What is a hazelnut? The word hazelnut is coined from the Anglo-Saxon word haesel. Hazelnut, which belongs to the Betulaceae family is the nut of the hazel tree. It is originally from the species of the Corylus genus, especially the nuts of the Corylus avellana species. Hazelnut tree belongs to the Corylaceae family and is believed to have originated from North America and north-western Europe. Hazelnut, which is also known as hazelnut filbert nut or cobnut is distinguished by its rough spherical to oval cob. Its outer fibrous husk encapsulates a smooth shell with the filbert being more elongated. The tree is multi-stemmed, measures approximately 3 to 10m tall and has twisted branches. Hazelnut leaves measure between 5 to 10 cm and can be roundish, oval or spherical in shape. The nuts grow in bunches of 1 to 12. The nut measures approximately 15 to 25 mm long and 10 to 15 mm in diameter. When ripen, the nut drops out of the husk and this happens approximately 7 to 8 months post pollination. Hazelnut crops are sensitive to moisture and heat and are grown all over the world. It takes approximately 3 to 5 years for a hazelnut plant to grow and bear fruits. The seed is covered by a thin, dark brown skin.

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Lipids represent at least 60% of the dry weight of hazelnuts, which are mostly represented by triacylglycerols where the main fatty acids are oleic and linoleic acids. Hazelnut contains approximately 80% oleic acid, hence the key reason it is highly beneficial to the body. It also contains a high amount of bioactive compounds such as phytosterols and tocopherols, caffeic acid, epicatechin, p-hydroxybenzoic acid, dietary fibre, proteins, potassium, gallic acid, carbohydrates, selenium, vitamin E, sinapic acid, L-arginine, quercetin and antioxidant phenolics. Hazelnuts offer cardioprotective, antioxidizing, anticancer, anti-inflammatory and hypocholesterolemic benefits to humanity. Hazelnuts can also be used for producing biodiesel.
Benefits of Hazelnuts
Edible Purposes
Hazelnut is a fruit nut that can be consumed as a snack or used as an ingredient for preparing several meals. Hazelnut can be eaten either whole, ground into a paste, sliced, raw or roasted. Hazelnuts can be eaten with or without the skin. It is noteworthy that the skin contains the highest concentration of antioxidants. Hazelnut skins can be removed by roasting or baking it for at least 10mins, which allows the skins to easily come off. Peeled hazelnuts can be ground into flour powder for baking, it can be coated with chocolates. Hazelnuts can be used for the following: baking cakes, topping desserts/ice creams, for producing hazelnut flavouring. Hazelnuts can also be processed into food products such as pastry, nougat, ice cream, smoothies, loaves of bread, cereal bars, cookies, yoghurts, hazelnut butter, hazelnut spread example Nutella and hazelnut oil for cooking.
Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease (CVD)
The link between the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and the intake of nuts has raised research interests over the years. Interestingly, some researchers have revealed that hazelnuts aid plasma lipid pattern changes, thus could help to prevent or reduce the morbidity and mortality rate associated with CVD. Hazelnut prevents CVD due to its high fatty acid composition, especially the monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA). MUFA protects low-density lipoproteins (LDL) against oxidation. The lowering impacts of hazelnuts on LDL cholesterol serum concentration helps in the possible prevention of CVD. Hazelnuts significantly reduce the low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) thereby helpful for reducing the total cholesterol level, without decreasing the high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C).
Prevents the onset of Cancer
The increasing rate of cancer has increased the quest for natural sources of anticancer compounds. Hazelnuts contain a high amount of antioxidizing compounds (proanthocyanidins), minerals and vitamins, thus suitable for use as anti-cancer agents. Researchers have proven that proanthocyanidins may help to prevent and treat certain types of cancers because they protect against oxidative stress. Moreover, the high amount of vitamin E in hazelnuts makes it effective for protecting against cell damage that triggers the onset of cancer or cancer growth. Regular consumption of hazelnuts can help to protect against colon, breast, liver and cervical cancer.
Antioxidizing effects
Hazelnuts contain a significant amount of antioxidants (phenolic compounds), which protect the body from oxidative stress that can damage cell structure. It is noteworthy that damaged cell structures lead to ageing and various diseases. The antioxidants in hazelnuts also help to reduce inflammation and the blood cholesterol level.
Maintains Healthy Weight
Regular inclusion of hazelnut in your diet will not lead to weight gain probably due to its high constituents of antioxidants.
Reduces Inflammation
Researchers agree that regular intake of hazelnuts can improve markers of inflammation and endothelial dysfunction. However, the amount of hazelnuts needed to achieve these health benefits remains unknown. Hazelnuts help to prevent and decrease inflammation due to the high amount of healthy fats found in them. Although some studies attest that consuming only hazelnuts cannot achieve these benefits. Therefore to minimize inflammation, adopt a calorie-controlled diet.
DISCLAIMER This post is for enlightenment purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for professional diagnosis and treatments. Remember to always consult your healthcare provider before making any health-related decisions or for counselling, guidance and treatment about a specific medical condition.
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10. Images from Pixabay

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