Hazelnuts: 7 D.S. Benefits of These Heart-Healthy, Brain-Boosting Nuts
1. Promote Heart Health
Tree nuts are a well-known combatant in the fight against heart disease, and hazelnuts are no exception. There are a handful of vitamins and minerals found in hazelnuts that promote heart health. Aside from being a great source of fiber, they contain a large amount of monounsaturated fatty acids, which help to reduce LDL cholesterol (the “bad” kind) and increase HDL cholesterol (the “good” kind).
Studies conducted by the American Society for Nutrition and published in the European Journal of Nutrition showed that diets high in hazelnuts and other tree nuts resulted in lowered LDL cholesterol, reduced inflammation and improved blood lipids. (1, 2) The American Heart Association also recommends that, for optimum heart health, the majority of the daily fats that individuals should consume should be monounsaturated fats, which are the same found in hazelnuts. (3)
Hazelnuts also contain a considerable amount of magnesium, which helps to regulate the balance of calcium and potassium and is crucial to blood pressure.
2. Help Manage Diabetes
When planning a diabetic diet plan, it’s important to focus on choosing monounsaturated fats over trans fats or saturated fats. Hazelnuts are a great source of these good fats, and eating recommended portions of hazelnuts as a substitute for more damaging,”bad” fat foods is a great way to ensure you gain the benefits of good fats without worrying about gaining additional weight. (4)
In a 2015 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, an interesting result occurred regarding how diabetics reacted when supplementing their daily diets with tree nuts. Like other studies, it was concluded that individuals introduced to heightened nut consumption in their diets experienced lowered cholesterol levels. The surprising variable was that higher nut doses provided a stronger effect on diabetics, doing more to lower blood lipids than for non-diabetics. (5)
Diabetics with high cholesterol should consider adding hazelnuts and other tree nuts to their daily diets. Proven to improve glucose intolerance, hazelnuts’ high levels of manganese are also helpful in the fight against diabetes when used as a diet supplement. (6) Hazelnuts are also a great source of magnesium, which has been proven to decrease the risk for diabetes. (7)
3. Filled with Antioxidants
Hazelnuts have many vitamins and minerals that are powerful antioxidants. Antioxidants wipe out damaging free radicals in the body and help prevent major disease and illness like cancer and heart disease. Hazelnuts are a great source of vitamin E, which helps to fight aging and disease by reducing inflammation. One serving of hazelnuts can also provide almost an entire day’s amount of manganese, which is not an antioxidant but is a huge contributor to enzymes that are. Hazelnuts also have the highest content of proanthocyanidins (PACs), a class of polyphenols that give foods like red wine and dark chocolate their “astringent mouth feel” compared to other nuts. (8)
Studies have shown how PACs have a significantly higher level of antioxidant activity compared to others like vitamin C and vitamin E, which only work in certain environments. They also are shown to fight aging and help stave off disease. PACs are also found in cranberries and known for their ability to treat urinary tract infections, which is why it’s common to drink cranberry juice at the onset of a UTI. (9) To get the most antioxidants from hazelnuts, it’s best to consume them with the skins present. (10)
4. Boost the Brain
Hazelnuts should be considered a brain-boosting powerhouse. They’re full of elements that can improve brain and cognitive function and help prevent degenerative diseases later in life. Because of high levels of vitamin E, manganese, thiamine, folate, and fatty acids, a diet supplemented with hazelnuts can help keep your brain sharp and working at its best, making hazelnuts excellent brain foods.
Higher levels of vitamin E coincide with less cognitive decline as individuals age and can also have a major role in preventing and treating diseases of the mind like Alzheimer’s, dementia and Parkinson’s. Manganese has been proven to play a major role in the brain activity connected to cognitive function as well. (11) Thiamine is commonly referred to as the “nerve vitamin” and plays a role in nerve function throughout the body, which plays a key role in cognitive function. It’s also why thiamine deficiency can be damaging to the brain. (12) The high levels of fatty-acids and protein help the nervous system and also help to combat depression.
In a recent study published in Nutritional Neuroscience, hazelnuts were tested for their neuroprotective qualities. When provided as a dietary supplement, hazelnuts were able to improve healthy aging, improve memory and hinder anxiety. (13) Hazelnuts are also folate foods. Known for its importance for spine and brain development during pregnancy, folate also helps slow brain-related degenerative disorders in older adults. (14)
5. Help Prevent Cancer
Thanks to hazelnuts’ high number of antioxidants, they’re important cancer-fighting foods. Vitamin E is the most notable as a cancer-prevention supplement. Studies have shown vitamin E’s capabilities for decreasing risk for prostate, breast, colon and lung cancers, while also preventing the growth of mutations and tumors. (15) Vitamin E has also shown possibilities of aiding in multi-drug resistance reversal and cancer treatments.
In other studies, manganese complexes were found to exhibit potential anti tumor activity. For example, research conducted by the School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at Jiangsu University in China and published in the Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry found that manganese complex could be a “potential antitumor complex to target the mitochondria.” (16)
There’s also growing evidence that thiamine may have anticancer properties, but more research is needed to confirm this belief.
6. Combat Obesity
Hazelnuts are great stimulants for healthy metabolism in the body. Individuals who consume high amounts of tree nuts show higher levels of weight loss due to a boost in metabolism. (17) Thiamine plays a major part in maintaining a healthy metabolism. It helps convert carbs into glucose, which is the source of energy that the body uses to operate. Thiamine also has a hand in producing new red blood cells, which are optimum in maintaining energy.
Evidence also suggests that manganese may be able to reduce weight in obese or overweight individuals, presumably because of its ability to improve digestive enzymes.
The protein, fiber and high fat composition of hazelnuts provide a heavier sensation of fullness, which prevents overeating and keeps you satisfied for longer. As we already discovered, hazelnuts are great sources of “good” fats, which places them in a category of healthy snacks and meal ingredients that can combat obesity. (18)
7. Contribute to Healthy Skin and Hair
The robust amount of vitamin E in hazelnuts can contribute to maintaining healthy skin and hair by improving moisture and elasticity. Vitamin E’s antioxidant capabilities can help prevent damage from UV rays or cigarette smoke, along with other things that can result in skin cancer or premature aging. It also helps improve circulation and reduce inflammation. Vitamin E is has been shown to help treat scars, acne and wrinkles as well, thanks to its ability to regenerate skin cells.