It’s not breaking news that tree nuts — like the hazelnut — are some of the most nutrient-rich snacks you can choose to add to your diet, and in a world filled with overly fatty, preservative-filled, downright harmful snack options, nuts like hazelnuts are filling, delicious and nutritious. Sometimes called filbert nuts, hazelnuts are a particularly good option because these marble-sized superfoods pack a potent nutritional punch.
There is some reluctance to eat nuts due to fear over their fat and calories, but when enjoyed in proper serving sizes, nuts can provide filling protein, fiber, unsaturated fats, and many other important vitamins and minerals. Hazelnuts contain compounds that can help battle heart disease and diabetes, boost brain function, and even help you lose weight.
Hazelnuts are a particularly versatile nut because of all of the different ways they can be used. They can be enjoyed raw, roasted, in a paste or as an ingredient in countless healthy dishes.
They’re also commonly found in some of our guilty pleasures like Nutella (a hazelnut spread) and added to chocolate. Hazelnut flavoring is commonly used for coffee and pastries, as well as a topping and garnish for desserts and savory dishes.
If you’re looking to enjoy the roasted, earthy flavor of a hazelnut without the added sugars, there are many ways you can do that! Between hazelnut spreads, butters, oils, flour and more, there are a number of ways to get the delicious and nutritious elements of hazelnuts into your diet — and that’s a good thing, because hazelnuts are one of the healthiest nuts around.
Benefits of Hazelnuts
1. Promote Heart Health
Aside from being a great source of fiber, they contain a large amount of monounsaturated fatty acids, which help 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. 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.
Hazelnuts also contain a considerable amount of magnesium, which helps regulate the balance of calcium and potassium and is crucial to blood pressure.
2. Help Manage Diabetes
When laying out 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.
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.
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.
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.
The hazelnut is also a great source of vitamin E, which helps fight aging and disease by reducing inflammation.
One serving of hazelnuts can provide almost an entire day’s amount of manganese as well, which is not an antioxidant but is a huge contributor to enzymes that are. Hazelnuts have the highest content of proanthocyanidins (PACs) as well, a class of polyphenols that gives foods like red wine and dark chocolate their “astringent mouth feel” compared to other nuts.
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 known for their ability to help treat urinary tract infections as well.
To get the most antioxidants from hazelnuts, it’s best to consume them with the skins present.
4. Boost the Brain
Hazelnuts should be considered a brain-boosting powerhouse. They’re full of elements that can help 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.
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.
The high levels of fatty acids and protein aid the nervous system and also help combat depression.
In a 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 and memory and hinder anxiety.
In addition, a systematic review published in 2021 examined nut consumption’s effects on cognitive performance. While results were ultimately inconclusive in regard to how much eating nuts can protect cognition throughout life, the results suggest nuts do benefit cognition in “individuals at higher risk of cognitive impairment.”
5. Help Prevent Cancer
Thanks to hazelnuts’ high number of antioxidants, they’re important cancer-fighting foods. Studies have shown vitamin E’s capabilities for helping decrease risk for prostate, breast, colon and lung cancers, while also preventing the growth of mutations and tumors. 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.”
Meanwhile, a 2023 study published in Advanced Biomedical Research determined that “hazelnut oil appears to cause the death of cancerous cells through an apoptotic mechanism.”
6. Help 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.
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.
Furthermore, a 2019 study on a hazelnut-enriched diet relayed the following:
According to emerging evidences, hazelnut consumption does not lead to weight gain probably due to the improvement of the body’s antioxidant capacity by the upregulation of genes implied in oxidant reactions and inflammation.
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.
In addition, hazelnut oil phospholipids can moisturize skin.
Although hazelnuts contain fats and have a higher calorie count than other healthy snacks, a reasonable serving size contains a number of vital nutrients that you can eat without fear of gaining weight.
