By Dr Megan Chircop
Nuts form an important part of our diet, as they are nutrient-dense. Whilst all nuts have high amounts of unsaturated (healthy) fats, unlike most other nuts, macadamias have relatively larger amounts of omega-3 versus omega-6 fats. Take a look at the omega-6 content of macadamias compared to some other popular nuts (amount of omega-6 fats per 100 gram of nuts):
Walnuts: 10.7 grams
Pecans: 3.7 grams
Almonds: 3.4 grams
Cashews: 2.2 grams
Macadamia nuts: 0.36 gram
That’s almost no omega-6 in macadamia nuts – it’s less than you would find in 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and olive oil is already low in omega-6. In this respect, the fat profile of macadamia nuts closely mirrors that of avocados and olive oil.
Whilst fat, as a nutrient, has been demonised in the past, the most recent research has provided a more detailed picture of the role of different dietary fats in health and disease. For example, unsaturated fats are an important dietary nutrient, but high saturated fat intake has been associated with cardiovascular disease. Of the unsaturated fats, whilst the bulk we consume are mono-unsaturated, the relatively small amounts of essential polyunsaturated fats play an integral role in body function.
Current research has implicated inflammation as a major risk factor for many chronic disease processes, including cardiovascular disease (where plaques, containing cholesterol and inflammatory cells and mediators, form in the inner wall of arteries causing blockages). Note the well-established association between cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity (particularly central or abdominal obesity, where fat tissue accumulates around the organs within the abdominal cavity). There are numerous human studies demonstrating the effect of the Mediterranean diet (rich in omega-3 fats, derived predominantly from olive oil and fish) to reduce the risk of developing and, when used as an intervention, to reduce the subsequent progression of, cardiovascular disease. The results of the above studies, therefore, when interpreted in the context of what we know about the underlying mechanisms of cardiovascular disease, and the effect of the Mediterranean diet (which is high in omega-3 fats), would suggest that regular consumption of macadamia nuts might reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease (and, possibly, other chronic inflammatory diseases), as well as reduce the rate of progression of established cardiovascular disease.
So, although macadamia nuts don’t match the micronutrient profile of almonds or cashews (apart from thiamin (Vitamin B1), manganese, and copper), macadamia nuts are probably one of the best nuts to eat in terms of disease prevention. Macadamia nuts can help balance out the omega-3/omega-6 fat ratio in our diets – minimising the risk of developing (or the severity of) diseases associated with chronic inflammation.
To help you incorporate macadamia nuts in to your diet, here is one of our favourite dressings using macadamia nuts. Apart from the health benefits, it is so creamy and rich and tastes great drizzled over a roasted pumpkin and baby spinach salad, grilled meats, and more. Enjoy it as you so desire:
½ cup macadamia nuts
½ cup macadamia oil
1 garlic clove (optional - omit if you have a sensitive stomach)
juice from 1 lemon, approximately 2 Tbsp
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
Place all the ingredients in a food processor or blender. Blitz until completely smooth. Adjust seasoning if needed. Store in a jar for several weeks in the fridge.
Serves 8, 2 tablespoons per serve.
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