Sweet, delicious and flavorful macadamia nuts are one of the popular edible nuts packed with notable health-benefiting nutrients. Macadamia is native to the East Coast rainforests of North Eastern parts of Australia. Several parts of mineral rich, tropical and subtropical areas of Australia, Hawaiian Islands, Middle Americas, Brazil and South African regions are favorite regions where these sweet and crunchy nuts grow in abundance. macadamia belongs to the family of Proteaceae, in the genus Macadamia. It’s scientific name is Macadamia integrifolia.
Macadamia tree reaches to about 15 meters in height. In general, it achieves maturity and begins to produce fruit at around the age of seventh year of plantation.
There are at least about seven species of macadamia grown in their wild natural habitat. However, only two of which are edible and cultivated in the horticulture farms around the world. Macadamia integrifolia produces smooth-shelled nuts, whereas Macadamia tetraphylla has nuts with a rough shell.
During each summer, the tree bears elongated chains of attractive cream-white colored flower racemes, which subsequently develop into tough shelled, round to spherical shaped fruits with a conical tip. Depending upon the cultivar type its shell may possess smooth or rough outer surface. Each fruit features 0.5 to 1 inch in diameter consisting of husk enveloping around a single kernel. Inside, the edible kernel is white, has smooth buttery surface and sweet taste.
Health benefits of Macadamia nuts:
- Macadamia nuts have sweet taste and are rich source of energy. 100 g of nuts provide about 718 calories, which is one of the highest calorific values among nuts.
- These nuts are packed with numerous health-benefiting nutrients, minerals, antioxidants and vitamins that are essential for optimum health and wellness.
- 100 g of macadamia provides 8.6 g or 23% of daily-recommended levels of dietary fiber. Additionally, they are a very good source of phytosterols such as ß-sitosterol. However, the nuts carry no cholesterol.
- Since macadamia is free from gluten, it is one of the popular ingredients in the preparation of gluten-free food formulas. Such formula preparations are a healthy alternative in patients with wheat gluten allergy and celiac disease.
- The nuts are rich source of mono-unsaturated fatty (MUF) like oleic acid (18:1) and palmitoleic acids (16:1). Studies suggest that MUF fats in the diet help lower total as well as LDL (bad) cholesterol and increase HDL (good) cholesterol levels in the blood. The Mediterranean diet, which is rich in fiber, MUF fats and antioxidants work favorably in maintaining healthy blood lipid profile and thus offer protection from coronary artery disease and strokes.
- Macadamias are an excellent source of minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese and zinc. 100 g nuts provide 3.6 µg of selenium. Selenium is a cardio-protective micro-mineral and an important anti-oxidant cofactor for glutathione peroxidase enzyme.
- Furthermore, the nuts are also rich in many important B-complex vitamins that are vital for metabolic functions. 100 g of nuts provide 15% of niacin, 21% of pyridoxine (vitamin B-6), 100% of thiamin, and 12% of riboflavin.
- They contain small amounts of vitamin-A, and vitamin E. Both these fat-soluble vitamins possess potent anti-oxidant activities, which serve to protect cell membranes and DNA damage from harmful oxygen-free radicals.
- Macadamias are usually eaten on their own by cracking them up using a nut-cracker machine. They can also be enjoyed roasted, salted or sweetened.
- Macadamia nuts are crunchy, yet pleasantly sweet in taste and feature nutty aroma.
- Macadamia easily blends with sweet delicacies. Roasted, crushed macadamia often sprinkled over salads, desserts, sweets, etc.
- Sprinkle chips and halves over desserts, particularly sundaes and other ice cream based recipes.
- They are widely used in confectionery, as an addition to biscuits, sweets and cakes.
- Macadamia butter is gluten free and rich in protein. Advice in gluten-sensitive individuals to prepare sandwiches, salad dressings, sauces, etc.
- Macadamia nut oil has close similarities to that of olive oil. When added to dishes, it imparts sweet delicious flavor to a wide variety of foods. It is widely applied as cooking and dressing oil in the preparations of vegetables, seafood and meat dishes in many cuisines.
Macadamia nut allergy is quite a rare occurrence and not as common as other tree nut allergies like cashew, and pistachios. However, sometimes it might cause hypersensitivity reactions in sensitive people to food substances prepared with these nuts. The type and severity of symptoms may range from gastro-intestinal symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, pain abdomen; and respiratory tract symptoms like swelling of lips, throat pain, breathing difficulty, and chest congestion. Therefore, caution should be exercised in those with nut allergic syndrome while using food preparations that contain these nut products.
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