Health Benefits of Pili Nuts & Nutritional Facts, Recipes, and More

Written by Faye C.
on December 13, 2019

Heralded as the new superfood in the United States, the pili nut has taken the health community by storm in recent years. 

Some of the questions we'll answer:

  • What are the benefits of pili nuts?
  • Are pili nuts keto?
  • Are pili nuts healthy?

Pronounced “peeley,” the pili nut originally comes from Southeast Asia and, specifically, from trees in the Philippines. On the islands, there are four known tree species of the pili nut — each one shaped like a tear drop with a thick, hard-to-crack shell.

Pili Nuts

Today, pili nuts are eaten widely as a health food. They're still new to the Western World, however, so many people still have questions about how to buy them, how to eat them, and what their health benefits are.

In the following guide, we’ll be outlining all of the basic information you need to know about pili nuts. In addition to nutrition information, we'll explain what the benefits of pili nuts are and what to watch out for if you've never had them before. 

Pili Nuts: The Basics

Pili nuts pack a big punch when it comes to nutrition. Full of vitamin E, protein, magnesium, and plenty of other essential vitamins and minerals, these nuts are touted for both their flavor and their nutritional value.

Pili Nut Nutrition Facts

These are the nutrition facts for approximately 100 grams of pili nuts

Nutrition Facts Per 100 grams

Calories: 719

Calories from fat: 666 g

Total fat: 80 g

Saturated fat: 31 g

Cholesterol: 0 g    

Sodium: 3 mg

Total carbs: 4 g

Dietary fiber: 0 g

Sugar: 0 g

Protein: 11 g

Vitamin E:

Iron: 3.5 g

Pili Nut Background Information

Pili nuts come from Southeast Asia where they've been an integral part of the Filipino diet for centuries.

The "pili" distinction actually includes any nuts that come from trees of the genus Canarium. For the people of the Philippines, they are an essential source of both protein and fat.

Unlike some other nuts, pili nuts are rather large — each one ranging from an inch to three inches. In fact, looking at a pili nut is much like looking at a smallish avocado! Inside, once you peel off the fruit (which you can also eat), you’ll have the nut — similar to the pit of an avocado. But unlike an avocado, the pili nut core must also be cracked in order to get to the smaller, lighter colored edible portion of the nut.

Pili nuts are fairly new to the United States. Although they've been widely consumed by the people of the Philippines for centuries, it wasn’t until an American man from Alaska named Jason Thomas went to the Philippines and tried one that Americans got a taste of the pili as well. Thomas brought the nuts back to the U.S. after loving the taste and benefits they offer. Since then, he has made selling pili nuts around the world (and touting their many benefits) his life’s work.

The Benefits of Pili Nuts

Benefit #1: Excellent source of protein

As stated, Filipino people have been consuming pili nuts as a key source of protein for centuries. This nut isn’t just a standard source of protein either. In fact, it’s a great example of what’s called a “complete” protein. Complete proteins contain all nine of the amino acids that our bodies need but can’t produce on their own.

Individuals who eat a vegetarian or vegan diet will especially benefit from pili nuts’ high amount of protein. No meat need be consumed to get an excellent dose of complete and nutritious pili protein. Additionally, pili nuts are outstanding for those who are on high fat, low carb diets.

Benefit #2: Great source of magnesium

Pili nuts have more magnesium than any other type of nut. There are 86 mg in just one ounce. For an adult, that’s 20 percent of the recommended daily amount of magnesium. Unfortunately, only around 50 percent of Americans are getting their recommended magnesium dose every day.

So, what’s so great about magnesium? It’s absolutely essential for your diet, first of all. You can’t have regular blood pressure, a healthy beating heart, or hardy bones without it, in fact. Magnesium is also central to gene maintenance, nervous system regulation, protein formation, and energy creation.

Benefit #3: Reduces inflammation

While inflammation is good on one hand because it’s your body producing an immune response to heal wounds, infections, and other damage, it’s also one of the great scourges of the medical world. 

In fact, medical professionals and researchers are learning of an increasing number of illnesses that chronic inflammation can be linked to — depression, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, and arthritis to name a few. A food that can fight inflammation, then, is certainly not something to scoff at. 

