Hazelnuts are a rich and flavorsome nut grown predominantly in Turkey, which is where we source ours. They are a true nut and the fruit of the small deciduous Hazel tree (Corylus). They are a member of the birch family however some separate them into a plant family all their own. They have some variations within the species including the Cobnut and Filbert nut which are individual by their shape and texture. Hazelnuts are delicious raw, roasted or made into a paste. They are popular in sweet dishes and are well known for the liquor – Frangelico.
Unlike other fruiting trees - Hazels bloom and pollinate in the middle of winter and are ready for harvesting mid-autumn when the nuts and leaves naturally fall from the trees. Most growers wait till the nuts have already fallen to the ground rather than using machines to shake the trees. They do however at times use mechanical rakes to collect the nuts from the ground beneath the hazels.
Filbert nuts are believed to have received their name (steeped in religion) from the feast day of St Philbert, a French saint. The feast falls on the 20th of August each year which also happens to be the peak time for hazel harvesting. It was the people who started to apply the saint's name to this humble round tree nut!
Ancient folklore suggests that hazelnuts have mystical powers. The branches were used as dousing rods or divining rods to assist in locating underground springs and hidden treasure. In the Celtic tradition, the Hazelnut tree is known for its concentrated wisdom and poetic inspiration. Legend has it that 9 hazel trees grew around a sacred pool, and the nuts would drop into the pool transforming the waters that were home to the Salmon (revered by the ancient druids as wisdom keepers). The hazelnut tree is the quintessential Celtic tree because of its legendary position at the heart of the otherworld (a tree of life). (1)
Hazelnuts are incredibly nutritious and sustaining (containing a good amount of protein and fiber). They are packed full of healthy fats, antioxidants and an abundance of vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin E, Manganese and Copper, offering many health benefits similar to those of your other favorite nuts.
According to the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), Hazelnuts have a very low glycaemic load. They are also very low in cholesterol and sodium and they have a macronutrient ratio of 81% Fat, 8% protein and 11% Carbohydrate. They are a good source of Vitamin E (a fat-soluble vitamin) and Copper and a very good source of Manganese. The key nutrient values below are based on a standard serving of around 28g, a handful. (2) (3)
Calories: 177 kcal
Protein: 4.2 grams
Fat: 17.2 grams
Carbs: 4.7 grams (half of which is from fiber)
Manganese: 1.7mg (87% of the RDI)
Copper: 0.5mg (24%)
Magnesium: 46.1mg (12%)
Phosphorus: 81.9mg (8%)
Iron: 1.3mg (7%)
Potassium: 192mg (5%)
Zinc: 0.7mg (5%)
Vitamin E: 4.2mg (21%)
Thiamine (B1): 0.2mg (12%)
Vitamin B6: 0.2mg (8%)
Folate (B9): 31.9mcg (8%)
Vitamin K: 4.0mcg (5%)
Tree nuts are one of the most nutritious snacks you can eat, and hazelnuts are packed with heart-healthy, brain-boosting nutrients. Some people are still somewhat reluctant to enjoy snacking on nuts due to their fear around the fat and calorie content. We now live in an age where we understand that quality fats are essential for our health and wellbeing and the calorie content for such foods does not equate to weight on the body necessarily! (4) (5)
Heart and blood healthy
The healthy fats (found mostly in the form of monounsaturated fatty acids), antioxidants, dietary fiber and minerals like potassium and magnesium have all been shown to offer great benefit to the health of your heart and blood. Hazelnuts can aid in lowering LDL cholesterol, inflammation and triglycerides also normalizing blood pressure levels and increasing HDL “good” cholesterol. Triglycerides are fats or lipids found in the blood and when high (alongside high LDL cholesterol and other markers) can negatively impact your heart and overall health.
Best eaten whole and unroasted - Hazelnuts are loaded with antioxidants and found predominantly in the brown skin. Hazelnuts contain high levels of Vitamin E as well as Phenolic compounds called Proanthocyanidins or PAC's (known for giving certain foods that astringent mouthfeel). These powerful antioxidants protect the body from oxidative stress which can damage the structure of your cells and promote early aging and major diseases like cancer and heart disease. These antioxidants are also known for decreasing LDL cholesterol levels and inflammation which is also linked to many, if not all chronic conditions. Hazelnuts offer over 80% of your daily needs for manganese and although it is not an antioxidant itself, manganese is a significant contributor to the enzymes that are, as well as many other health benefits. (6) (7) (8)
When looking at a diabetes way of eating, it is important to include plenty of monounsaturated fats more than other kinds of fatty acids like polyunsaturated or saturated and it is especially important to avoid trans fats (found in many processed food-like substances). (9)
Shown to improve glucose intolerance, hazelnuts high Manganese content also helps with the treatment of diabetes. Hazels high magnesium content helps decrease the risk of developing diabetes later in life. (6) (9)
Brain boosting powerhouses
Hazelnuts have neuroprotective properties. They are packed with many beneficial nutrients that support brain and cognitive function, boost memory, hinder anxiety as well as helping to prevent degenerative diseases. This is due to the high Vitamin E levels as well as the beneficial fats, vitamins, and minerals. Manganese specifically has been shown to play a major role in cognitive function. (10) (11)
The presence of Thiamine (known as the "nerve vitamin"), as well as the high levels of fatty acids, play a crucial role in the health of your nervous system and nerve function. (12)
Hazelnuts also contain good amounts of folate, known for its importance in spine and brain development during pregnancy, folate is also shown to help slow brain degenerative diseases in adults. (6) (13)