The Nutritious, Delicious, and Enduring Hazelnut

When we think of hazelnuts, we often associate them with desserts such as cakes, pastries, and confections - especially paired with chocolate. Although typically associated with sweets, hazelnuts also have a long history as an ingredient in savory dishes. This versatility remains relevant today, as they can be used to produce oil, flour, and liqueur.

We humans have had a taste for hazelnuts for thousands of years. They grow wild and prehistoric peoples likely foraged them. They were eventually domesticated and have been cultivated for thousands of years. Today, Turkey is the world’s largest producer of hazelnuts. Nationally, Oregon produces nearly all of the hazelnuts in the United States.

The importance of hazelnuts as a source of nourishment throughout history is best captured in Irish mythology. Traditionally, hazels were trees of knowledge and poetic inspiration. A legend tells how nine hazel trees grew around the Well of Wisdom. A salmon ate nine nuts from each tree, and gained the world’s knowledge. The first person to eat the salmon would gain its knowledge. A young man called Fionn mac Cumhaill had a taste of the salmon when he was ordered to cook the fish by his master; and he went on to become one of the most heroic figures in Irish mythology.

Hazelnuts may not have the power to transform you into a legendary character, but they are an excellent source of energy and great for your body. They are nutrient rich and packed with healthy fats, protein, and antioxidants. Here are some hazelnuts key benefits:

Heart Health

Hazelnuts are rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which are heart-healthy fats. These fats can help lower bad cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Brain Health

Hazelnuts are a good source of vitamin E, an antioxidant that is important for maintaining cognitive health. Vitamin E helps protect cells from oxidative damage.

Digestive Health

Hazelnuts are a good source of dietary fiber. Fiber helps prevent constipation and supports a healthy digestive system.

Blood Sugar Control

Hazelnuts have a low glycemic index, which means they have a minimal impact on blood sugar levels. This can be beneficial for individuals with diabetes or those looking to manage their blood sugar levels.

Hazelnuts are not only a tasty treat but also an excellent choice for those seeking a healthy and nourishing snack option. Incorporating them into your diet can be an easy way to enhance your overall well-being. Whether enjoyed as a standalone snack or added to a dish, their unique flavor makes them a versatile choice for any meal. Packed with essential nutrients, they offer a satisfying crunch while providing numerous benefits for the brain and heart. 


Matthew Wills, “Everything You Wanted to Know about Hazelnuts but Were Afraid to Ask,” JStor Daily, Nov 2019.

Arlene Semeco, MS, RD. “7 Ways Hazelnuts Benefit Your Health,” Healthline, July 2023. 

Ireland’s Native Hazel Tree, rooted in history and mythology,

Lakhan R, Sharma M, Batra K, Beatty FB. The Role of Vitamin E in Slowing Down Mild Cognitive Impairment: A Narrative Review. Healthcare (Basel). 2021;9(11):1573. Published 2021 Nov 18. doi:10.3390/healthcare9111573 

Blomhoff, Rune, Monica H. Carlsen, Lene Frost Andersen, and David R. Jacobs. "Health Benefits of Nuts: Potential Role of Antioxidants." British Journal of Nutrition 96, no. S2 (2006): S52-60. doi:10.1017/BJN20061864.

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