The hickory nut is native to North America, but is rarely found in grocery stores because of the difficulty of extracting the nut's meat. Your local farmer's market or specialty store might stock them, but you may need to seek out hickory trees in the fall, when their nuts start dropping. Move fast, though, as squirrels may beat you to the nuts.
One ounce of hickory nuts contains 180 calories. Snacking on hickory nuts is a wise choice, as a 1 oz. serving fits into the preferred 100 to 200 calorie range for a snack. The calories offer a variety of nutrition, as well. To calculate an ounce of hickory nuts without pulling out your food scale, pile the nuts in the palm of your hand. One ounce is close to a small handful.
Hickory nuts contain quite a bit of fat, with 18.2 g per serving. The good news is that only 2 g of that fat is the “bad” type of fat, saturated, that may increase your risk of coronary heart disease. You will also get 5.2 g of carbohydrates in an ounce of hickory nuts, or 4 percent of the daily recommended intake. A 1 oz. serving of hickory nuts provides 3.6 g of protein, as well. Your diet should include 46 to 56 g of protein each day.
A serving of hickory nuts, either as a snack or incorporated into a recipe, provides 16 percent of the vitamin B-1 you need each day. Vitamin B-1, also called thiamine, works to maintain the function of your muscles, heart and central nervous system. A serving of hickory nuts contains 3 percent of the daily recommended value of vitamin B-6, a nutrient involved in protein metabolism.
A 1-oz. serving of hickory nuts contains 12 percent of the magnesium your body requires daily. Magnesium keeps your muscles, kidneys and heart functioning correctly, and this mineral plays a critical role in activating enzymes and regulating calcium levels. Eat a serving of hickory nuts, and you will also get 10 percent of the daily recommended intake of phosphorus.
Hickory nuts have a very hard outer shell, and the inner meat is often nearly destroyed during attempts to shell the nut. An article in “Mother Earth News” recommends using a hammer to hit the hickory nut on the “bulls eye,” or a point approximately 1/3 of the way down from its stem. If struck with enough force, the nut should break into several pieces, allowing you to pick out the meat.