Excellent source of vitamins, minerals, proteins, fibers, essential fatty acids and antioxidants; hazelnuts are useful for preventing cholesterol problems, cardiovascular diseases and intestinal allies, for this reason they cannot be missing in our daily diet.
Hazelnuts are rich in properties and bring benefits to the whole body. It is the fruit of the hazelnut tree, of the Coryloideae family, avellian species (Corylus avellana), a plant belonging to the Betulaceae family, native to Europe and Asia that grows today in temperate climates in many parts of the world.
The plant generally reaches heights of 2-4 meters but if left to grow without pruning it can also reach 8 meters and generally grows in a hilly or medium-mountainous environment. In reality, what we eat is the seed inside the fruit, enclosed in a shell that is initially green and when fully ripe it becomes woody and brownish in color.
Hazelnuts generally ripen in late summer and early fall, which is the best time to savor these delicious fruits. The hazelnut harvesting period, in fact, is generally between September and October, months in which hazelnuts are naturally in season.
Hazelnuts: varieties and characteristics
Italy, after Turkey, is the second largest producer of hazelnuts in the world and the first consumer country. In Europe, therefore, our country is first for the production of hazelnuts, finding here the climatic and environmental characteristics most favorable for growth. Other hazelnut producing countries are Spain, Georgia, Azerbaijan and the United States. There are many varieties of hazelnuts , let’s see which are the most valuable.
✓ Hazelnut of the Langhe
It is also known as the “gentle hazelnut of Piedmont” (or simply Piedmontese hazelnut), it is in fact grown in the areas of Cuneo, Asti and Alessandria, in the hills of the Langhe. Piedmontese hazelnuts are among the best known, with a delicate flavor, widely used in the confectionery field, especially in association with chocolate.
✓ Roman hazelnut
It is the only one to have the DOP mark, typical of the Viterbo area. Spherical in shape, it has a sweet taste and is also widely used in the culinary field for the preparation of biscuits, cakes and creams.
✓ Round hazelnut from Avellino
Typical of Irpinia, it is one of the many varieties from Campania, round and with firm pulp, also excellent for savory preparations.
✓ Giffoni hazelnut
The hazelnut of Giffoni comes from the Salerno area and has the IGP mark. It is perfectly spherical, with a white and consistent pulp and lends itself well to roasting.
✓ Round Calabrian hazelnut
It is grown in the Calabrian hinterland, between Catanzaro and Vibo Valentia and is a particularly aromatic hazelnut.
✓ Sicilian hazelnut
Typical of the Nebrodi mountains and with an intense aroma, this variety of hazelnut is often used in the preparation of typical Messina biscuits and sweets.
Hazelnuts: calories and nutritional values
The properties of hazelnuts , like all nuts, are given by the richness of good fatty acids , monounsaturated and polyunsaturated acids, mineral salts (potassium, phosphorus, magnesium and calcium), vitamins (in particular folic acid, other vitamins of the group B and vitamin E, a very powerful antioxidant) and fiber. The latter also ensure that hazelnuts have a particularly low glycemic index, equal to 25. Potassium, phosphorus, calcium and magnesium, together with vitamins E and those of group B and the amino acid composition in which glutamic acid, arginine and aspartic acid stand out, give hazelnuts very important properties for health.
Being oil seeds, however, hazelnuts contain many calories and are certainly not a “light” food: 100 grams of these fruits provide 670 kcal. This value is given by the fact that they mainly contain fats, most of which are unsaturated (the so-called “good fats”). Specifically, hazelnuts are rich in oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid and linoleic acid, an essential polyunsaturated fatty acid. Both of these fats help reduce bad cholesterol (LDL) and promote the increase of good cholesterol (HDL).
Hazelnuts also contain compounds with antioxidant action including phytosterols (in particular β-sitosterol) which act in the intestine to reduce the absorption of cholesterol. There are also plant compounds such as carotenoids, flavonoids and proanthocyanidins, substances that play an important role in reducing the risk of heart disease and chronic diseases. Among nuts, hazelnuts have the highest content of proanthocyanidins. Finally, carbohydrates represent only about 6% and proteins about 14%. Let’s see in detail the nutritional values.
