Hail To Hazelnuts

The season of hazelnuts is coming soon.  It is during the late fall and winter months when you will soon see hazelnuts in a bulk bin or else packaged shelled or unshelled.  Popular around the holidays hazelnuts come from hazel trees, a member of the birch family.  Known by the English as a hazelnut, they are sometimes called filberts when a long time ago French settlers gave them this name because this is when the nuts would begin to ripen around August 22, St. Philbert Day. 

These small, sphere-shaped nuts have been held in high regard over the centuries with the Chinese considering them a sacred form of nourishment and the Greeks used them medicinally to cure coughs and colds.  Hazelnuts were even seen as a source of wisdom, knowledge, and fertility by the Celtics.

To this day, hazelnuts are still celebrated for their nutrient power which is why hazelnuts can be part of a healthy diet. 

Here is how a handful of hazelnuts are good for your health:

·         Improves cholesterol levels

Studies have shown regular consumption of hazelnuts can lower cholesterol levels improving cholesterol health.

·         Aids in weight control

Daily consumption of 30 grams or one ounce (about 20) of hazelnuts for 12 weeks improves overall diet quality without any notable changes in body weight or body fat percentage,.  Even though one ounce of hazelnuts contains 176 calories, the participants in the according to research in overweight/obese individuals study did not gain weight compared to other participants who did not eat hazelnuts.

·         High in proanthocyanidins

Out of all tree nuts, hazelnuts have the distinction of having the highest proanthocyanidin content.  Proanthocyanidins are compounds known for contributing astringent flavor to foods which may help reduce the risk of blood clotting and urinary tract infections.

·         Healthy nutritional profile

Hazelnuts pack a very impressive healthy nutrient content:

A one-ounce serving (about 20 hazelnuts) contains the following:

·         Fiber – 3 grams or 11% of the daily value

·         Vitamin E – 4 micrograms or 21% of the daily value

·         Thiamin – 0.2 milligrams or 12% of the daily value

·         Magnesium – 46 milligrams or 11% of the daily value

·         Copper – 0.5 milligrams or 24% of the daily value

·         Manganese – 2 milligrams or 86% of the daily value

·         Protein – 4 grams or 7 % of the daily value

As you can see, hazelnuts are particularly high in copper and manganese.  Copper is needed for iron absorption and manganese is necessary for bone formation, metabolism, and vitamin absorption. 

·         Healthy fats

 Hazelnuts contain heart-healthy fats protecting the heart.  They are high in both healthy polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats and low in unhealthier saturated fats.  Hazelnuts are a good source of oleic acid which may help to lower levels of bad cholesterol, LDL, and raise good cholesterol and HDL. 

Storing and using hazelnuts

To get the most out of hazelnuts and to maximize their shelf life, store them in a cool, dry area.  Once the package is open place them in a sealed airtight container or place the original package in a resealable heavy-duty freezer bag and be placed in the refrigerator to maintain freshness.    Shelled hazelnuts can be placed in the freezer in an airtight bag where they will stay fresh for a year or more. 

Hazelnuts can be incorporated into your diet in several ways – add crunch to salads, mix together with Brussel sprouts or green bean saute, or use them in a pesto combined with basil or spinach.