Hazelnuts are a wonderful addition to the nut world. They are full of nutrients and possess a lot of health benefits, ranging from improving heart health, managing diabetes, fighting kidney stones, boosting energy levels, to preventing cancer. These nuts can be eaten in different ways, from raw to roasted forms. They are popularly combined with chocolate or processed to form products such as Nutella.
Botanical name: Corylus avellana
Other names: Cobnut, Cob, Filbert, turkish filbert, American hazelnut, European hazelnut, Chinese hazelnut.
Hazelnut is the seed of the fruit of hazelnut tree, Corylus avellana, which belongs to the botanical family Betulaceae. It usually reaches a height of about 2 to 4 meters. The seeds are enclosed in a hard and woody pericarp that is some how spherical in shape. Hazelnuts are now produced in most part of the world in large amounts. As of 2014, United States was the 4th largest producer of this nut, just behind Turkey, Italy, and Georgia.
The contents of hazelnut are similar to that of almonds, but it however surpasses almonds in calories, vitamins, and fats.
Raw hazelnuts are rich in fats, representing about 62% of their total content. They are also rich in proteins, containing about 14% of its total content. The fat content of hazelnuts is composed mainly of monounsaturated fat, which makes up 75%, followed by polyunsaturated fat (13%), then saturated fat (only 7%). A 100 gram serving of hazelnut provides up to 93% of the daily value for fat.
When it comes to minerals and vitamins, hazelnuts are a nutritional powerhouse. Just 100 gram serving of these nuts provides 100% of the daily requirement for vitamin E as well as 56% for thiamine. It is very rich in manganese, providing a whooping 294% of the daily value for this mineral. Only few foods can rival hazelnut when it comes to manganese.
Other vitamins and minerals contained in significant amounts include riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, folates, vitamin C, vitamin K, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc.
Oh! I forgot to mention its energy content. Just 100 grams of this wonderful nut provides up to 2629 kilojoules of energy. Hazelnuts have been known for their energy-giving ability for a long time. They provide so much amount of energy that with just a handful of hazelnuts (50 g), about 316 kcal of energy is provided, enough for an hour long physical exercise.
7 Benefits and medicinal uses of hazelnuts
- Prevents kidney stones
- Provides energy
- Manages diabetes
- Improve heart health
- Improve brain function
- Protect against cancer
- Good for the skin
The property of hazelnut in preventing kidney stones has been proved by a french phytotherapist. He suggested making hazelnuts a regular part of the diet of those suffering from renal lithiasis, mainly in cases of urate calculi (stones). Thus, the regular consumption of hazelnuts, preferably a handful every morning is highly beneficial for those willing to prevent kidney stones, and will possibly provide amazing results for those suffering from it.
There are some cases where the need for great amount of energy arises, and such cases can be favored by the consumption of hazelnut since it provides significantly high amounts of energy. Examples of this cases includes people just recovering from a debilitating disease, an athlete, youths, and even pregnant women.
As we have seen earlier, hazelnuts are very rich in manganese, a mineral that has been proven to protect against diet-induced diabetes through improving insulin secretion (1). Also, these nuts contain significant amounts of magnesium, whose occurrence in low amounts has been documented in diabetic patients. This made scientists all over the world to conduct studies in order to find the relationship between low magnesium levels and diabetes.
In 2007, Larsson and Wolk, conducted a research to evaluate this relationship. They found magnesium intake to be inversely associated with incidence of type 2 diabetes. This made them to suggest the consumption of magnesium-rich foods such as whole grains and nuts as a possible way to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes (2).
A research published in the Journal of Clinical Lipidology, found the consumption of hazelnut-enriched diet to lower lipid and lipo-protein content of the blood. It also improved endothelial function, and prevent LDL oxidation and inflammatory markers (3).
All the above are great cardioprotective effects. Moreover, the fats in hazelnut are mainly unsaturated ones, the type that is beneficial to the heart. It also contains magnesium, an essential mineral for the heart, which is important for maintaining a normal heart beat.
Hazelnuts are rich in brain-boosting minerals and vitamins. Vitamin E which is contained in these nuts in rich amounts, can protect brain cells from oxidative damage caused by free radicals. This is very important in preventing cognitive decline as the brain ages.
Thiamine is also present in hazelnuts in significant amounts. This vitamin plays a key role in maintaining brain function, and its deficiency may lead to several brain disorders. Also, these nuts contain folates or vitaminB9, whose deficiency has been linked with cognitive decline and some forms of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease. Apart from improving brain function, folates also prevent neural tube defects such as spina bifida and anencephaly.
Hazelnuts are a rich source of antioxidants. From vitamin E, vitamin C, to manganese; these antioxidants make them a good cancer-fighting food. Vitamin E has been labelled by many a “cancer preventing supplement”. A research has found it to be very helpful in reducing the risk for lung, prostate, colon, and breast cancer (4). In addition to preventing cancer, vitamin E also prevents the disintegration of red blood cells. Hazelnut oil is especially notable for its high vitamin E content.
Hazelnut consumption is good for the well-being of both your skin and hair. Again, its vitamin E content protects the skin against the harmful effects of ultraviolet rays. It helps fight premature aging, reduce skin inflammation, and prevent cancer. Many other findings have attributed vitamin E to clearing dark spots, treating scars, clearing wrinkles, and fighting acne.
Using hazelnut oil is a wonderful way to benefits from its effects on the skin. Many recommend rubbing it directly to the skin to prevent dryness.