Nutritional values per 100g of hazelnuts:
- Kcal: 671
- Carbohydrates: 6.1 g
- Fat: 64.1 g
- Proteins: 13.8 g
- Fibers: 8.1 g
- Waterfall: 4.5 g
- Iron: 3.3 mg
- Soccer: 150 mg
- Sodium: 11 mg
- Potassium: 466 mg
- Phosphorus: 322 mg
- Zinc: 2 mg
- Magnesium: 160 mg
- Copper: 1.3 mg
- Vitamin: B1 0.51 mg
- Vitamin: B2 0.1 mg
- Vitamin: B3 2.8 mg
- Vitamin: B6 0.59 mg
- Vitamin: B8 76 µg
- C vitamin: 4 mg
- Vitamin E: 24.98 mg
- Retinol equivalent: 30 µg
- Vitamin K: 14.2 µg
Hazelnuts: health benefits
The properties of hazelnuts are many and it is an exceptional food from a nutritional point of view, in fact it is able to bring significant benefits to our health and in particular to our cardiovascular system, benefits documented by an extensive scientific literature, especially in virtue of the antioxidant compounds it contains. Let’s see below what hazelnuts are good for.
✓ They fight cardiovascular diseases
Thanks to their content in antioxidant compounds and monounsaturated fatty acids, hazelnuts are considered beneficial for the cardiovascular system, decreasing the risk of developing coronary diseases.
✓ Indicated in case of high cholesterol
As we have just seen, hazelnuts are good for the heart and also help counteract high cholesterol. More scientific studies show that a diet rich in hazelnuts contributes to lower levels of total cholesterol and bad cholesterol in the blood, most likely thanks to the numerous antioxidant compounds they contain.
There are numerous antioxidant compounds that hazelnuts contain, among these tocopherols, phytosterols, caffeic acid, epicatechin, quercetin, which in synergy with fibers and monounsaturated fatty acids, have a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effect, helping to relieve and prevent inflammatory disorders of both cardiovascular system and of the organism in general.
✓ Indicated in case of diabetes
The glycemic index of hazelnuts is equal to 25, so it is particularly low, and this characteristic not only makes them suitable for the diet of diabetic subjects, but it seems that hazelnuts contribute to lower blood sugar levels. In addition, thanks to the amount of fiber, good fats and proteins, they help prevent blood sugar spikes.
✓ Useful in case of anemia
With a good iron content, hazelnuts help alleviate the problems of iron deficiency anemia.
✓ Aid for muscles and bones
Precisely by virtue of the high content of minerals such as calcium, phosphorus and potassium, hazelnuts are useful for preserving bone health and also for “recharging” the muscles after physical exertion in association with their essential amino acid content.
✓ Allies of the intestine
Thanks to the high fiber content, hazelnuts facilitate digestion by stimulating the secretion of digestive enzymes and also help the intestine by regulating its functions and improving intestinal transit, making it useful, for example, in case of constipation.
✓ Excellent as a satiating snack
Thanks to the excellent sense of satiety that it determines, dried fruit should be daily present in the diet of each individual. For this reason, if consumed in the right quantities and in a context of healthy nutrition and regular physical exercise, hazelnuts can also be included in slimming diets.
✓ Regulate blood pressure
Potassium, a mineral useful for regulating blood pressure, also gives hazelnuts hypotensive properties, that is, it helps to lower blood pressure.
✓ They counteract neurodegenerative mechanisms
Some studies carried out on laboratory mice show that a diet enriched with hazelnuts can prevent or improve the cognitive changes due to neurodegenerative diseases.
✓ Effects on the male reproductive system
Some studies carried out on laboratory rats show that hazelnuts act on testosterone levels and improve the quality of semen.
Some antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds contained in hazelnuts also have an antimicrobial function and are active against some pathogenic microorganisms, such as Candida.
A portion of hazelnuts a day, taken at breakfast, at the end of a meal or as a snack, can enrich our diet with very important nutrients and help keep us healthy.
Toasted hazelnuts and fresh hazelnuts: nutritional differences
Hazelnuts can be enjoyed in many ways and in various preparations, but they are often eaten roasted as well as fresh. Roasting often takes place in the oven, but it can also be done in a pan and it is also possible to buy them already toasted.
Between fresh hazelnuts and toasted hazelnuts, as well as differences in taste, there are also nutritional differences, if in fact the content of carbohydrates, proteins and fibers remains unchanged, the content of micronutrients and fats can change. In fact, with cooking, the vitamins present in hazelnuts degrade, being thermolabile, and some of the fatty acids could oxidize with high temperatures and therefore the content of so beneficial unsaturated fatty acids could change. The advice, in fact, is to always consume fresh hazelnuts, indulging in the taste of roasted ones every now and then.
How many hazelnuts to eat?
Falling into the category of dried fruit, the recommended daily amount of hazelnuts is about 30 grams (about 20-25 hazelnuts), a portion that corresponds to a caloric intake of about 200 kcal. It is also possible to eat them every day, but of course, if you follow a low-calorie diet, this quantity will have to drop to about 20 grams of hazelnuts per day and you will not be able to eat them every day.
