns have a rich content of tannins that make their taste quite bitter, but there are a number of ways to eliminate that unpleasant taste, including boiling and soaking the nuts in water until they stop turning the water brown. Acorns have been used more recently as a replacement for coffee, where the bitterness wasn’t as undesirable. Acorns can be ground into flour and baked into breads, muffins, and any other food where grain flour is typically used. Despite the availability of grains and their comparable nutritional value, acorns are still occasionally consumed due to their high fat, protein, carbohydrate, mineral, and vitamin content.

Skin Health: There are a number of ways in which acorns are used to protect the skin, including as an astringent agent, but this requires the tannins directly leached out of the acorns. Once you soak or boil the nuts in water, the rich tannin water can be topically applied to the skin in order to soothe burns and rashes, to speed healing of cuts and wounds, and to reduce inflammation or burns. This topical application of nutrient-rich water can also be used to topically treat aches and pains.

Digestion: Like most nuts, acorns have a significant amount of fiber, which makes them ideal for improving your digestive health. Fiber helps to regulate your bowel movements and eliminate both constipation and diarrhea. This is ideal for people suffering from irregular bowel movements, cramping, bloating, and other gastrointestinal distress.

Diabetes Prevention: One of the most important benefits of acorns is their ability to regulate sugar levels in the body, thus preventing the dangerous spikes and plunges of glucose that can lead to diabetes, or endanger those already suffering from that disease. The fiber content and relatively complex carbohydrates found in these nuts are the reason for this regulatory benefit.

Heart Health: Many nuts are high in fat, and while most of those are beneficial, for people wanting to cut down on their overall fat content, acorns can be a good alternative. There is roughly five times more unsaturated fats as saturated fats in these nuts (on average), which also improves overall cholesterol balance and prevents obesity, atherosclerosis, and other dangerous conditions that threaten the heart as a result of saturated fats.

Energy Levels: There is a high level of complex carbohydrates found in acorns, which provides longer-lasting energy reserves when consumed. The flour and the nuts themselves are better alternatives than “empty carbohydrates” or simple sugars, which provide short bursts of energy, unlike the longer, sustained energy boost that you get from most nuts.

Bone Health: The impressive mix of minerals found in acorns, which includes phosphorous, potassium and calcium, helps to boost bone health and prevent the onset of osteoporosis. Calcium is one of the most important minerals for bone mineral density, and is found in high concentrations within acorns.

Metabolic Activity: One of the key roles of the B-family vitamins lies in the metabolic activities of the body. These oak nuts may be small, but they are packed with B vitamins, including niacin, thiamin, riboflavin and vitamin B12. By ensuring that your metabolic needs are taken care of, acorns can help regulate a number of enzymatic processes in the body that are crucial for overall health.

Healing, Repair, and Growth: Proteins are key components to a healthy lifestyle, and acorns contain a high percentage of protein. This can be important for the creation of new tissues and cells, as well as the repair of damaged areas and rapid healing following injury or illness.

A Final Word of Warning: Excessive consumption of these nuts can cause nausea and stomach upset due to the tannin content, so always ensure that you steep the acorns to remove those bitter components. Boiling the nuts will neutralize more nutrients and thus reduce the health benefits.