Native to Europe and Western Asia, hazel has a long history of cultivation for its nuts. In Scotland, hazelnuts were already harvested in large quantities around 6,000 BC which means people have been eating them for even longer.
An ounce (28 grams or a small handful) of hazelnuts provides over four grams of protein and nearly three grams of fibre. It also comes with a dose of healthy, unsaturated fats and only just over one gram of saturated (bad) fats – that’s very little!
Hazelnuts are a good source of folate, essential for brain and nerve function, and vitamin E. The latter is an important antioxidant that protects cell membranes from damage. You may have noticed that many skin care products contain vitamin E but it’s far better to feed your skin from the inside.
Hazelnuts are also rich in manganese and copper – the former is needed for healthy bones, skin, cartilage, nervous system and in sugar metabolism, while the latter is vital for red blood cell formation, collagen manufacture and many crucial reactions in the body.
On top of that, hazelnuts nicely contribute to your iron intake, with around 1.3 milligrams per ounce – the recommended intake is 14.8 milligrams for women of reproductive age and 8.7 milligrams for everyone else. And, as if that wasn’t good enough already, hazelnuts also pack a dose of magnesium needed for healthy nerve and muscle function.
If you experience runny or blocked nose, coughing, itching of the mouth, throat, eyes, or skin, hives or more serious symptoms, such as nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting or diarrhoea, swollen throat, lips, tongue and/or face, or shortness of breath after eating hazelnuts or foods that contain them, you may have hazelnut allergy.
Most often, people experience Oral allergy syndrome (OAS) with the typical itching or tingling of the mouth. It is a form of food allergy in which people who are sensitive to certain types of pollen also react to related foods. In the case of hazelnuts, people with birch pollen allergies tend to be also allergic to hazelnuts because the pollen from birch trees contains substances similar to those in hazelnuts.
Hazelnuts are the most common tree nut allergy in Europe. If you suffer from this allergy, it could mean hazelnuts are off the menu for you but it might not be so black and white. Some people who are allergic to raw hazelnuts don’t react to roasted ones. However, only ever try this if you have a very mild form of the allergy!
Traditional hazelnut orchards are very sustainable and environmentally friendly but the growing demand for hazelnuts, especially for confectionery, has been steadily growing. It has led to the establishment of large hazelnut plantations which are bad for biodiversity, environment and local people. There’s no easy solution as organic hazelnuts are smaller and less perfect than non-organic and big companies demand perfection. It’s always best to buy products from companies and small businesses that have an ethical code in place, so you can enjoy your treats with clear conscience.
How to use hazelnuts?
These little nuts go great with sweet and savoury dishes alike so you can add them to almost anything. Find hazelnut recipe inspiration at our Vegan Recipe Club.