Hazelnuts were part of the human diet before the dawn of agriculture. Today, hazelnut trees are found growing wild in many European and Mediterranean countries. They thrive in climates with mild winters and cool summers, near moist soils and large bodies of water like the Mediterranean Sea surrounding Cyprus.
Hazelnut is the nut of the tree. The kernel of the seed (which is the edible part) has a thin, dark brown skin which is bitter and is therefore sometimes removed before eating. However, it is very rich in nutrients that’s why in Mellona we never remove the skins. When blended in raw honey, the bitterness disappears.
Hazelnuts are harvested annually in autumn. As autumn comes to a close, the trees drop their nuts and leaves. Most growers wait for the nuts to drop on their own, rather than use equipment to shake them off the tree.
Hazelnuts, like most nuts, are rich in protein, fibre and heart-healthy unsaturated fats. Moreover, they contain a high proportion of essential oils and supply a well-balanced mixture of vitamins and minerals.
Hazelnuts contain a high concentration of vitamin E which prevents oxidation of the polyunsaturated fats. It is also one of the few nuts containing vitamin A, a natural antioxidant with cancer-preventing properties. The B-group vitamins are also well represented in hazelnuts, particularly vitamin B5 and B6. They are also an excellent source of minerals, particularly manganese, selenium, zinc and iron.
In addition, hazelnuts are rich in phytochemicals which are beneficial plant compounds such as carotenoids, flavonoids, and proanthocyanidins. They decrease the risk of heart disease and cancer. Hazelnuts have the highest amount of proanthocyanidins among the tree nuts.
Hazelnuts, like almonds, are known for their high concentration of oleic acid; the same type of “good” fat that gives olive oil its beneficial properties.
Hazelnuts are an excellent source of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats that promote heart health. Oleic acid found in hazelnuts has been shown to lower levels of LDL (the bad cholesterol) and raise HDL (the good cholesterol). This makes these tasty nuts a heart-healthy, satisfying choice of snacking.
Adding hazelnuts to your diet fortifies the body with a variety of phytochemicals including carotenoids, flavonoids, and proanthocyanidins. Hazelnuts contain the same flavonoids that give green tea and red wine their health benefits which have shown the potential to protect brain health, improve circulation and even relieve allergy symptoms. Eating hazelnuts is one more way of getting these powerful benefits.
They’re high in protein and fibre so they’re a good protein source. A handful a day is enough to get the health benefits.
They help maintain healthy blood pressure as they are rich in minerals such as potassium, calcium, and magnesium.
They’re also a good source of iron. A cup of hazelnuts supplies a third of the daily iron intake requirements.