The ideal time to enjoy them is at breakfast to charge up with energy to face the commitments of the morning, as a snack or after a sport session, instead we avoid eating them after dinner sitting on the sofa in front of the TV, we could easily overdo the quantities without even realizing it.
A good suggestion to be able to consume hazelnuts every day, and more generally dried fruit, can be to prepare small bags to take to work or to school and to be consumed during breaks.
How hazelnuts are used
Hazelnuts are very versatile and can be used in the kitchen as a base or just to enrich both sweet and savory dishes. We all know that hazelnuts are used to prepare delicious spreads, often accompanied by cocoa, with which these fruits go very well. They are also excellent in the form of flour to prepare biscuits and shortbreads, but also in the form of grains not only as a decoration, but also to enrich ice cream, creams and puddings. The hazelnut puree can be used in sweet preparations as a substitute for butter.
Hazelnuts can also be used to prepare a delicious vegetable milk to be used instead of cow’s milk, in the same way. To find out what it’s good for how to do it at home, we invite you to read our in-depth analysis: Hazelnut milk: properties and recipe for making it at home.
However, let’s not forget that hazelnuts can also be used for savory recipes, for example for pesto not only of basil as an alternative or in addition to pine nuts, but also of zucchini or dried tomatoes. The chopped hazelnuts are also excellent for gratinating fish main courses or tasty baked vegetables or simply to enrich salads. If we prepare the bread at home, we try to add some chopped hazelnuts, the result will be amazing!
How to toast hazelnuts
Hazelnuts can also be toasted and used in various recipes, for example in desserts. To toast the hazelnuts at home, proceed by putting them in a preheated oven at about 180 degrees for 5-7 minutes (the hazelnuts must be deprived of the outer shell); once the oven is turned off, leave them for a few more minutes. Alternatively, if you don’t want to use the oven, you can use a non-stick pan. In this case, place your hazelnuts on the pan and stir for a few minutes over medium-low heat. Once cooled, rub them with a rag to remove the cuticles.
How to store hazelnuts
Both hazelnuts and all dried fruit, it is preferable to buy it in the shell, which ensures good protection from rancidity of fats for a few months. If shelled , it is preferable to keep them in sealed containers or tightly closed bags, to be placed in the refrigerator, thus limiting exposure to oxygen, light and heat. In this way they can be kept for several months . The price to buy shelled hazelnuts generally ranges between 3 and 5 euros (depending on the quality and the manufacturer) for a pack of 125 gr.
Caramelized hazelnuts: what they are and how many to eat
Caramelized hazelnuts can recall village festivals, when a characteristic smell of toasted sugar spreads from the candy stalls. These are fresh hazelnuts that are cooked together with sugar so that a crispy caramel crust settles around; of course they are delicious.
Preparing caramelized hazelnuts at home is very easy, just be careful not to burn yourself.
- Proceed by putting in a non-stick pan an equal quantity of shelled hazelnuts (they do not need to be toasted) and granulated sugar, together with a little water;
- Melt the sugar over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon until the sugar has crystallized;
- At this point the flame goes out and the hazelnuts are placed on a sheet of parchment paper, taking care to keep them separate from each other and when they have cooled down, they can be placed in a glass container.
This recipe naturally only amplifies the caloric power of hazelnuts, so you can allow yourself to eat caramelized hazelnuts only rarely, since not only in cooking some of the nutritional characteristics of these fruits are lost, as we have seen for the toasted hazelnuts, but they will have a significant sugar content, which we certainly cannot afford to eat every day, so let’s make it a whim to be given once in a while and in limited quantities, taking into account not to exceed the portion of 30 grams per day.
Hazelnuts have no particular contraindications, except in the case of allergies: hazelnut is the nut most frequently responsible for generalized allergic reactions and anaphylaxis in Italy. Symptoms of hazelnut allergy include itching around the lips, tongue and throat, followed by swelling of the lips and throat leading to difficulty breathing. In severe cases they can even cause death.
Individuals with a clear allergy to hazelnuts must therefore avoid the intake of this food and pay close attention in the purchase of food products, checking that hazelnuts are not mentioned in the list of ingredients either as an ingredient but not even in trace amounts.
For the rest, hazelnuts have no particular contraindications if taken in the recommended quantities and without excess. In case of gastritis it is generally recommended not to overdo it with dried fruit, but if consumed in moderate quantities, hazelnuts (preferably peeled) should not cause problems.
Even during pregnancy, hazelnuts are safe and indeed, it is advisable to include them in the diet of pregnant women also due to their folic acid content, unless there is a specific allergy. Hazelnuts do not contain gluten and are therefore suitable for celiacs, but they contain nickel.
Curiosity: Hazelnut oil has excellent astringent properties, helps keep the skin well protected from dryness and loss of elasticity, and has healing and anti-inflammatory properties.