Why Hazelnuts Are Such A Great Snack

Hazelnuts may be found in a host of foods — from salads and chocolates to breads and cookies — but this nutritional powerhouse is also perfect as a standalone snack. It's best to buy hazelnuts, or filbert nuts as they are sometimes known, pre-shelled to avoid the hassle of using the nutcracker. They're often sold sliced or whole, roasted and without skins, too, although the list of health benefits is even more lengthy if eaten raw and with the skins still on.

As WebMD notes, hazelnuts are small — no bigger than a large marble, really — but packed with nutrients. They're loaded with vitamins and minerals, rich in antioxidants, and chock-full of fiber and healthy fats. According to Healthline, hazelnuts are helpful in reducing inflammation, lowering cholesterol levels, improving blood sugar, and also protecting the body against oxidative stress. This latter is particularly important in the two things hazelnuts are best known for.

Better heart health, lower rates of cancer

At the heart of the hazelnut's appeal as snack food is its association with heart health and lower rates of cancer. According to WebMD, the risk of developing certain types of cancer has been linked to higher levels of oxidative stress, and one of hazelnut's antioxidant enzymes — manganese superoxide dismutase — is known to decrease this imbalance. Further, as Verywell Fit notes, hazelnuts are cholesterol-free, sodium-free, and a good source of fiber.

But that's not all. Hazelnuts are particularly rich in antioxidant chemical compounds called proanthocyanidins, which are also found in nuts like pecans and pistachios, but not at the same level. As Healthline observes, this is one of many hazelnut qualities that have been shown in test tube and animal studies to help lower the risk of cancer.

A study published in the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition has also shown that hazelnuts are associated with a decreased risk of coronary heart disease. Pretty good for a snack food. Especially one that tastes this good.