Are Macadamia Nuts Healthy?

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Macadamia nuts are loaded with fat and high in calories. These are not traits you would generally associate with a healthy food. But, before you write macadamia nuts off, you should also know that they are a unique source of key nutrients and actually are good for your heart. In the context of a healthy diet, macadamia nuts are a snack alternative you can feel good about.

Fat

Macadamia nuts are among the fattiest of all nuts. Surprisingly, it may be the fat in the nuts that makes them healthy. The majority of the fat in Macadamia nuts is in the form of monounsaturated fatty acids. A Chinese study published in 2006 in the "International Journal for Vitamin and Nutrition Research" found that 82.6 percent of the fat in macadamia nuts is monounsaturated. In comparison, olive oil, a highly touted source of monounsaturated fatty acids, contains 55 to 83 percent monounsaturated fats. These types of fatty acids benefit the cardiovascular system.

Other Nutrients

Like other nuts, macadamia nuts contain a good deal of fiber. One oz. of macadamia nuts contains about 2.3 g of fiber. That's about 10 percent of your daily fiber needs in 10 to 12 nuts, according to the "Carbs-Information" web resource. Fiber adds bulk to the stools and keeps the bowels moving regularly. According to a 2007 article in the "Journal of Environmental Science and Health," macadamia nuts are also a source of important trace minerals, including magnesium, calcium, iron, copper, chromium, manganese and zinc.

Research

Several studies link macadamia nut consumption to improved blood lipid profiles and reduced coronary risks. One such study, at Pennsylvania State University was published in the "Journal of Nutrition" in 2008. That study compared the effects of two similar diets with equal amounts of fat, protein and carbohydrate. One group received the bulk of their dietary fat from macadamia nuts, while the other group got their fat from other sources. At the end of five weeks, both groups reduced their "bad" LDL cholesterol, but the macadamia nut group had significantly greater decreases in both LDL and total cholesterol.

Warnings

Macadamia nuts contain 200 calories per ounce, so attention to portion size is important if you are counting calories. Also, the net nutritional value of macadamia nuts is reduced if the nuts are merely an ingredient in a cookie or other sugary snack. Snack nuts often have added salt. This may be a concern if you are on a low-sodium diet.

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