Italian Hazelnuts: The Staple in the Mediterranean Diet

Italian hazelnuts are definitely some of the tastiest nuts in the world. They probably remind you of Nutella, however, there are much more delicious and – what’s the most important – healthy products of the Italian hazelnuts.

Together with my husband, we recently visited the Piedmont region in Italy. And as a nutritionist and Your Health Tuber, I was really happy to see the organic cultivation of hazelnuts, the process of harvesting, and manufacture of hazelnut products – all of this with great Italian discipline and tradition!

Therefore, in this article, we are talking about Italian hazelnuts, organically grown with protected geographical indication (IGP and PGI) as a guarantee of fineness in this globalized world that so often rewards large-scale businesses over-specialization and tradition.

The Best Italian Hazelnuts

The best hazelnuts in Italy are produced in the second- largest region in Italy called Piedmont (or Piemonte). This is perhaps the most elegant region: a purveyor of amazing grapes, fine wine, fantastic hazelnuts, and slow food. As Dante said in his verses: “Round was she, beautiful, and of noble aspect.” talking about the princes and kings in Purgatory, describing the queen of hazelnuts from Langhe, in the Tonda Gentile de Piemonte, which literally means: “round noble from Piedmont”, better known as Nocciola Piemonte. 

What are the Health Benefits of Hazelnuts?italian hazelnuts

 Hazelnuts are the nuts of the hazels and therefore includes any of the nuts deriving from species of the genus Corylus, particularly the nuts of the spices Corylus avellana. It’s also known as filbert nut or cobnut according to species.

Hazelnuts are often used in confectionery to make cookies, pralines, and also used in combination with chocolate for truffles and produce such as Frangelico liqueur and Nutella. Apart from the fact that these nuts are so tasty and favorite to many people, they are also very rich in monounsaturated fat, manganese, vitamin R, protein, and numerous other essential nutrients. Here are some of the best hazelnut health benefits:

  1. Prevent Cancer

Scientists have found that the alpha-tocopherol type of vitamin E hazelnut is so rich in can drastically reduce the risk of bladder cancer. In addition, the manganese so rich in hazelnuts can also help in the protection of cancer.

  1. Lower Cholesterol and Support Cardiovascular Health

Hazelnut is rich in unsaturated fats good for the heart. Much of the unsaturated fat is oleic acid, proven to lower LDL “bad” cholesterol and upturn the “good” HDL kind. Just 1 cup of hazelnuts contains about ½ of the recommended daily amounts of magnesium, a powerful mineral which regulates the levels of calcium in the muscles. When the levels of calcium are high the heart might contract, and thus, beat sporadically. The Proper amount of magnesium keeps the heart from exceeding itself by stimulating healthy rests between the contractions. 

  1. Relax Muscles

Magnesium plays a significant role in regulating the amounts of calcium which goes into and out of the cells of the body. The suitable amount of calcium at the right time boosts muscle contraction and allows the muscles to relax when they are not needed. Therefore, it protects you from soreness, muscle tension, cramps, fatigue, and spasm. In accordance to an Italian study, higher levels of magnesium can also increase the strength of the muscles.

  1. Good for the Skin

Just one cup of hazelnuts contains about 86% of the recommended daily doses of Vitamin E. This vitamin has been shown to protect skin from the harmful effect of ultraviolet radiation, as premature aging and skin cancer.

Facts About Italian Hazelnuts

The hazelnuts from Piedmont, or nocciole del Piemonte, with their spherical shape, are characterized by a delicate and fine flavor, with a crisp pulp. Their cultivation has been presented in the ‘Alta Langa’ area and then has spread across the Piemonte region, blending with the oenological landscape of Italy. Today, the production of hazelnuts, almost completely absorbed by the confection industry, is concentrated in the provinces of Asti, Alessandria, and Cuneo, in an area between the hills of Roero, Monferrato, and Langhe. The Protected Geographical Indication certification warranties both authenticity and quality of this product. This remarkable land has been included in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites since July 2014.

Excellence for Health
Italian hazelnuts are produced between August and September. However, they are advertised throughout the year both in shelled or shell; the high quality of the fats these nuts contain allows their transformation in flour, grain, and hazelnut oil.
The hazelnuts from Piemonte has the highest healthy ratio between polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats among the various dried fruit. Latest studies have proven the positive effects of regular consumption of hazelnuts on our health. Oleic acid, the fatty acid also found in extra virgin olive oil, can normalize the levels of cholesterol. Additionally, thanks to their high content of vitamin E, these nuts provide a significant contribution in terms of antioxidant agents.

