Hazelnuts are the fruit of the deciduous hazel tree, which is native to many parts of the northern hemisphere. Also sometimes known as a cob nut, hazel nuts can be eaten raw or ground to use in cooking. They are used to make praline, and also pressed to extract hazelnut oil.
These tasty nuts have an extraordinarily long history as a human foodstuff – a Mesolithic pit dating back 9000 years in Scotland was found to contain thousands of hazelnuts shells.
Hazelnuts are an excellent source of vitamin E, which is vital for healthy looking skin and hair. They are also high in protein and dietary fibre, and are a very good source of thiamin, manganese, magnesium and phosphorus. They also contain zinc, vitamin K and calcium.
Among the many phytonutrients found in hazelnuts are a range of proanthocyanidins. Of these, quercetin and kaempferol in particular are known to improve circulation, which has beneficial effects for both heart health and cognitive function.
Hazelnuts are a good source of healthy polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, which can help to lower cholesterol. Oleic acid, found in hazelnuts, can also raise the levels of good cholesterol in the body.