The hazelnut tree, Corylus Avellana scientific name, is a native of Asia and belongs to the family of Betalaceae; the hazel can reach a height of 7 meters and grows wild, especially in countries with Mediterranean climate.
The hazelnuts tree is a very old plant so that the Greeks and Romans already appreciated its therapeutic properties; in fact, the chemical composition of the oil extracted from the hazelnuts, is very similar to that of extra virgin olive oil.
In Italy the cultivation of this plant is located mainly in a few regions: Piedmont, Sicily, Campania and Lazio. In Piedmont are grown variety called Tonda Gentile Trilobata to which was given the brand IGP that, thanks to the strict rules of production and a respective supervisory body, guarantees its quality.
Thanks to their characteristics, Piedmont hazelnuts are considered the best in the world.
Hazelnuts: Properties and benefits
The hazelnuts are composed of 5,3 % water, 15 % protein, 9,75 from fiber, fat, carbohydrates, ash, sugars (4 %) and starch (0,5 %); the minerals are: calcium, phosphorus, potassium, manganese, copper, selenium, zinc, iron and magnesium.
Among the vitamins hazelnuts contain B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, E vitamin, K and J, and in the last C vitamine.
This the list of the amino acids: aspartic acid and glutamic acid, arginine, glycine, leucine, proline, serine, threonine and valine.
Benefits and Curative Properties of Hazelnuts
The hazelnuts are characterized by a good digestibility and a good content of E vitamin, a natural antioxidant capable of slowing down the cellular aging and counteract the action of free radicals.
Hazelnuts are a very energy food with mineralizing effect; for this reason hazelnuts are very indicated in states of convalescence, for athletes or for those who have feelings of exhaustion, both physical and mental.
Regular consumption of dried fruit, hazelnuts in particular, helps to fight the "bad" cholesterol and prevent cardiovascular problems.
The leaves of the hazel are instead used in phytotherapy thanks to their cleansing properties to the body and for their anti-inflammatory, wound healing and astringent effects.
Finally, hazelnuts, also have laxative properties if consumed after meals.
Many times, in the presence of fresh hazelnuts, may be difficult to take away their thin skins covering them; to overcome this minor inconvenience you can put them in the oven for a few minutes then dry them and store them in a cloth and then wipe.
The nuts harvest is done in the fall when they have reached full maturity and detach easily from the plant.
The best varieties grown in Italy are the Red nocella, the White nocella and the Gentle Langhe trefoil that, as seen before, took the IGP brand; the latter is one of the basic ingredients of the cream of the famous Ferrero, widespread and known throughout the world under the name of Nutella.
The Celtic population considered the hazel a magical tree and its seeds were often used in their religious rituals to get the favor of the divinity: in America the most common name to indicate the witches in the comics is just "witch hazel" probably in reference to the magical properties conferred to the hazelnuts in antiquity.
The hazelnut oil is obtained by pressing the seeds and it is intended primarily to the cosmetics but also for the preparation of colors; thanks to its softening, toning and nutrients properties it is much used for massage and facial care.
The hazelnut oil contains unsaturated fatty acids and E vitamin; for this reason is used in the treatment of the skin by preventing dehydration. Even the hair and scalp can benefit from its use.
Recently it was discovered a huge turnover in which the hazelnuts oil was added illegally to the finest extra virgin olive oil with the highest revenues for counterfeiters.
Hazelnuts: Properties and benefits
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As all dried fruit hazelnuts are a food rich in "good" fats; omega-6 and omega-3 in particular, that are usually present in fish, in addition to preventing the onset of cardiovascular disease hazelnuts help to lower the rate of bad cholesterol in the blood.
The shell that contains the hazelnut is called the pericarp, it has a very hard consistency and it is a great fuel; best used in the new generation of stoves that besides using the pellets can also burn biomass.