Why are macadamia nuts good for you?
Nuts, and especially macadamia nuts, belong to the one food item that are considered healthy from all aspects. With the right balance of protein, fibre and healthy fats, they provide top quality nutrition that helps in avoiding cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Macadamia nuts are the costliest among the nuts in the world, but they come with the same range of health benefits that other types of nuts possess. Macadamia is a specific genus of four species of plants that are indigenous to Australia and three of them produce the macadamia nut. The three are the Macadamia integrifolia, Macadamia ternifolia, and Macadamia tetraphylla. The nuts produced by the fourth species are poisonous in nature.
At present, South Africa is the world’s largest producer of Macadamia nuts and the other important producers are Brazil, United States, Costa Rica, Israel and Kenya. These nuts are small in size and have a sweet and delicious taste. The nuts have a tough shell and a conical tip. The outer surface can be smooth or rough depending on the type of the species. The edible kernel has a creamy and buttery surface and is exceptionally rich with monounsaturated fats. The name Macadamia was given by German-Australian botanist Ferdinand von Mueller in the year 1857. However, the economic importance of Macadamia nuts started rising from the 1970s.
Why are macadamia nuts so expensive?
The nuts are expensive because each tree needs seven to ten years for its growth before they start producing nuts. These nuts are also harvested by hand which makes the process laborious and time-consuming. In addition, they are also covered by a thick shell which makes it difficult to find out whether the nuts are ripe or not. Since the Macadamia oil is healthier than olive oil and canola oil, it is becoming a very popular choice with chefs all around the world. Either as a snack or as a part of the overall food, these nuts are easy to incorporate in your daily diet.
The components of macadamia nuts
Let us take a look at the various health benefits that one ounce of these nuts offer. The various components are listed below.
- Fat: 23 grams
- Protein: 2 grams
- Carbs: 4 grams
- Sugar: 1 gram
- Fibre: 3 grams
- Manganese: 58% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Thiamine: 22% of the DV
- Copper: 11% of the DV
- Magnesium: 9% of the DV
- Iron: 6% of the DV
- Vitamin B6: 5% of the DV
A detailed analysis of the components of these nuts is listed below.
- These nuts are a very important source of energy and offer around 718 calories per 100 gram. This is one of the highest calorific values among all types of nuts.
- As indicated in the figures above, the nuts are packed with various health-benefiting minerals, antioxidants and vitamins that enhance wellness.
- While these nuts provide sufficient amounts of dietary fibre, they do not contain any cholesterol. In addition, they are good sources of healthy phytosterols like ß-sitosterol.
- These nuts are free from gluten protein and hence they are used in various gluten-free food products. Macadamia are a tasty and healthy choice for people who are allergic to gluten foods like wheat, or suffer from celiac disease.
- These nuts are good sources of monounsaturated fatty acids and consumption of these fatty acids helps in lowering the levels of LDL cholesterol while increasing the levels of HDL cholesterol. In combination with fibres and antioxidants, these nuts help in the prevention of coronary artery disease and strokes and maintaining a healthy blood lipid profile.
- Macadamias are a rich source of minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, zinc and also selenium. Selenium is not only a cardio-protective trace element but also a necessary antioxidant cofactor for the functioning of the glutathione peroxidase enzyme, an intracellular antioxidant enzyme.
- In addition, these nuts are rich in other important B-complex vitamins. Each 100 gram of macadamia nuts contain 15% of niacin, 21% of pyridoxine, 100% of thiamin and 12% of riboflavin
- The nuts also contain Vitamin E which is an effective antioxidant and protects cell membranes and prevents any DNA damage from the harmful free radicals.
The differences from other nuts
Due to the combination of a high level of nutrients and a good flavour, these nuts are considered a delicacy. Presently, the USA has the highest annual consumption rate of Macadamia nuts. Some of the differences between Macadamia and the other nuts are listed below.
- Macadamia nuts have the highest fat content among all the other tree nuts. A comparison is listed below in terms of fat content per ounce.
- Macadamia nuts – 20.9 grams
- Pecans – 19.2 grams
- Walnuts – 17.6 grams
- Almonds – 14.8 grams
- Peanuts – 13.8 grams
- They also have the highest calorie count when compared with the other nuts.
- Other than that, Macadamia nuts also come at a higher price.
The health benefits of macadamia nuts
The major health-boosting effects and advantages of these nuts are listed below.
Improved heart health
Various studies have indicated that macadamia nuts are a very good choice for keeping the heart healthy and reducing the overall risk of cardiovascular diseases. This has been linked with the high monounsaturated fat content of these nuts. As per the American Heart Association, those with diabetes can reduce their chances of heart disease by including these nuts in the diet. The high levels of potassium in these nuts are also considered one reason behind their health benefits.
Improved blood sugar levels
Macadamia nuts are considered good food options for those affected by diabetes. Further studies have concluded that the nuts gathered from trees can help in improving glycemic control in patients suffering from type 2 diabetes. The special combination of macro and micronutrients along with other bioactive compounds makes these nuts a good choice for patients with diabetes. The presence of monounsaturated fats also makes these nuts reduce the risk factors for metabolic syndrome in diabetes patients.
