After two weeks on the Big Island of Hawaii we returned home to the Pacific Northwest, where I had the first macadamia nuts of our trip. Well, actually that's not quite true. It's almost impossible to dine in Hawaii without eating macadamia nuts in some form.
We sent some packages home via the U.S. Postal Service the day before our departure. We arrived home late Thursday evening and the packages arrived Saturday afternoon. Inside one was a bag of dry-roasted sea-salted macadamia nuts. I eagerly poured out a handful and munched on them.
Almost every day I had driven past the Mauna Loa macadamia nut farm near Hilo and had resisted buying any of the wonderful fat, little, teardrop-shaped, marble-sized, pieces of heaven. I couldn't avoid them at many meals, however. While we were in Hawaii I had them in French toast, ice cream, sweet rolls, cookies, and encrusted, fried mahi mahi. I did turn my head when offered macadamia nut brittle at a farmers market. I do have some self-control.
Macadamia nuts are not for everyone. People who suffer from nut allergies should stay away and dogs should avoid them at all cost. The nuts are toxic to canines. Supposedly six nuts will make them sick and more could kill them. Of course, it all depends on the size of the dog.
Macadamias are higher in fat and lower in protein when compared to other nuts and seeds like almonds and cashews. With the highest amount of monounsaturated fats of any known seed and with biological effects similar to saturated fat you'd think they are flat out killers - but not quite.
The Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University reveals a link showing a study by the Department of Medicine, John A. Burns School of Medicine, University of Hawaii at Manoa, entitled "Honolulu Serum lipid effects of a high-monounsaturated fat diet based on macadamia nuts" reached this conclusion: "The macadamia nut-based diet high in monounsaturated fat and the moderately low-fat diet both had potentially beneficial effects on cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels when compared with a typical American diet."
Macadamia nuts content is approximately 22% omega-7 palmitoleic acid, 9% protein, 9% carbohydrates, and 2% dietary fiber. The omega-7 palmitoleic acid is a beneficial fatty acid, which has been shown to increase insulin sensitivity by suppressing inflammation. In addition macadamia nuts contain calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, selenium, iron, thiamine, riboflavin and niacin.
The first commercial crop of macadamia nuts was planted in New South Wales in the early 1880s. Macadamias became a commercial crop in Hawaii in the 1920s. Australia and the United States (Hawaii) are the largest producers of macadamia nuts. Over the past few years prices have dropped somewhat due to an oversupply.
I've seen macadamia nuts and pecans described as the worst nuts for you because they are higher in fat and lower in protein than most other nuts. If you throw walnuts into the mix you have my three favorite nuts. Taste has to count for something. In reality macadamia nuts and pecans may not be quite as healthy for you as other nuts, but nuts are still a beneficial food product.
If you're looking for an unusual taste treat, try grinding macadamia nuts into macadamia nut butter. Serve it on whole grain toasted bread, like that from Roman Meal, and add a dollop or two of mango chutney to give it a little kick. You'll have a Hawaiian yummy treat.
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