Dry Fruits

Hazelnuts: Powerhouse with Rich History and 10 surprising facts

Hazelnuts, known for their sweet flavor and rich nutritional profile, are more than just an ingredient in spreads and confections. These nuts have a storied history and a multitude of health benefits, making them a valuable addition to any diet.

Origin and Historical Background

Hazelnuts, also known as filberts, have a rich history that dates back to ancient times. Originating from the temperate regions of Europe and Asia, they have been consumed by humans for thousands of years, valued both for their taste and nutritional benefits.

Botanical Classification

Hazelnuts, scientifically known as Corylus avellana, belong to the Betulaceae family. This family includes birches and alders, positioning hazelnuts among a group of deciduous trees and shrubs. Notably characterized by their round, hard shells and edible kernels, hazelnut trees are valued for both their nuts and wood.

Nutritional Profile


  • Protein: Hazelnuts contain about 15 grams of protein per 100 grams, making them a good plant-based protein source.
  • Fats: Rich in monounsaturated fats, particularly oleic acid, which is beneficial for heart health. They also contain linoleic acid, an essential omega-6 fatty acid.
  • Carbohydrates: They have a low carbohydrate content, with a small portion coming from dietary fibers, which aid in digestion.


  • Vitamin E: They are an excellent source of Vitamin E, an antioxidant that helps protect cells from oxidative damage.
  • B-Complex Vitamins: They contain notable amounts of B-complex vitamins such as folate, thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine (B6), and are one of the rare nuts to contain Biotin (B7).


  • Manganese: Essential for bone formation and nutrient metabolism.
  • Copper: Plays a role in iron absorption and red blood cell formation.
  • Magnesium: Important for muscle and nerve function, blood glucose control, and bone health.
  • Iron: Crucial for the formation of hemoglobin and oxygen transport.
  • Phosphorus: Supports bone health and the creation of energy in cells.
  • Potassium: Helps regulate fluid balance, muscle contractions, and nerve signals.

Antioxidants and Phytochemicals

  • Phytosterols: Hazelnuts contain phytosterols, which can lower cholesterol.
  • Flavonoids: The presence of flavonoids helps improve brain health and reduce inflammation and the risk of blood clots.

Health Benefits

  • Heart Health: Hazelnuts can help reduce cholesterol levels and improve overall heart health.
  • Antioxidant Properties: High in vitamin E, they protect the body from oxidative damage.
  • Brain Health: Support cognitive function and brain health.
  • Cancer Prevention: May reduce the risk of cancer.

Culinary Uses

They are versatile in the kitchen:

  • Confectionery: Key ingredient in chocolates, spreads, and pralines.
  • Baking: Used in cakes, cookies, and pastries.
  • Cooking: Enhance the flavor of salads, pasta, and meat dishes.
  • Snacking: Eaten raw, roasted, or as part of nut mixes.

Cultivation and Harvesting

Hazelnut cultivation thrives in temperate climates with moist, well-drained soils. The trees flower and pollinate in winter, with nuts maturing by autumn. Harvesting involves collecting fallen nuts from the ground, often facilitated by mechanical sweepers. Post-harvest, the nuts are dried to reduce moisture, enhancing flavor and shelf-life.

Environmental Impact

Hazelnut cultivation can boost biodiversity, offering habitats for wildlife. However, monoculture practices risk soil degradation. Sustainable farming and diversification are key for minimizing environmental impact.

Cultural Significance

Hazelnuts hold cultural significance across many traditions. In ancient times, they symbolized wisdom and inspiration. In Norse mythology, they were considered sacred to Thor, bringing good luck. They’re also integral to festive traditions, often used in Christmas and wedding confections. In modern culture, they are synonymous with luxury chocolates and spreads.

Research and Future Prospects

Current research on hazelnuts focuses on their health benefits, particularly heart health and anti-cancer properties. Future prospects include sustainable farming practices and exploring new uses in nutraceuticals and food products.

Surprising Facts about Hazelnuts

  1. Ancient History: Hazelnuts are one of the oldest cultivated nuts, with evidence of their consumption dating back over 9,000 years.

  2. Symbol of Wisdom: In ancient times, hazelnuts were considered a symbol of wisdom and inspiration.

  3. Oregon’s Production: Over 95% of the hazelnuts produced in the United States come from Oregon.

  4. Ferrero Rocher: The popular chocolate Ferrero Rocher is known for its extensive use of hazelnuts.

  5. Unique Harvesting Method: They are typically harvested by shaking the trees, causing the nuts to fall to the ground.

  6. Nutella Dependency: About 25% of the world’s hazelnut supply is used to make Nutella.

  7. High in Nutrients: They are rich in vitamins E and B, minerals like magnesium and copper, and are a good source of healthy fats.

  8. Longevity of Trees: Hazelnut trees can produce nuts for over 80 years, making them a sustainable crop.

  9. Shell’s Strength: Its shells are incredibly tough and have been used as a natural abrasive in cleaning products.

  10. Sacred in Norse Mythology: In Norse mythology, they were considered sacred to Thor, the god of thunder, and were believed to bring good luck in marriage.


Hazelnuts are a valuable and versatile nut, prized for their rich flavor and numerous health benefits. Cultivated in temperate regions and harvested with care, they are a source of essential nutrients, including healthy fats, proteins, and antioxidants. Hazelnuts enhance various culinary dishes and have a significant role in both cultural traditions and modern diets, making them a cherished ingredient globally.

Do read about Lemongrass as well.

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