Hazelnut and Health
Hazelnut has a significant place among the types of dried nut in terms of nutrition and health because of the special composition of fats (primarily oleic acid), protein, carbohydrates, vitamins (vitamin E), minerals, diabetic fibres, phytosterol (beta-cytosterol) and antioxidant phenolics.
The nutritional and sensory properties of hazelnut make it a unique and ideal material for food products. Hazelnuts are a good source of energy with their 60.5% fat content.
Many researchers have said that hazelnut consumption has positive effects on human nutrition. These effects may be related to the fatty acid profile of hazelnut lipids which are rich in mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids (82,8% oleic and 8,9% linoleic).
Research has shown that types of diet where saturated fat level is low and monounsaturated fat level (MUFA) is high are effective in controlling the blood lipid levels; a similar result can be a positive factor in coronary heart disease (CHD) risk. Furthermore, diets enriched with monounsaturated fat levels (which are contained in hazelnut oil) have similar and positive effects on people such as minimum CHD cases, low blood pressure, low total cholesterol balance, reduction or increment of lipoprotein density (LDL) and reduction of blood triglyceride value.
Hazelnut is the second best source of vitamin E after vegetable oils. Vitamin E is a soluble lipid phenolic antioxidant. Antioxidant activities of phenolics are the result of their ability to transform hydrogen atoms to independent roots. Since these compounds can form independent roots, they are believed to be potential inhibitors of cancer and atherosclerosis in diabetic people. Because of the antioxidant property of vitamin E and its relation to coronary heart disease and cancer, consumers and industries have increasing interest in natural food including hazelnuts and hazelnut products.
Daily consumption of just 25-30 gr of hazelnut meets 100% of daily vitamin E requirement. Recent researches have shown that the rich beta-cytosterol content of hazelnut can play an important role in reducing cholesterol and preventing many diseases such as cancer (colon, prostate, breast). This also applies to preventing the growth of tumours and stimulating apoptosis. Hazelnuts are also a good source of mineral, particularly calcium, magnesium, phosphor and potassium. Hazelnuts are able to balance blood pressure and are very important for the bone development and health with their poor sodium and very rich mineral content. These minerals are well known to have positive effects on health.
Hazelnuts also contain all the necessary amino acids and the most vital minerals. Hazelnuts can be used as a source of protein with legumes having low cystine and methionine content. As we have mentioned before, hazelnut is a good source of natural antioxidants. This indicates the nutraceutical potential of hazelnuts and hazelnut products. In conclusion, hazelnut is a vital food and additive for a balanced daily diet and the most useful nutraceutical substance for coronary health. Eating a handful of hazelnuts per day can protect you from many of the diseases mentioned above.