High level of antioxidants
These nuts are a rich source of antioxidants that neutralize the free radicals in the body, thereby preventing cellular damage. This, along with a high level of flavonoids, reduces the risk of diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and heart disease. The nuts also contain tocotrienols, a form of vitamin E that is helpful for lowering cholesterol levels. Some research has also pointed out that tocotrienols also have significant anticancer properties. Tocotrienols also promotes brain health and prevent brain cells from degenerating due to the effects of glutamate. This is another reason for the nuts being effective against Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
Promoting weight loss
These nuts can effectively aid any weight loss program as they have the right nutrients that assist weight loss. It also contains palmitoleic acid that can help in the weight loss goals as per research conducted on sheep and mice. Some data also mentions that nuts can help in reducing abdominal fat which is a health risk for many individuals. The high quantity of fibre in the nuts also makes them filling and helps to avoid hunger. In a study conducted for 3 weeks, 71 young Japanese women consumed bread with 10 grams of Macadamia nuts, coconut or butter. It was observed that those consuming Macadamia lost around 0.9 pounds after the study was concluded.
They are beneficial for the gut
Macadamia nuts contain fibre, which can benefit your digestion process and overall gut health by having a positive effect on the gut microbiota. These microorganisms secrete various short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) which help in protection against irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. The presence of copper in the nuts also allows it to have a positive effect on the enzyme reaction in the gut.
Macadamia nuts are easy to use
These nuts are versatile and are easy to incorporate in almost all types of dishes. The raw form of the nuts, which is the healthiest form, can be easily consumed as a snack. They are also better than the roasted versions which contain excess oil. Macadamia butter can also be used like any other form of butter and can be consumed with bread, oatmeal or yoghurt. They can also be refrigerated and stored for almost a year to make them more effective.
May provide relief from inflammation
Inflammation is a major cause of coronary heart disease and these nuts can have a positive effect by limiting inflammation in the body. They contain alpha-linoleic acid which is a kind of omega-3 fatty acid that has anti-inflammatory properties. This also helps in preventing other health conditions like arthritis.
May result in youthful skin
The two important compounds contained by these nuts are tocotrienols and squalene and they can help in reducing oxidative stress on the skin resulting from sun exposure. The palmitoleic acid contained in these nuts also prevents dehydration of tissues and promotes fast healing and regeneration of the skin. In addition, the application of Macadamia oil can also have a positive effect on the skin. Palmitoleic acid occurs naturally in skin even though the amount reduces with age. Oil application can help in replenishing the lost amount in the skin and also prevent the formation of wrinkles and age spots.
Side effects of macadamia nuts
Even with all the health benefits, these nuts can come with a few drawbacks. The major drawbacks are listed below.
- These nuts are high in fat content and hence their calorie count is higher than all the other types of nuts. In one cup, that contains around 132 gram of nuts, there are around 950 calories. So it is necessary to control the intake of other fatty foods while consuming Macadamia nuts.
- Roasting the Macadamia nuts at a high temperature can reduce their overall nutrient content. The addition of excess sugar, salt or oil can also make them less beneficial for health.
- Some people suffer from allergies after consuming tree nuts and this can lead to serious complications. Even an exposure to the smallest particles of nuts can trigger an allergic reaction in that person. So caution should be exercised while consuming them around such people. Macadamia nuts are also poisonous for dogs and are not suitable for their consumption.
Methods of consuming macadamia nuts
You can consume Macadamia nuts in the following ways:
- Breaking open the hard cover of these nuts, one can consume them raw while enjoying the flavour. There is also a pleasant nutty aroma that makes them a good choice for consuming raw.
- Macadamia nuts can be blended with various types of sweet delicacies and they are often sprinkled over salads, desserts and sweets after roasting. They can also be added to ice creams and sundaes. Various confectionaries like biscuits, sweets and cakes are also combined with Macadamia nuts.
- For gluten-sensitive individuals, these nuts can be added to special sandwiches, salad dressings and sauces as they are gluten-free. Macadamia flour is important for gluten-free baking.
- Cold pressing of the nuts produces Macadamia oil and it imparts a delicious flavour to a variety of dishes. It is as popular as olive oil and ready to use in a range of vegetables, seafood and meat dishes in many countries. Macadamia oil adds flavour to food prepared by various methods of cooking like baking, grilling, sautéing or stir-frying.
- Prepare Macadamia milk at home by soaking the nuts overnight and then blending them. Make use of this milk to prepare a variety of dishes.
While storing these nuts, keep in mind that they can turn rancid very easily due to the high oil content. Hence store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator where they can last for around nine months. Storage at normal temperatures can keep them fresh for around six months.
The bottom line
Macadamia nuts are a healthy option that can easily form a part of your diet. From a delightful taste to a large range of health benefits, they are definitely a good choice for all ages. However, keep in mind that excess consumption of any item is not beneficial for health and a balanced diet is always the best option. Whether you are trying to boost your cardiovascular health or trying to lose some weight, Macadamia is surely a good choice.
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