Health Benefits of Nuts: Hazelnuts

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Let me starting on a hilarious note this week. On different occasions, I have tried to learn sewing, but I find the craft extremely difficult to grasp. Every day my sewing machine stares at me around the house and the only times I touch it is when I want to oil it so it won’t rust. When visitors who know how to sew visit me, they use it. I’ve made several attempts to give it away, but my family keeps convincing me to keep it because the quality is much better than what’s currently on the market. After my last attempt at learning, I decided not to push anymore. Eating healthy meals isn’t something you try and then give up like my futile quest to learn sewing, it’s something you do and forge, no matter what.

There are meals you hate (I know people who hate eating fruits and vegetables) but they are the ones that play a major role in achieving optimal health and well-being. Even if it means you squeeze your face from eating them, do it. Your body will thank you.

I’m going to discuss hazelnuts. Hazelnuts (sometimes called filberts or filberts) are nuts of any tree of the genus Corylus, especially Corylus avellana. Filberts was the name given to the hazel and tree in England when it was first introduced by French settlers. It bears the name of Saint Philibert, because its day (August 22) regularly coincided with the dates of ripening of the nuts. The English later changed the name to hazelnut and in 1981 the Filbert Commission of Oregon decided to promote the name as production in the United States grew. It is mainly grown in Turkey, Italy, Spain and the United States. Hazelnut has always been the signature ingredient of Nutella, a brand of sweet hazelnut spread.

They grow in protective husks, in clusters on trees and when they ripen the nuts fall from the husks onto the ground, where they can be harvested. Like other nuts, they are rich in nutrients and have a high content of protein, fat, vitamins and minerals. They are a rich source of nutrition as they contain unsaturated fatty acids, protein, fiber and phytochemicals. They also contain micronutrients such as calcium, magnesium, potassium and selenium, as well as polyphenols and B-complex vitamins. They contain alpha-tocopherol, a type of vitamin E rich in antioxidants which reduces the cancer risk by killing free radicals in the body responsible for breaking down cellular DNA.

Hazelnuts can be pressed to produce hazelnut oil, which is used as cooking oil in place of canola or olive oil. The nut can be ground into flour which is used as a gluten-free alternative to wheat flour.

Some of the health benefits

Support healthy bowel movements: Hazelnuts are a good source of dietary fiber. Eating plenty of fiber promotes regular bowel movements and helps prevent constipation.

Loaded with Antioxidants: Hazelnuts provide significant amounts of antioxidants. Antioxidants protect the body from oxidative stress which can damage cell structure and promote aging, cancer and heart disease. The most abundant antioxidants in hazelnuts are known as phenolic compounds. They have been proven to help lower blood cholesterol and inflammation. They may also benefit heart health and protect against cancer. An eight-week study showed that eating hazelnuts with or without the skin significantly reduced oxidative stress compared to not eating hazelnuts. However, the majority of the antioxidants present are concentrated in the skin of the nut.

Lowers Cholesterol: Eating hazelnuts can help lower cholesterol. A 2013 study found that a diet high in hazelnuts decreased participants’ low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels. This type of cholesterol can increase the risk of heart problems. The researchers concluded that the best way to reap the health benefits of hazelnuts was to eat them every day. Results of a 2016 review also indicated that hazelnuts may reduce harmful cholesterol levels. The researchers also noted no increase in the participants’ body weight. This may alleviate some concerns that eating high-calorie nuts could lead to weight gain.

Improves insulin sensitivity: Eating a nut mix that includes hazelnuts can help improve insulin sensitivity. A small 2011 trial found that consuming a 30g nut mix containing 7.5g of hazelnuts daily improved participants’ insulin sensitivity over 12 weeks. Decreased insulin sensitivity plays a role in the development of type 2 diabetes.

Linked to Lower Cancer Rates: Among other nuts such as pecans and pistachios, hazelnuts have the highest concentration of a class of antioxidants called proanthocyanidins. Some test-tube and animal studies have shown that proanthocyanidins can help prevent and treat certain types of cancers. They are thought to protect against oxidative stress. Additionally, hazelnuts are high in vitamin E, another powerful antioxidant that has shown possible protection against cell damage that could cause or promote cancer. Similarly, hazelnuts provide 87% of the RDA (required daily intake) for manganese, which has been shown to aid the functions of specific enzymes that may reduce oxidative damage and decrease cancer risk. A few test-tube studies have shown that hazelnut extract may be beneficial in the treatment of cervical, liver, breast, and colon cancer. Additionally, an animal study using a hazelnut skin extract product resulted in a decreased risk of colon cancer after the eight-week study period.

Good for bone health: Magnesium and calcium are necessary for the health of your bones and joints. The extra magnesium that is stored by your bones comes to your rescue in the event of a deficiency. In addition, they contain manganese which is ideal for bone growth and strength.

  • Provides a surprising lift for the nervous system.
  • It is heat friendly
  • Ideal for the skin.
  • Improved muscle growth.

Scientific studies

In a study titled “Hazelnut Modulates Neurological Behavior and Improves Age-Induced Oxidative Stress and Caspase-3-Mediated Apoptosis in Mice,” by

Olofinnade et al conclude that hazelnut cultivars have beneficial effects on the brains of aged mice; suggesting a possible role in the prevention or management of age-related neurodegenerative changes.

In a study titled “Effects of Hazelnut Consumption on Blood Lipids and Body Weight: A Systematic Review and Bayesian Meta-Analysis,” by Perna et al, the conclusion is that a diet enriched with hazelnuts lowers cholesterol in low-density lipoprotein (LDL-C) cholesterol significantly and shows a tendency to lower total cholesterol, without lowering high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C); while triglycerides and body mass index (BMI) remain substantially unchanged. These data show a potentially favorable effect on the prevention of cardiovascular disease (CVD).

In a study titled “Hazelnut consumption improves testicular antioxidant function and sperm quality in young and aged male rats”, by Kara et al, the result showed that the diet supplemented with hazelnut improved histopathological variables, sperm quality, seminal plasma and plasma oxidative stress, seminal plasma levels of vitamin E and plasma testosterone.

You can eat them raw, roasted, mixed with other nuts, chopped, and added to your cooking or baking.

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