Underappreciated “superfood” guards against deadly chronic diseases
(NaturalHealth365) According to the American Heart Association, a shocking 48 percent of American adults (almost half!) have some form of heart disease, currently the leading cause of death in the nation. In addition, 13 percent of the adult population lives with diabetes, which – if untreated – can cause nerve damage, blindness, and kidney and heart disease. Clearly, the need for natural, safe, effective methods of disease prevention is paramount.
As researchers explore the potential protective effects of natural nutrients, recent research identifies hazelnuts as particularly promising. These under-appreciated tree nuts offer many of the same disease-fighting effects as their better-known cousins, such as cashews, walnuts, and almonds. With a mild, nutty taste and satisfying crunch, flavorful hazelnuts are not only a delicacy but a “superfood” that offers significant protection against deadly chronic diseases.
Researchers find hazelnuts improve heart function, thanks to unique plant compounds
Researchers report that hazelnuts are rich in plant compounds – such as vitamin E, selenium, proanthocyanidins, gallic acid, and catechins – that can reduce inflammation and act against artery-clogging atherosclerosis. These powerful antioxidants also help neutralize oxidative stress that can trigger cell damage, aging, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. In addition, hazelnuts are a good source of the mineral magnesium, which helps to ensure a stable heartbeat and regulate blood pressure. (In fact, studies have supported the ability of hazelnuts to lower high blood pressure, a known risk factor for heart disease).
And, additional peer-reviewed research has suggested that hazelnuts can indeed benefit the heart. In a review of studies published in the trusted journal Nutrients, the authors noted that people who ate between one and two ounces of hazelnuts a day had significant reductions in LDL cholesterol compared to people who didn’t enjoy a hazelnut-enriched diet. (Good to know: hazelnuts accomplished this without lowering levels of beneficial HDL cholesterol!) The team concluded that eating roughly one or two ounces of hazelnuts a day could improve heart function.
Keep reading! There are even more benefits: Hazelnuts may fight type 2 diabetes and promote healthy weight
In one influential study, researchers found that participants who ate a 30-gram nut mixture, including hazelnuts, for 12 weeks experienced improved insulin sensitivity, thereby lowering the risk of type 2 diabetes. Hazelnuts also help to protect against diabetes by working against obesity, which is often a contributing factor.
Hazelnuts are a shining example of a food that manages to be relatively high in calories – but still helpful in supporting a healthy weight. The secret, of course, lies in their valuable cargo of vitamins, minerals, protein, healthy fats, and – especially – fiber. Dietary fiber can help provide a sense of satiety or fullness that helps prevent overeating. Researchers noted that hazelnut-enriched diets appeared to cause no increase in body weight in several studies involving hazelnuts. But, the news gets even better. In a five-year study involving over 374,000 participants and published in 2018 in the European Journal of Nutrition, researchers found a significant association between nut consumption and reduced risk of obesity. Simply put, participants who ate higher amounts of nuts were less likely to become overweight or obese than those who didn’t consume them.
The tasty takeaway is: hazelnuts, when eaten in moderation, can act against obesity.
These little nuts continue to impress! They are a nutritional powerhouse
A one-ounce (28-gram) serving of hazelnuts, consisting of about 20 whole kernels, contains 176 calories. But, every gram is packed with nutritional value.
For example, this serving provides one-fifth of the recommended daily intake of antioxidant vitamin E and over a tenth of the RDI of magnesium. Other standout nutritional contributions of hazelnuts include 24 percent of the RDI for copper – which is vital to maintaining the nervous and immune systems – and over a tenth of the RDI for the B vitamin thiamin needed for conversion of food to energy. Hazelnuts also provide the disease-fighting mineral manganese, along with vitamin B-9, or folate – which has been shown to prevent strokes – bone-building phosphorus, and immune system-boosting zinc.
The 17 grams of fat in an ounce of hazelnuts is primarily in the form of beneficial, anti-inflammatory monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. The same serving also contributes 4.2 grams of plant-based protein and 2.7 grams of dietary fiber.
When you compare the 176 calories in an ounce of hazelnuts to the whopping 220-calorie toll of a small serving of french fries from a typical fast-food chain, it’s clear to see which snack is the better choice!
Here is how to add versatile hazelnuts to your diet
You can enjoy the many benefits of hazelnuts by eating them whole, sliced, chopped, or even powdered. While both raw and roasted hazelnuts offer health benefits, the uncooked variety has more antioxidant value.
Sorry, Nutella fans. Many natural health experts note that hazelnut-chocolate spreads are high in added sugars – and do not provide all the health benefits of unprocessed hazelnuts.
By the way, many of the hazelnut’s healthful compounds are in the fibrous brown skin – so don’t eat whole hazelnuts “naked” if you can help it. (Of course, if you are naked while eating hazelnuts, we’re not here to judge).
While many aficionados use hazelnuts in a salad to add “crunch,” visual appeal, and taste, you can also incorporate them into recipes for cookies, biscotti, and cakes. Hazelnuts even add flavor to seafood and chicken recipes – and some chefs like to combine blanched, sliced hazelnuts with cream, oregano, olive oil, lemon, and parmesan cheese for a tempting pasta sauce. Or, combine hazelnuts with cacao powder, chia seeds, non-dairy milk, and bananas for a quick vegan smoothie.
Naturally, if you have a nut allergy, hazelnuts are taboo. Otherwise, they are a great addition to your healthy diet, with savvy nutritionists advising about an ounce or two a day.
With a daily handful of hazelnuts leading to improved heart health and lowered diabetes risk, it only makes sense to indulge!
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