Benefit #4: Super low carb (great for keto)

Want a nut that’s low carb? The pili nut’s your guy. That's because pili nuts are the lowest carb nut. Pili nuts contain, on average, 2 percent carbs. Per ounce, that’s only about one gram for a quarter-cup of nuts. On the other hand, nuts like macadamia nuts clock in at 4 grams of carbs per ounce, and cashews have a whopping 9 grams of carbs per ounce.

If you’re on a low carb diet like keto, this means pili nuts are for you. They even have a high fat content too. Each nut is made up of approximately 93 percent fat.

Benefit #5: Helps drop excess weight

If you’re looking to lose weight — whether on the keto diet or otherwise, pili nuts are your new best friend. Of course, their skill at helping drop pounds is largely due to their high fat, low protein ratio — exactly what keto encourages. 

That's because in the body, a keto diet of foods just like pili nuts can help your body go into ketosis. The process of ketosis, in turn, will force your body to burn stored fat — exactly what you want on a diet!

Of course, eating foods like pili nuts that have a lot of fat and protein will also help you feel fuller for longer. This appetite suppressant can come in ultra-handy when those 5pm hunger pangs start. Instead of buying something high in carbs and calories from the vending machine, you can just grab a handful of pili nuts! 

Benefit #6: Improves the look and feel of skin and hair

Many people struggle with dry, brittle skin and rough, irritated skin. Most people consider topical solutions to these problems, however.

What should really be addressed when managing skin and hair problems is what you’re eating. Vitamin E, for example, can do wonders for skin and hair. In fact, it’s often added to shampoos, conditioners, and other hair products. 

Vitamin E taken orally, however, (consumed in your diet) is much more effective at promoting smooth, soft hair and clear, nourished, and fresh-looking skin. Luckily, it’s a vitamin that is found in high quantities in pili nuts. So, if you want more beautiful skin and hair, you know what to eat!

Pili Nut Recipes

If you’ve never tried pili nuts before, you may be wondering: What recipes can I use pili nuts with? As they’re not exactly a staple of the Western diet yet, you may not have experience adding them to your dishes. 

Therefore, if you’re just starting out with pili nuts, here are a few suggestions for recipes that include them:

Pili Nut Considerations

  • Selection: Pili nuts are slightly expensive because they can be difficult to harvest and difficult to deshell (if you're buying them without the shells). They're also difficult to harvest and can only be found in select parts of the world, which also drives up the price.
  • Purchase: When buying pili nuts, you can choose to get them shelled or de-shelled. Either option is fine. Just keep in mind if you buy them with their shells on, these are extremely difficult nuts to crack — you’ll need a tool!
  • Storage: Store your pili nuts in a cool, dry place. They'll stay good in the cupboard for up to six months, or, to store them longer, keep them in the fridge.

Pili Nut Consumption Cautions

While pili nuts are certainly some of the best nuts where flavor and protein and carb amounts are concerned, there are still several things to keep you from overindulging right away. 

Caution #1: Allergies

Like other tree nuts, pili nuts can cause allergies. Signs and symptoms of a tree nuts allergy include difficulty swallowing, cramps and pain in the abdomen, nausea and vomiting, shortness of breath, and nasal congestion. Itching of the skin, throat, eyes, or mouth can also be a symptom.

Fortunately, tree nuts must be listed as allergens on the packaging of any products in the U.S. that includes them. If you have an allergy to other tree nuts, it’s best to avoid pili nuts as well until you’re sure that you aren’t allergic.

Caution #2: Hard Nuts to Crack

Literally! There are many nuts that are difficult to crack, but the pili nut takes the cake. Some even say it’s the world hardest nut. If you want to open one by hand, you’ll almost certainly require some sort of power tool (Filipinos use a machete-like tool called a bolo to do it). 

This is a good piece of information to have as you shop for pili nuts as they are available both shelled and de-shelled. Therefore, if you’re not up for the challenge of cracking these little guys, be sure to choose the “shelled” option!

For additional information on other nuts, check out our guide to the healthiest nuts you can eat!


Author: Faye C.

Published:  Dec. 13, 2019 

Faye is a guest contributor for SuperFat who writers professionally in the health and nutrition space.

Written by Faye C.

Published: December 13, 2019