Macadamia nuts: Why this healthy snack should be part of your diet

Ever thought of incorporating macadamia nuts in your diet? This is why you should. Experts affirm macadamia nuts as one of the healthiest snack because of their numerous health benefits and that this is why they are in high demand.

Globally, there is a 60 percent supply shortage of macadamia compared to the demand.

In Rwanda macadamia is used to produce macadamia oil, cookies, and soap among other products.

Macadamia nuts are grown in different parts of the country including Karongi District in the Western province, Ngoma and Rwamagana Districts in the Eastern province as well as Nyanza District in Southern province.

Nutrition experts say this type of nut is high in healthy fats, which has a lot of health benefits to overall human health.

According to Dieudonne Bukaba, the nutrition programme coordinator at Africa Humanitarian Action (AHA) Rwanda, macadamia nuts contain dietary fibre, protein, manganese, thiamine and a good amount of copper.

These, he says, are helpful in many ways including maintaining healthy weight and lowering the risk of diabetes, heart disease and some types of cancer.

He adds that the nuts also have fat content, which is higher than that of other types of nuts such as almonds, cashew nuts among others.

More than 75 percent of the fat that macadamia nuts contain is monounsaturated fat, which has health benefits. These nuts also contain specific kinds of monounsaturated fatty acids, which are not found in many other foods.


Keeps cancer at bay

Bukaba says the healthy fats, fibre and antioxidants in macadamia nuts make them a valuable tool when it comes to disease prevention.

He notes that the presence of antioxidants in the nuts helps prevent or reduce cell damage caused by free radicals, thereby preventing various diseases.

He adds that many people now are at risk of getting non-communicable diseases, cancer being among them due to the lifestyle they are exposed to.

However, he says consuming these nuts is vital because more importantly, they help keep cancer at bay.

“Macadamia nuts contain a type of vitamin E known as tocotrienols, which have powerful anticancer abilities. It also contains a plant compound called flavonoids, which can fight cancer by destroying damaging free radicals in the body,” he says.

Apart from their ability to fight against cancer, macadamia nuts have the ability to protect the brain, according to Private Kamanzi, a nutritionist at Amazon Cabinet Clinic. This is because the nuts contain tocotrienol.

Different research indicates that tocotrienol is a rich supplement that helps protect brain cells from the effects of glutamate, which may play a role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

Kamanzi notes that the nutritious benefits of the nuts can help protect the brain from certain kinds of oxidative stress. This is because of the presence of monounsaturated fats.

He also says consuming these nuts also helps in improving metabolic syndrome hence the ability to manage ailments such as diabetes.

A metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions that can increase the risk of one developing a stroke, diabetes and heart diseases.

Kamanzi says metabolic syndrome includes high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and low levels of high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol as well as excess belly fats.

Moreover, the nuts also help improve glycemic control in people with type 2 diabetes.

Nuts have been categorized as a heart-healthy snack. For instance, according to the 2015 meta-analysis study, regular nut consumption was associated with a 26 percent decrease in the development of cardiovascular diseases.


Other benefits

Joseph Uwiragiye, head of nutrition department at University Teaching Hospital (CHUK) says macadamia nuts are a good source of fibre.

He says that the fibre content of macadamia nuts is 7 percent clarifying that fibre is vital when it comes to efficient cleansing of the body.

“This includes a mixture of soluble and insoluble fibre; the fibre provides essential roughage to the digestive system. It also makes one feel fuller and allows more efficient elimination of waste,” he says.

In order to maintain the body’s muscle tissue and proper fuel for repair and replacement of the cells in the body, Uwiragiye says one needs to consume proteins, always.

In fact, he adds that the protein that one gets from macadamia nuts helps in keeping the skin and hair healthy.

Bukaba cautions that although macadamia nuts are a fantastic and healthy food choice with a lot of benefits to one’s body, it’s always vital for those people who are allergic to any other kinds of nuts to stay away from them or seek help from experts first before consuming them.

Also, if one isn’t sure about how much macadamia nuts they should consume, he says consulting first is important.

Bukaba cautions that limiting the amount of macadamia nuts one consumes is also helpful in order to keep check on the calorie intake, as the nuts have a lot of calories that can expose one to gaining weight.