Hazelnut kernel is edible and is used raw or roasted, ground or paste. The seed has a thin, dark brown skin that is sometimes removed before cooking. Like other nuts, hazelnuts are rich in nutrients and have a high content of protein, fat, vitamins and minerals. Hazelnuts are a good source of vitamin E. A handful of hazelnuts contains at least 50% of the Guideline Daily Allowance (GDA). Vitamin E is a strong antioxidant. Dried hazelnuts are used in baking and desserts, confectionery to prepare pralines, and are also used in combination with chocolate for chocolate truffles and products such as chocolate bars, hazelnut cocoa spread such as Nutella and Frangelico liqueur.
Iran is the sixth producer of hazelnuts in the world with about 20,000 hazelnut cultivation areas and about 18,000 tons of annual production. Gilan province (northern Iran) with about 16,000 hectares and annual production of 11,000 tons is the main hazelnut growing area in Iran.
Hazelnuts also contain adequate amounts of vitamin B6, folate, phosphorus, potassium and zinc. Hazelnuts provide significant amounts of antioxidants. Antioxidants protect the body from oxidative stress, which can damage cell structure and increase aging, cancer, and heart disease. Eating nuts has been shown to protect the heart.
In hazelnuts, the high concentration of antioxidants and healthy fats may increase antioxidant potential and lower blood cholesterol levels. Hazelnuts may increase oxidative capacity and lower blood lipid levels, which can help reduce the risk of heart disease. They also seem to help normalize blood pressure.
The high concentration of antioxidant compounds, vitamin E and manganese in hazelnuts may help reduce the risk of certain cancers, although more research is needed. Hazelnuts can be included in the diet as a healthy snack or as an ingredient in many foods. Hazelnuts can be found whole, sliced, ground, raw or roasted. They are usually eaten as a snack or added to baked goods and other dishes. It is better to eat them with the skin.