According to one study, hazelnuts have one of the highest proanthocyanidins (PAC) contents among superfoods. Studies show that the antioxidant capabilities of PACs are 20 times more powerful than vitamin C and 50 times more potent than vitamin E. Here are some more benefits of this nut. (Read: Health benefits of walnuts, cashew nuts, almonds, pistachios)
A rich source of healthy fats – Hazelnuts contain healthy monounsaturated fats (79% of total fat), and have a lower proportion of saturated fat (4% of total fat).
Good for heart and digestion – With their burnished brown coats, a 30g serve of hazelnuts provides more than 10% of the recommended dietary intake of fibre. A high-fibre diet can benefit heart and digestive health and help manage blood glucose levels. Eating more fibre can also assist with weight management by keeping you feeling full for longer.
Protects against cancer – These nuts are a particularly rich source of antioxidants, especially the hazelnut skins. Protective plant compounds such as phenolic acids and flavanols may help to protect against chronic disease like cancer.
Excellent for vegetarians – Hazelnuts contain around 15g of protein per 100g so are good for vegetarians and those wanting to reduce their intake of animal protein foods. Arginine, a protein building block, is converted to nitric oxide in the body, which causes blood vessels to dilate and remain elastic. This may play a role in maintaining a healthy blood pressure.
Reduces risk of heart disease – Hazelnuts contain significant amounts of vitamin E. A 30g serve provides 45% of the recommended daily intake of this vitamin. Vitamin E is an important fat-soluble vitamin and antioxidant which may help reduce the risk of heart disease.
Ensures normal body functions – A handful of hazelnuts provides 15% of recommended daily intake of copper and 21% of intake of manganese. While needed in small amounts, these trace elements play an important role in health. Copper is part of several different enzymes in the body. It helps the body use iron and is important for nerve function. Manganese is involved in bone formation and carbohydrate metabolism. They can also act as antioxidants, protecting cell membranes from harmful free radicals.
Good for newborn’s health – A 30g serve of hazelnuts contains 17% the RDI for folate. Folate contributes to tissue growth during pregnancy and so is needed by mums-to-be. (Read: Why women need folic acid during pregnancy)
Improves blood cholesterol and triglycerides – A diet containing 40g of hazelnuts each day has been shown to improve blood fats better than a low-fat diet, resulting in a significant fall in triglycerides and cholesterol, and an increase in the ‘good’ HDL cholesterol. Another study has found that eating 1g of hazelnuts per kilogram of body weight per day reduced the oxidation of ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol which can stick to artery walls obstructing blood vessels.
Tips to buy the best quality hazelnuts
When choosing nuts, look for crisp, plump kernels. If buying hazelnuts in shell, select clean nuts free from cracks and holes. To keep nuts in the best condition, store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer. Nuts can be refrigerated for up to 4 months and frozen for up to 6 months. Bring nuts back to room temperature before eating.
Ways to include hazelnuts in your diet
- Sprinkle roughly chopped hazelnuts on your breakfast cereal.
- Crush hazelnuts and add to tomato based pasta sauces.
- Mix with berries and add to your favourite muffin recipe.
- Hazelnut meal or ground hazelnuts make a great gluten free cake or torte.
- Top chicken or fish with a mixture of finely chopped hazelnuts, breadcrumbs and your favourite freshly chopped herbs.