Health benefits of nuts: Hazelnuts

By Olufunke

Let me start on a hilarious note this week. On different occasions, I have tried to learn tailoring but I just find the craft extremely difficult to grasp. Every day, my sewing machine stares at me in the house and the only times I touch it is when I want to put oil in it so that it does not go rust. When visitors who know how to sew visit me, they use it. I have made several attempts to give it out but my family keeps prevailing on me to keep it because the quality is far better than what is in the market now. After my last attempt to learn, I made up my mind not to force it anymore. Eating healthy meals is not something you try and then abandon like my futile quest to learn tailoring, It is something you do and forge on, no matter what.

There are meals that you detest (I know people who hate eating fruits and vegetables) but they are the ones that play a major role in achieving optimal health and wellbeing. Even if it means that you will squeeze your face while eating them, please do. Your body will thank you.

I will discuss Hazenuts. Hazelnuts (sometimes called filberts or filbert nuts) are nuts of any tree from the genus Corylus, especially Corylus avellana. Filberts was the name given to the hazelnut and the tree in England when it was first introduced by French settlers. It was named after St. Philibert, because his day (August 22) regularly coincided with ripening dates of the nuts. The English later changed the name to hazelnut and in 1981, the Oregon Filbert Commission decided to promote the name as the production in the US expanded. It is mostly cultivated in Turkey, Italy, Spain and the United States. The hazelnut has always been the signature ingredient of Nutella, a brand of sweetened hazelnut cocoa spread.

They grow within protective husks, in clusters on trees and when they ripen, the nuts drop from the husks onto the ground, where they can be harvested. Like other nuts, they are rich in nutrients and have a high content of protein, fats, vitamins and minerals. They are a rich source of nutrition as they contain unsaturated fatty acids, protein, fibres and phytochemicals. They also contain micronutrients such as calcium, magnesium, potassium and selenium, along with polyphenols and B-complex vitamins. They contain alpha-tocopherol, a vitamin E type rich in antioxidants which reduces the risk of cancer by killing free radicals in the body responsible for damaging cell DNA.

Hazelnuts can be pressed to produce hazelnut oil, which is used as cooking oil in place of canola or olive oil. The nut can be ground up into flour which is used as a gluten-free alternative to wheat flour.

Some of the health benefits

Supporting healthy bowel movements: Hazelnuts are a good source of dietary fiber. Eating plenty of fiber encourages regular bowel movements and helps prevent constipation.

Loaded with antioxidants: Hazelnuts provide significant amounts of antioxidants. Antioxidants protect the body from oxidative stress which can damage cell structure and promote aging, cancer and heart disease. The most abundant antioxidants in hazelnuts are known as phenolic compounds. They are proven to help decrease blood cholesterol and inflammation. They could also be beneficial for heart health and protect against cancer. An eight-week study showed that eating hazelnuts with or without the skin, significantly decreased oxidative stress compared to not eating hazelnuts. However, the majority of the antioxidants present are concentrated in the skin of the nut.

Lowers cholesterol: Eating hazelnuts may help reduce cholesterol. A 2013 study found that a hazelnut-rich diet decreased participants’ levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol. This type of cholesterol can increase the risk of heart problems. The researchers concluded that the best way to reap hazelnuts’ health benefits was to eat them every day. Results of a 2016 review likewise indicated that hazelnuts could reduce levels of harmful cholesterol. The researchers also noted no increase in participants’ body weight. This may alleviate some concerns that eating the calorie-dense nuts could lead to weight gain.

Improves insulin sensitivity: Eating a nut mix that includes hazelnuts may help improve insulin sensitivity. A small 2011 trial found that eating a 30g nut mix that contained 7.5 g of hazelnuts every day improved participants’ insulin sensitivity over 12 weeks. Diminished insulin sensitivity plays a role in the development of type 2 diabetes.

Linked with lower rates of cancer: Among other nuts such as pecans and pistachios…

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