Discover the Unexpected Health Benefits of Hazelnuts
There is more to humble hazelnuts than meets the eye. Not only are they highly nutritious, but scientists are discovering that they also have other health benefits
Source: The Amazing Healing Powers of Nature, Reader’s Digest
Get to know hazelnuts: health and nutritional benefits
Think of hazelnuts only as part of chocolaty treats? Think again. Hazelnuts, also called filberts, have a variety of health, nutrition and medicinal benefits; they can treat high cholesterol, help prevent cardiovascular disease and are a good source of protein, minerals and vitamins. In the future, hazelnuts may help to prevent and treat cancer.
Hazelnuts at home: harvesting the health benefits
To reap the benefits of hazelnuts, you can simply eat hazelnuts’or use them in cooking‘raw or roasted. Studies have shown that the beneficial omega-9 fatty acids and antioxidants remain virtually unaltered by roasting. Retain the paper-like ‘skin,’ as that is the part with the highest concentration of antioxidants.
Who are hazelnuts good for?
Monounsaturated fatty acids make up 50 to 70 percent of the kernel; this gives the nuts a fairly high kilojoule value of 8 calories (33 kilojoules) per nut, so eating large amounts could be fattening. If you are trying to lose weight, hazelnuts may not be the best option for you. Also bear in mind that many people have nut allergies and hazelnuts are a common trigger.
Hazelnuts are antioxidants
The unsaturated fats in hazelnuts are omega-9 fatty acids, also found in olive oil. Like omega-3 fatty acids (provided in abundance by oily fish) these unsaturated fats have a beneficial effect on cholesterol. When cholesterol builds up in the blood, it is oxidized by free radicals to form a plaque that can impede the flow of the blood and, in turn, cause heart disease. Antioxidants present in hazelnuts limit this process and further reduce plaque formation.
Hazelnuts are high in fibre
Hazelnuts contain other beneficial nutritional elements besides monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acids and antioxidants. For example, fibre typically accounts for between 9 and 10 percent of the hazelnut’s mass’and diets rich in fibre can reduce the risk of colon cancer and curb appetite, according to a large body of research.
Hazelnuts can help you heal
Hazelnuts are also rich in arginine, an amino acid that plays many important roles in the body, including helping wounds to heal. Furthermore, arginine is a vasodilator, which means that it relaxes and widens blood vessels and can consequently reduce blood pressure.
Modern research and studies on hazelnuts
A comprehensive 2011 study of hazelnuts at Virginia State University in the United States investigated the effect of hazelnut extract on human colon cancer cells in the laboratory. It found that ground hazelnuts had potent ‘antiproliferation’ effects’in other words, they could stop cancer cells from multiplying.
In 2004, researchers at the University of Istanbul, Turkey, studied the effects of hazelnuts on rabbits fed a high-cholesterol diet. The team found that not only did the hazelnuts reduce the formation of plaque but also their unsaturated fatty acid content markedly improved the rabbits’ blood lipid profile’the ratio of healthy to unhealthy fats in the blood’which also helped limit cholesterol build-up. A 2011 study, this time involving humans, at the University of Otago, New Zealand, found similar results, and the researchers concluded that hazelnuts ‘can be incorporated into the usual diet as a means of reducing cardiovascular disease risk.’
Did you know?
‘ Hazelnut skins have, weight-for-weight, 9 times the antioxidant capability of dark chocolate and 25 times that of blackberries.
‘ Hazelnuts can come from any of the 14 species of hazel tree, the most widely cultivated of which is the common hazel (Corylus avellana).