It’s not breaking news that tree nuts are some of the most nutrient-rich snacks you can choose to add to your diet, and in a world filled with overly fatty, preservative-filled, downright harmful snack options, nuts like hazelnuts are filling, delicious and nutritious. Sometimes called filbert nuts, hazelnuts are a particularly good option because these marble-sized superfoods pack a potent nutritional punch.
There is some reluctance to enjoy nuts due to fear over their fat and calories. But when enjoyed in proper serving sizes, nuts can provide filling protein, fiber, unsaturated fats, and many other important vitamins and minerals. Hazelnuts contain compounds that can battle heart disease and diabetes, boost brain function, and even help you lose weight.
Hazelnuts are a particularly versatile nut because of all of the different ways they can be used. They can be enjoyed raw, roasted, in a paste or as an ingredient in countless healthy dishes. They’re commonly found in some of our guilty pleasures like Nutella (a hazelnut spread) and added to chocolate. Hazelnut flavoring is commonly used for coffee and pastries, as well as a topping and garnish for desserts and savory dishes.
But if you’re looking to enjoy the roasted, earthy flavor of a hazelnut without the added sugars, there are many ways you can do that! Between hazelnut spreads, butters, oils, flour and more, there are a number of ways to get the delicious and nutritious elements of hazelnuts into your diet. And that’s a good thing, because hazelnuts really are beneficial treats.
4 Major Health Benefits of Hazelnuts
1. Promote Heart Health
Tree nuts are a well-known combatant in the fight against heart disease, and hazelnuts are no exception. There are a handful of vitamins and minerals found in hazelnuts that promote heart health. Aside from being a great source of fiber, they contain a large amount of monounsaturated fatty acids, which help to reduce LDL cholesterol (the “bad” kind) and increase HDL cholesterol (the “good” kind).
Studies conducted by the American Society for Nutrition and published in the European Journal of Nutrition showed that diets high in hazelnuts and other tree nuts resulted in lowered LDL cholesterol, reduced inflammation and improved blood lipids. The American Heart Association also recommends that, for optimum heart health, the majority of the daily fats that individuals should consume should be monounsaturated fats, which are the same found in hazelnuts.
Hazelnuts also contain a considerable amount of magnesium, which helps to regulate the balance of calcium and potassium and is crucial to blood pressure.
2. Help Manage Diabetes
When planning a diabetic diet plan, it’s important to focus on choosing monounsaturated fats over trans fats or saturated fats. Hazelnuts are a great source of these good fats, and eating recommended portions of hazelnuts as a substitute for more damaging,”bad” fat foods is a great way to ensure you gain the benefits of good fats without worrying about gaining additional weight.
In a 2015 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, an interesting result occurred regarding how diabetics reacted when supplementing their daily diets with tree nuts. Like other studies, it was concluded that individuals introduced to heightened nut consumption in their diets experienced lowered cholesterol levels. The surprising variable was that higher nut doses provided a stronger effect on diabetics, doing more to lower blood lipids than for non-diabetics.
Diabetics with high cholesterol should consider adding hazelnuts and other tree nuts to their daily diets. Proven to improve glucose intolerance, hazelnuts’ high levels of manganese are also helpful in the fight against diabetes when used as a diet supplement. Hazelnuts are also a great source of magnesium, which has been proven to decrease the risk for diabetes.
3. Filled with Antioxidants
Hazelnuts have many vitamins and minerals that are powerful antioxidants. Antioxidants wipe out damaging free radicals in the body and help prevent major disease and illness like cancer and heart disease. Hazelnuts are a great source of vitamin E, which helps to fight aging and disease by reducing inflammation. One serving of hazelnuts can also provide almost an entire day’s amount of manganese, which is not an antioxidant but is a huge contributor to enzymes that are. Hazelnuts also have the highest content of proanthocyanidins (PACs), a class of polyphenols that give foods like red wine and dark chocolate their “astringent mouth feel” compared to other nuts.
Studies have shown how PACs have a significantly higher level of antioxidant activity compared to others like vitamin C and vitamin E, which only work in certain environments. They also are shown to fight aging and help stave off disease. PACs are also found in cranberries and known for their ability to treat urinary tract infections, which is why it’s common to drink cranberry juice at the onset of a UTI. To get the most antioxidants from hazelnuts, it’s best to consume them with the skins present.
4. Boost the Brain
Hazelnuts should be considered a brain-boosting powerhouse. They’re full of elements that can improve brain and cognitive function and help prevent degenerative diseases later in life. Because of high levels of vitamin E, manganese, thiamine, folate, and fatty acids, a diet supplemented with hazelnuts can help keep your brain sharp and working at its best, making hazelnuts excellent brain foods.
Higher levels of vitamin E coincide with less cognitive decline as individuals age and can also have a major role in preventing and treating diseases of the mind like Alzheimer’s, dementia and Parkinson’s. Manganese has been proven to play a major role in the brain activity connected to cognitive function as well. Thiamine is commonly referred to as the “nerve vitamin” and plays a role in nerve function throughout the body, which plays a key role in cognitive function. It’s also why thiamine deficiency can be damaging to the brain. The high levels of fatty-acids and protein help the nervous system and also help to combat depression.
In a recent study published in Nutritional Neuroscience, hazelnuts were tested for their neuroprotective qualities. When provided as a dietary supplement, hazelnuts were able to improve healthy aging, improve memory and hinder anxiety. Hazelnuts are also folate foods. Known for its importance for spine and brain development during pregnancy, folate also helps slow brain-related degenerative disorders in older adults.
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