A one-ounce serving of hazelnuts (approximately 28 grams) contains about:
- Calories: 178
- Total Carbohydrates: 4.7 g
- Fiber: 2.8 g
- Sugar: 1.2 g
- Total Fat: 17.2 g
- Saturated Fat: 1.3 g
- Polyunsaturated Fat: 2.2 g
- Monounsaturated Fat: 13 g
- Trans Fat: 0 g
- Protein: 4.3 g
- Manganese: 1.8 mg (78% DV)
- Copper: 0.5 mg (56% DV)
- Vitamin E: 4.3 mg (29% DV)
- Thiamine: 0.2 mg (17% DV)
- Vitamin B6: 0.2 mg (12% DV)
- Magnesium: 46.2 mg (11% DV)
- Folate: 32 mcg (8% DV)
- Phosphorus: 82.2 mg (7% DV)
- Iron: 1.3 mg (7% DV)
- Zinc: 0.7 mg (6% DV)
- Potassium: 193 mg (4% DV)
- Vitamin K: 4 mcg (3% DV)
*Daily Value: Percentages are based on a diet of 2,000 calories a day.
Hazelnuts also contain small amounts of vitamin C, niacin and calcium.
Hazelnuts vs. Almonds
How do hazelnuts stack up with almonds nutrition, another popular and healthy type of nut? For starters, they both have high levels of vitamin E, and they’re both heart-healthy snack options that can reduce the risk for many major illnesses and diseases, like cancer, diabetes, obesity and heart disease.
Hazelnuts and almonds also are both great sources of many important vitamins and minerals, as well as protein and fiber, but there are a few differences as well. For instance:
- Can help treat and prevent many degenerative illnesses of the mind, like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s
- Highest amounts of PACs (important polyphenols with high levels of antioxidant capabilities) among nut varieties
- Regular almond consumption can help generate helpful gut bacteria to promote optimum digestive health
- Almonds can alkalize the digestive tract and can help nutrient absorption
How to Add to Diet
When choosing raw hazelnuts, the best variety look plump and crisp, full and heavy. For optimum antioxidant benefits, they’re best purchased with the skin remaining.
When you inspect the shelled nuts for purchasing, make sure there are no holes or cracks.
If you’re purchasing without the shell, try to find varieties with the skin tight and intact. You can also purchase hazelnuts roasted, chopped or ground. If buying the roasted variety, it’s important to note they contain fewer phytonutrients.
Fresh hazelnuts are indeed perishable. It’s important to store them correctly. It’s best to eat fresh hazelnuts as soon as possible.
If you must store them, keep them at room temperature and away from heat and humidity. If shelled, they can also be kept in the refrigerator for up to four months. Unshelled hazelnuts have a shorter shelf life and can be stored in a cool, dry environment for up to one month.
Other hazelnut products include items like hazelnut butter, which is similar to peanut butter but made from roasted hazelnuts. Hazelnut meal and flour are like other nut flours, made from what’s left after the nut is pressed for oil. The meal and flour are commonly used in baking or cooking.
Hazelnut oil is currently being promoted as another healthy alternative cooking oil. The oil provides a great flavor and comes in Italian and American hazelnut varieties.
Hazelnut paste is a sweetened mix of sugar and ground hazelnuts. It can be used to make marzipan, icings and other ingredients for baking.
If you want to grind your hazelnuts at home, you can use a food processor to do so. It’s best to add a bit of flour to the mixture before processing.
You can add hazelnuts to salads and vegetables or mixed into cheese and toppings. You can use them chopped as a coating for meats and fishes.
Studies have also shown that using nuts, like hazelnuts, in bread recipes is an effective way to improve nut consumption in diets.
Risks and Side Effects
Hazelnut allergies can cause serious, sometimes life-threatening reactions. If you’re unsure whether you’re allergic, take precautions with adding them to your diet.
- If you’re looking for a healthy snack or delicious added ingredient, hazelnuts are a great option.
- While they do contain a good amount of fat, those fats are mostly healthy fats that actually can help promote weight loss instead of causing weight gain.
- In addition, as high-antioxidant foods, they have been shown to promote heart health, help manage diabetes, boost the brain, help prevent cancer, combat obesity, and contribute to healthy skin and hair.