Are Macadamia Nuts Healthy?

Macadamia nuts are native to Australia but are now grown throughout South America, Africa and Asia. These nuts are known for being rich in many types of nutrients and antioxidants, which can benefit your health in a number of ways. Macadamia nuts can also be used to make oils that are used in the manufacture of many products.

As little as 10 to 15 grams of macadamia nuts each day can positively affect your health. (Image: suksao999/iStock/GettyImages)

Tip

Macadamia nuts are good for you as they're rich in vitamin B1 (thiamin), various minerals and healthy unsaturated fats.

Macadamia Nut Products

Macadamia nuts are a type of tree nut, like almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, pecans and walnuts. These nuts are grown and consumed all over the world, and you might find them produced practically anywhere — from Hawaii to Bolivia. They can be used to create oils that serve as an ingredient in beauty products, toiletries and a range of food products, such as cooking oils and salad dressings.

Macadamia nuts are often consumed on their own as a snack and can be eaten raw, roasted or salted. They have a higher fat content than many other nuts, so they're frequently used to make nut butters. Macadamia nuts are also integrated into desserts and sweets, like cookies, brownies and ice cream, and may also be used in salads and curries or to crust meats and fish.

The way macadamia nuts are consumed can have an influence on their nutritional value. Like many other foods, they are best eaten after being cooked at low to medium heat. This reduces the risk of development of any potentially harmful heat-related compounds, like glycotoxins. Using low to medium heat when roasting or toasting macadamias also reduces the formation of harmful bioactive compounds but still renders down some of the fat found in these nuts.

Macadamia Nut Nutrition Facts

A standard serving of macadamia nuts is 1 ounce (28 grams), which is roughly 10 to 12 nuts. These nuts contain a lot of fats, but most of them are healthy fats like omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which are good for your heart, brain and immune system. Macadamia nuts are also a good source of fiber, with 10 percent of the daily value (DV) per serving, based on a 2,000-calorie diet. Each ounce of macadamia nuts contains:

  • 23 percent of the DV for vitamin B1 (also known as thiamin)
  • 11 percent of the DV for copper
  • 6 percent of the DV for iron
  • 9 percent of the DV for magnesium
  • 58 percent of the DV for manganese
  • 5 percent of the DV for phosphorus

Macadamia nuts are rich in antioxidants and contain small amounts (between 1 and 4 percent) of protein, other B-complex vitamins, and vitamins C and E. They contain small amounts of minerals such as calcium, potassium, zinc and selenium as well. In addition, macadamias provide 203 calories per ounce, which is roughly 10 percent of the total calories you should consume each day.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, eating 43 grams (1.5 ounces) of nuts a day can help reduce your risk of heart disease. The Cleveland Clinic recommends consuming five or more servings of nuts each week. However, a 2015 study in the International Journal of Epidemiology showed that consuming only a third to half an ounce of nuts each day can be beneficial to your health too.

Comparing Tree Nut Nutrition

Although they're all part of the same family, tree nuts are not created equal when it comes to nutrition. Most nuts are considered to be high-fat, energy-dense foods and provide roughly similar numbers of calories, but the types and amounts of vitamins and minerals they contain often differ substantially.

Macadamia nuts are a good source of healthy fats as well as manganese, with 58 percent of the DV of this mineral per serving. Hazelnuts and walnuts are fairly similar to macadamia nuts in nutritional value. Like macadamias, they're rich in manganese, supplying 87 percent of the DV per ounce-sized serving for hazelnuts and 48 percent of the DV for walnuts.

Other nuts tend to contain higher levels of other nutrients. For example, cashews are a better source of protein, providing 10 percent of the DV per serving, compared to the 4 percent found in macadamia nuts. Almonds have 37 percent of the DV for vitamin E per serving, while only small amounts of this nutrient are found in macadamias. Similarly, there's very little vitamin B6 in macadamias, whereas pistachios give you 24 percent of the DV for B6 per serving.

Fats and Carbs in Nuts

Macadamia nuts contain substantially more fat than some types of nuts. Each 1-ounce serving of macadamias has 21.4 grams of fat. In comparison:

  • Almonds have 14 grams of fat per ounce.
  • Cashews have 12.3 grams of fat per ounce.
  • Hazelnuts have 17.2 grams of fat per ounce.
  • Pistachios have 12.6 grams of fat per ounce.
  • Walnuts have 18.4 grams of fat per ounce.