  1. Improve Joint and Bone Health

Around 2/3 of the magnesium in the body are used for building the strength and structure of the skeletal system. This mineral is the most important thing in the makeup of the bones and is so significant that our bodies store extra magnesium on the surface of our bones to be used in cases of an emergency deficiency. Manganese is another important mineral found in the hazelnuts, is crucial for the strength and growth of bones. Women in menopause are usually deficient in manganese and could benefit from its abilities to improve the bone density, and fight osteoporosis.

  1. Support Digestive Tract Health

The high content of manganese and fiber in hazelnuts promotes regular movement of food and toxins through the digestive tract, dispensing the burden of work consistently along the way and supporting the proper balance of microorganisms and chemicals essential for a healthy digestive system.

  1. Control Nervous System

Hazelnuts are also rich in vitamin B6. The nervous system requires amino acids in order to function properly, and these acids need vitamin B6. Furthermore, this vitamin is crucial for the creation of myelin, which improves the efficiency and speed of electrical impulses, permitting the nervous system to function optimally. Moreover, vitamin B6 is involved in the synthesis of the neurotransmitters melatonin, epinephrine, and serotonin. 

  1. High in B Vitamins

These nuts are rich in all B – vitamins. Our bodies rely on these vitamins to dismantle fats, carbohydrates, and proteins for us, thus, providing us with a great energy. The B vitamin complex is used in the body, principally for the health of the nervous system. B Vitamin complex assuages anxiety, stress, and depression. These vitamins also boost the memory and are required for the production of neurotransmitters. Riboflavin is required for healthy red blood cells and B9 helps hormone synthesis. Niacin improves the health of the skin and supports the normal function of the nervous and digestive systems. Certain B vitamins aid repair and build damaged DNA.

italian hazelnuts

Hazelnut Nutrition Facts 

Even though hazelnut contains fats and has a higher calorie count than some other healthy snacks, a rational serving size contains numerous crucial nutrients that you could eat and not gain weight.

29 grams /1 ounce of hazelnuts contain around:

  • 174 calories
  • 6 grams’ carbohydrates
  • 15 grams’ fat
  • 1 grams’ protein
  • 8 grams’ fiber
  • 6 milligrams manganese (86% DV)
  • 4-milligram copper (24% DV)
  • 1 milligrams vitamin E (21% DV)
  • 9-milligram thiamine (12% DV)
  • 5 milligrams magnesium (11% DV)
  • 6 micrograms folate (8% DV)
  • 1-milligram vitamin B6 (8% DV)
  • 3 milligrams phosphorus (8% DV)
  • 2 milligrams iron (7% DV)
  • 191 milligrams potassium (5% DV)
  • 5 micrograms vitamin K (5% DV)
  • 8-milligram zinc (5% DV)

Hazelnuts also contain amounts of calcium, niacin, and vitamin C. 

How to Use and Store Hazelnuts?

  • Hazelnuts can be purchased unshelled, shelled, chopped and without or with skin. Unshelled hazelnuts are much better than the processed ones. The nuts are usually brown to yellow in their color and uniform in size. You can Store shelled hazelnuts in a refrigerator or in an airtight container to prevent them from becoming rancid.
  • One of the biggest advantages of this nut is that they could be eaten raw, without additions. Raw hazelnuts are more nutritive than the roasted ones. You can also blend hazelnuts with brown sugar, fruits, and milk to prepare a delicious smoothie. Though, if you don’t like the taste of raw nuts, you could roast them in an oven at home.
  • Hazelnuts are used in confectionery like praline and chocolate truffle. Powdered hazelnuts are also added to coffees.
  • These nuts are also used to prepare hazelnut butter that is perfect for people who suffer from peanut butter allergy.
  • Hazelnut oil is used as a carrier oil for medical uses. This oil is used for cooking purposes, too.

 

 

Conclusion:

Hazelnuts are touted for their abilities to protect our bodies from several diseases. Italian hazelnuts are one of the tastiest and most popular hazelnuts in the world. Apart from being a yummy indulgence, these nuts can help maintain the health of the heart and reduce weight. If you like nuts, read more about health benefits of eating walnuts, almond, brazil nuts, and pecans: LINK

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