With hazelnuts as part of your daily diet, optimal health isn’t such a hard nut to crack. Here are five science-backed benefits of this popular snack and versatile food ingredient
Nuts are a nutrient-dense food that contain healthy fats, protein, fiber, minerals and phenolic compounds. They are thought to offer wide-ranging cardiovascular and metabolic benefits and can be readily integrated into a balanced diet.
The hazelnut, which comes from the Corylus tree of the Betulaceae family, offers a sweet flavor and the flexibility of being eaten raw, roasted or as a paste in ground form.
It’s considered an excellent anti-inflammatory and hypolipidemic treat, being the second richest source of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) among nuts and being chock full of vitamin E, magnesium, copper, selenium, L-arginine, folate, fiber and polyphenols, to name a few. Here are five evidence-based benefits of hazelnuts.
1. Antioxidant Protection
Hazelnuts have one of the highest oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) scores of any nut, signifying outstanding levels of antioxidants. These chemicals protect the body from oxidative stress, which can damage cells, accelerate aging and promote disease.
As testament to their antioxidant prowess, a hazelnut-enriched diet modulates oxidative stress and inflammatory gene expression without causing weight gain. Compounds of the tiny, mighty nut have been found to have antioxidant and antimicrobial effects.
Hazelnuts also contain the antioxidant vitamin E, which some studies indicate may help shield the body from cell damage linked to cancer.
2. Antiobesity Strategy
Proteins derived from hazelnuts are an excellent source of bioactive peptides. A 2019 study purified and identified antiobesity peptides from the nut, finding that the novel synthetic pentapeptide had potential antiobesity effects and may help combat metabolic conditions.
In a European study involving over 370,000 men and women ranging from 25 to 70 years old, higher intake of nuts was associated with reduced weight gain along with a lower risk of becoming obese or overweight.
3. Improved Cardiovascular Health
The MUFAs and antioxidants in hazelnuts have been tied to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. In an intervention diet lasting up to 84 days with a dosage of hazelnuts ranging from 29 to 69 grams a day, it emerged that a hazelnut-enriched diet can decrease LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol, without substantially changing HDL cholesterol, triglycerides and body mass index (BMI).
According to separate research, a high-fat, high-MUFA hazelnut diet proved superior to a low-fat diet in terms of creating favorable changes in lipid profiles, therefore positively affecting coronary heart disease risk in the subjects.
The high fatty acid content as well as fiber, antioxidants, potassium and magnesium, in the nuts also seemed to help normalize blood pressure levels. In a randomized study, the combination of hazelnut and cocoa acted in a synergistic and protective way on the cardiovascular system.
4. Lower Blood Sugar Levels
Largely due to their micro and macronutrient profiles, nuts are believed to help control blood glucose levels. They are low in available carbs, offer a healthy fatty acid profile and are high in fiber, plant protein and magnesium. In a study that combined hazelnuts with walnuts and almonds for metabolic syndrome patients, the results also reflected reduced fasting insulin levels.
5. Potential Use Against Cancer
The high concentration of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals along with other nutrients in hazelnuts may also give the nut some anticancer action.
In a study, the nuts’ shell extract provided antioxidant effects and cytotoxic activity against human cancer cell lines. The cytotoxic activity relies on the presence of the neolignans (balanophonin), and phenol derivatives (gallic acid), showing a pro-apoptotic effect on the tested cell lines,” the researchers wrote.
Results from a separate study suggested a potential use of hazelnut extracts against cervical cancer, hepatocarcinoma and breast cancer.
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