This doesn't mean that macadamias are bad for you, though. According to a 2015 study in the Journal of Natural Sciences, most of the fats in macadamia nuts are healthy monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats, which are good for your heart. Other tree nuts, such as walnuts, pistachios and hazelnuts, are also good sources of healthy fats, including essential omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

At the same time, macadamias supply only about 4 grams of carbohydrates per ounce. Because they're so rich in healthy fats and low in carbohydrates, they're particularly well-suited for low-carbohydrate diets like the ketogenic diet. Macadamias are also a good source of fiber, which can help improve digestion and mediate gastrointestinal symptoms that sometimes occur with high-fat diets like the ketogenic diet.

Certain nuts, like walnuts, are also suitable for low-carbohydrate diets, but many other nuts that are rich in healthy fats, like pistachios, need to be restricted. Some nuts that are high in calories should be avoided altogether if you're following a strict low-carbohydrate or ketogenic diet.

Calories in Tree Nuts

In general, tree nuts are considered to be high-calorie foods. At 203 calories per ounce, macadamia nuts are higher in calories than most other tree nuts. For example:

  • Almonds have 162 calories per ounce (23 kernels).
  • Cashews have 155 calories per ounce (18 kernels).
  • Hazelnuts have 177 calories per ounce (21 kernels).
  • Pistachios have 157 calories per ounce (49 kernels).
  • Walnuts have 185 calories per ounce (14 halves).

Compared to the calories in cashews, which contain 7 percent of the DV for calories, and most other nuts, which provide 8 to 9 percent of the DV for calories, macadamias aren't significantly different. Despite this, their calorie content may make them seem unsuitable as a diet-friendly food. They're also more difficult to split into satisfying half servings of just five or six nuts, as opposed to 10 hazelnuts or 25 pistachios.

People who follow low-calorie diets are often of the opinion that they have to avoid high-calorie foods such as nuts, in spite of their high nutritive value. There aren't many low-calorie nuts, except chestnuts, which contain only about 55 calories per 1-ounce serving. Of the tree nuts, chestnuts probably vary the most from macadamias, even beyond their different levels of vitamins and minerals. For example, the oil content of chestnuts is 2.26 percent versus 75.77 percent for macadamia nuts.

Despite their high fat and calorie content, macadamia nuts are a good choice for dieters. Eaten in moderation, they won't cause you to gain weight and may even aid in weight management. This means they may be one of the healthiest nuts to consume if you're trying to combat issues like obesity and Type 2 diabetes.

Macadamia Benefits

Macadamia nuts contain a hefty amount of manganese, which is essential for the health of your bones, skin and metabolism. Insufficient amounts of this mineral can lead to skin rashes and blisters, osteoporosis, and increased mood swings and pain that occur during the female menstrual cycle. Manganese is generally considered nontoxic. Because it's excreted through the gut, consuming too much is unlikely, although this can occur in people who are miners or other metal workers.

Tree nuts, like macadamias, are all considered to be good for your health. They can also help lower cholesterol and triglycerides. Like other tree nuts, macadamias improve heart health and reduce the likelihood of heart disease.

However, a 2015 study in the International Journal of Epidemiology showed that consuming nuts can provide benefits beyond improving the health of your heart. Eating nuts regularly can reduce the risk of death caused by a variety of health problems, including:

  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease and stroke
  • Neurodegenerative conditions
  • Respiratory disease

While 1-ounce (28 grams) servings of nuts are standard, the positive effects on your health can be obtained from consuming as little as 10 to 15 grams of nuts a day. Because nuts differ widely in nutritional value, it's a good idea to vary the types of nuts you eat.

The antioxidants in macadamia nuts are also beneficial to your health. But you should be aware that like other tree nuts, macadamia's antioxidants are found in its skin. If you're eating macadamia nuts that have had their skins removed, chances are that most of their antioxidants have been removed too. The antioxidants in macadamia nuts may also be reduced when the nuts are roasted or cooked in other ways.

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