Hazelnuts are a tree nut native to the eastern half of North America. Hazelnut trees are relatively easy to grow and begin producing nuts within 4-6 years of being planted.
The nuts themselves are relatively small—about the size of a large marble—and round. Fresh hazelnuts are crunchy, but can be ground into a creamy paste. They have a rich flavor that is still notable in recipes with other bold flavors, including chocolate.
In addition to providing a quick source of energy and an easy source of plant-based protein, hazelnuts offer a variety of other health benefits.
Here are some of the many ways you might benefit from adding hazelnuts into a healthy diet:
Improve Heart Health
Hazelnuts are a source of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s have a number of heart-healthy benefits and have been shown to reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
In addition to their omega-3 content, hazelnuts are also packed with antioxidants that protect the body from oxidative stress that can contribute to hypertension. They contain high amounts of phenolic compounds, which help your heart stay healthy by reducing cholesterol and inflammation.
Reduce Cancer Risk
Oxidative stress may increase your risk of developing certain types of cancer. Manganese superoxide dismutase—one of the antioxidant enzymes found in hazelnuts—helps decrease oxidative stress and may help reduce your risk of developing cancer.
Hazelnuts also contain vitamin E, which helps protect cells against the types of cellular damage that can lead to cancer.
Finally, hazelnuts are a key source of proanthocyanidins. Proanthocyanidins are chemical compounds thought to help reduce the risk of cancer. In test tube and animal studies, they prevented and treated certain types of cancer. Further studies are needed to see if the same results hold true for humans, but the initial findings are promising.
Hazelnuts provide a cholesterol-free energy source. They’re packed with healthy fats, including omega-3s, which can be good for your heart.
Hazelnuts are also packed with the following key nutrients:
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin B6
Nutrients per Serving
One package (50 g) of hazelnuts contains:
- Calories: 314
- Fat: 30.4 grams
- Cholesterol: 0 milligrams
- Sodium: 0 milligrams
- Carbohydrates: 8.35 grams
- Fiber: 4.85 grams
- Sugar: 2.71 grams
- Protein: 7.5 grams
Nuts are up to 80% fat. While most of the fats in hazelnuts are unsaturated fats, which can be good for you in moderation, fats have about twice the calories per gram as carbs or proteins.
These calories can add up quickly if you’re eating handfuls of hazelnuts as a snack. That’s why it’s important to be mindful of portion sizes. Consider measuring out your hazelnuts into small portions rather than grabbing an entire bag of nuts. This will help ensure you eat only what you intend to eat.
It’s also important to keep in mind that many of the healthy advantages to eating hazelnuts can be cancelled out if they’re coated in unhealthy dips and seasonings. If you’re looking to eat hazelnuts for their health benefits, steer clear of chocolate-covered or salted hazelnuts and eat them as close as possible to the way they came off the tree.
How to Prepare Hazelnuts
Fresh hazelnuts can be cracked open with a nutcracker and the small seed within can be eaten raw. However, to really benefit from adding hazelnuts to your diet, you can try incorporating them into your cooking and baking. Their bold flavor still stands out when cooked with other flavorful foods, and they pair particularly well with chocolate, figs, plums, bananas, and caramel.
Some delicious foods you can make with hazelnuts include: