Compared to those well-accepted peanuts, pecans and almonds, hazelnuts often hide behind the curtain. However, the nutritional qualifications of hazelnuts should not go unaccounted for or be dimmed. bistroMD is shining the spotlight on hazelnut nutrition and health benefits!
What Are Hazelnuts?
Recognizably, hazelnut is the nut of the hazel tree largely grown in the Northern Hemisphere and widespread across North America, Europe and Asia. At the beginning of their maturity, the nuts are green and turn brown once ready for harvest, generally during September and October or as early as August. Hazelnut, also known as filbert or cob nut, has a delicate flavor with a slightly bitter outside skin. The nuts are typically consumed raw, roasted and used commonly in desserts, as the nut pairs well with chocolate - the combination of chocolate and hazelnut makes the widely popular Nutella spread!
In general, nuts are a significant fat source. And though fat is typically tied to "unhealthy," natural fat sources in the absence of additives have been shown to have a positive outcome on health. Specifically, incorporating monounsaturated (MUFAs) and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and reducing saturated fat intake. As noticed below, hazelnuts provide an ample supply of fat and almost equal of amounts of carbohydrate and protein:
*Adapted from USDA's National Nutrient Database
Verifying from the graph above, hazelnuts are noticeably packed with calories for just a small, one-ounce portion. But unlike most energy-dense products (often convenience snacks such as chips and pastries) that offer nothing more than calories, hazelnuts further boast in nutrients and are a rich source of vitamin E and B vitamins and a valuable source of potassium, calcium and magnesium.
5 Health Benefits of Hazelnuts
1. Promotes Heart Health
Related to their monounsaturated fat content, hazelnuts may reduce the risk of cardiovascular (or heart) disease. Specifically, hazelnuts contain the MUFA called oleic acid. Oleic acid has shown to reduce "bad" or LDL cholesterol while increasing "good" or HDL cholesterol. A well-managed lipid profile lessens the risk of stroke and coronary artery disease. Adequate potassium intake further fosters good heart health, as a deficiency can result to constricted blood vessels, thus increasing blood pressure.
2. Regulates Blood Sugars
In addition to heart health, oleic acid can also help manage blood glucose or sugars. A diet rich in this healthful fat has shown to control fasting blood sugars and improve insulin sensitivity. Instead of focusing solely on carbohydrate and sugar consumption for diabetes management, treatment should also be directed towards the total diet, including oleic acid and healthful fats.
3. Supports Strong Bones
Calcium is well-known for its role in bone health and high content in milk. Individuals living with lactose intolerance, though, eliminate milk from the diet to manage the condition. Calcium found in hazelnuts allows individuals, including those with lactose intolerance, to gain the benefits of the bone-strengthening mineral.
4. Offers Individuals a Gluten-Free Alternative
For individuals suffering with Celiac disease, eliminating gluten from the diet is the sole treatment for diminishing associated, unpleasant gastrointestinal symptoms. Unfortunately, though, gluten is a well-known component found in the food supply. Since hazelnuts are naturally gluten-free, they are an excellent alternative for individuals living with Celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity.
5. Slows Down Aging
Though vitamin E cannot single-handedly slow down the aging process, it certainly plays a role! Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that helps fight against damaging free radicals exposed in the body. Cells harmed by free radicals can not only increase the risk of chronic diseases, but compromise skin cells and youthfulness.