Macadamia Nuts Origin & History
Can you guess where macadamia nuts originated? The Americas? Asia? Australia? Africa? If you guessed Australia you’d be correct. The macadamia tree is also commonly referred to as the Queensland nut, bush nut, and Hawaii nut.
It was a regular food of the Aboriginal people who traded it among the different tribes and used it to create ceremonial gifts.
Though the Aboriginal peoples long enjoyed this nut, it wasn’t until the mid-1800s that Europeans discovered its distinctive and delicious flavor. Soon afterward, the macadamia nut began making its way all over the world—eventually, it landed in Hawaii where it is still grown today.
Macadamia Nuts Nutrition Facts
This tree prefers tropical climates for best production; it prefers mineral-rich soil along the coasts of Australia and Hawaii. It can grow upwards of 40 feet and begins producing fruit after seven years.
The macadamia nut is actually a seed within a woody-type fruit produced by the tree; each fruit produces one or two macadamia nuts. One ounce of macadamia nuts, approximately 10-12 pieces, contains 201 calories per serving. Of these 201 calories, 178 are from fats.
The total fat content in this serving equals 21 grams or 33% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA). This serving size is free from cholesterol and sodium. It does contain 4 grams of carbohydrates, which includes 2 grams of dietary fiber and 1 gram of naturally occurring sugars. One ounce also provides 2 grams of protein.
Health Benefits – Vitamins Found In Macadamia Nuts
Like many nuts, macadamia nuts offer a limited array of vitamins. A one-ounce serving provides 22% of the body’s daily thiamin needs. As part of the B-complex of vitamins, this vitamin helps the body metabolize energy.
Thiamin, or B1, also supports the nervous system—specifically the brain. Deficiencies in B1 have been linked to a wide array of health conditions including Alzheimer’s disease.
Many other vitamins are present but in amounts smaller than 4% of the RDA including vitamin C, vitamin E, riboflavin, niacin, B6, folate, and pantothenic acid. Vitamin C works not only to support the immune system but also works as an antioxidant destroying free radicals in the body.
Folate is another key vitamin—particularly for expecting mothers as it can dramatically decrease the instance of neural tube defects in infants.
Health Benefits – Minerals Found In Macadamia Nuts
Macadamia nuts offer a stronger mineral profile. A single serving provides 58% of the RDA for manganese. This mineral plays a key role in the bone production as well as skin integrity; it’s a key component in making collagen which the skin needs to remain healthy.
Studies show that manganese forms MnSOD, an enzyme that works as an antioxidant in the body attacking and disposing of free radicals. Left unchecked, free radicals can create a host of health issues ranging from chronic diseases to certain types of cancers.
These nuts also contain 11% of the RDA for copper and 9% for magnesium. Copper is another key mineral in the body; it is responsible for building strong tissue as well as bones.
It also works to produce energy in the body. Magnesium supports the nervous system. Like copper, it helps produce strong bones. If the body lacks enough magnesium, it will actually draw it from the bones, weakening them and increasing the risk of bone fractures; therefore, it’s very important that the body meet its daily recommended amounts of magnesium.
Other minerals present at 6% or less include iron, phosphorus, calcium, potassium, zinc, and selenium.
Health Benefits – Other Compounds Found In Macadamia Nuts
Although not a significant source of fatty acids, macadamia nuts do contain 57.7 milligrams of Omega-3 and 363 mg of Omega-6. Fatty acids play a key role in maintaining brain and heart health; diets rich in fatty acid have proven to reduce the risk of heart disease.
Macadamia nuts also offer 32.5 mg of phytosterols; these compounds can work within the body to lower LDL cholesterol—the bad kind. Several phytochemicals are present in these nuts as well including tocopherols; these compounds work to remove free radicals from the body.
Macadamia nuts contain a decent amount of fiber as well. Studies show that diets rich in dietary fiber not only support a healthy digestive tract but can lower the risk of diseases, including colon cancer.
Macadamia Nuts Selection
Macadamia nuts may be purchased shelled or unshelled. Unshelled versions may be raw, roasted, salted, or sweetened. When purchasing unshelled, it’s best to purchase a sealed quantity; doing so ensures that the nuts haven’t been exposed to moisture.
However many stores offer self-serve bins; when selecting bulk quantities of macadamia nuts it’s important to inspect the quality of the nut. Look for uniform color and a smooth appearance.
Avoid any nuts with a wrinkled appearance or those that show darkened spots as this is a likely sign of spoilage. Like most nuts with a high-fat content, macadamia nuts should be stored in a cool, dry place where humidity is controlled. Exposure to moisture and/or heat can cause rancidity.
Macadamia Nuts Serving Suggestions
These tropical favorites are delicious simply by themselves; a handful typically constitutes a complete serving. They are great additions to homemade trail mixes or granola bars. Macadamia nuts are a great addition to traditional breakfast dishes such as oatmeal or yogurt. They can be chopped and layered in a parfait as well.
Their nutty taste complements many baked dishes including cookies, muffins, sweet bread, and scones. Chopped, they can be added to green salads for a bit of extra crunch and flavor. And don’t forget about white meat dishes—finely grounded macadamia nuts can offer a delicious crust for both chicken and fish dishes.
Many retails also offer macadamia nut oil which can be used in place of olive oil. It can dress a green salad or used to sauté or finish a variety of vegetable side dishes. These delicious nuts may also be made into a pesto for dipping or pasta dishes or into a nut butter to replace peanut butter.
Five Fun Macadamia Nut Facts
1 – Hawaii grows and processes macadamia nuts year round.
2 – These nuts are harvested after falling to the ground.
3 – A mature macadamia nut tree can produce up to 65 pounds of nuts each year.
4 – Hawaii has more than 700 macadamia nut farms!
5 – This nut’s husk can be used in animal feed.