Quick Summary tl;dr
Macadamia are the lowest carb nut, lowest in anti-nutrients, and lowest in omega-6 fat.
Macadamia are an excellent source of the omega-7 fat, palmitoleic acid. This fat-hormone can block inflammation, improve insulin sensitivity, and increase satiety.
Eating just 15 to 30 macadamia per day can increase HDL and decrease oxidative stress and inflammation.
Macadamia nuts are the King of Nuts, a snack fit for royalty! Maybe it’s not a coincidence that England’s Queen Elizabeth, the world’s longest reigning living monarch, purportedly eats a handful a day. Here’s why we count macadamia one of our seven New Mediterranean Diet superfoods together with salmon & other fatty fish, extra virgin olive oil, avocado & avocado oil, dark chocolate & cacao, sesame and coconut.
Carbs in Macadamia Nuts
Per ounce (28 gram) serving, macadamia only contain 1.5 grams of net carbs, and are less than 3% carbs by calories.
Other very low carb nuts include pecans, brazil nuts, and walnuts, but none of those can match macadamia’s fat profile, which we will get to below. And, as a keto caution, you should know that cashews are 19% calories by carbs.
Not all nuts are equal when it comes to following a low-carb diet. Macadamias are 3% calories from carbs vs cashews 19% calories from carbs!
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Anti-Nutrients in Nuts
Most nuts are rich in phytic acid, oxalates, and/or lectins.
Phytic acid binds essential minerals in your gut, including calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc. It can impair mineral absorptions and contribute to constipation in some individuals.
Oxalates are known for contributing to the formation of kidney stones, but they can have other negative effects too. Some scientists believe that autoimmune reactions brought on by oxalates can contribute to thyroid disorders and other conditions.
Lectins can contribute to increase gut permeability and inflammation in sensitive people. They can impair mineral absorption and contribute to the symptoms of gas, bloating, and even nausea and vomiting when eaten in high enough amounts.
This article isn’t the one to do a deep dive on plant anti-nutrients, but suffice it to say that it makes sense plants would have chemical defences. If you were a nut, and couldn’t run from your predator, wouldn’t you want a to defend yourself against getting eaten?
As you probably guessed, macadamia are the exception!
Unlike basically all other nuts, which are rich in at least one of the above anti-nutrients (phytic acid, oxalates or lectins), macadamia nuts are low in all three! Their defence from predation comes in the form of the hardest nutshell in the world. It takes 531 pounds (241 kg) of force to break a macadamia nut's shell! ( Schüler et al, 2014)
Unlike all other nuts, which are rich in at least one anti-nutrient (phytic acid, oxalates or lectins), macadamia nuts are low in all three!
The Plant Anti-Nutrient Controversy
Plant anti-nutrients are a controversial and, in our opinion, understudied subject. Some people are almost certainly more sensitive than others and, as most vegetables contain some form of anti-nutrient, it may not be practical to try to eliminate them from your diet entirely, unless you go carnivore. Anti-nutrients should be a consideration as you tailor your diet to you as an individual.
Fat Profile: Omega-6
Excess intake of omega-6 fats can contribute to inflammation and to metabolic diseases. Omega-6 fats compete with anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats, and an increased omega-6/3 ratio increases the risk for obesity. ( Simopoulos, 2016) What’s more, data from genetically engineered mice have shown that having an increased omega-6/3 ratio can contribute to poor health, even independent of dietary manipulation. ( Kaliannan et al, 2019)
While it’s hard to make the argument that any raw nut would be unhealthy — and we are not making that claim — many individuals looking to optimize their metabolic health choose to moderate their omega-6 intake, including from nuts.
Most nuts are rich in omega-6 but macadamia nuts are an exception. Walnuts contain the most omega-6, a surprising 10,800 mg of linoleic acid per ounce (28 grams). An entire serving of macadamia nuts contains less omega-6 than a single walnut.
Not all nuts are equal when it comes to their fat profile. An entire serving of macadamia contains less omega-6 than a single walnut!
Fat Profile: Monounsaturated Fats (MUFA)
Monounsaturated fats (MUFA) are lauded for being healthy fats. They’re more stable than polyunsaturated fats, have hormonal signaling properties, and are the ‘healthy fat’ in extra virgin olive oil and avocados.
But I bet you didn’t know that macadamia oil is the richest natural source of MUFA! Macadamia oil is 80% MUFA, which is even higher than extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil.
Macadamia nut oil is 80% monounsaturated fats, making it the richest natural source of MUFA!
Fat Profile: The Rare Omega-7
You’ve heard of omega-6 and omega-3 and maybe even omega-9 fats, but have you heard of omega-7 fat? Probably not. That’s because they are relatively rare in nature and are primarily found in macadamia nuts!
The omega-7 fat, palmitoleic acid (not to be confused with the saturated fat, palmitic acid), is itself a MUFA and makes up 20% of macadamia’s fat.
Palmitoleic acid isn’t just a fat-fuel, but a hormone. In 2008, a landmark paper ( Cao et al, 2008) was published in one of the world’s most prestigious scientific journals, Cell, defining a new class of hormones called “lipokines” after discovering some of (dietary/exogenous) palmitoleic acid’s powerful health-promoting effects.
Here's why dietary palmitoleic acid may be good for you:
- Palmitoleic acid may decrease de novo lipogenesis, the creation of new fat, in the liver by inhibiting the protein SCD-1. ( Cao et al, 2008)
- Palmitoleic acid can quell inflammation by inhibiting the master genetic regulator of inflammation, NFkB. ( Souza et al, 2017)
- Palmitoleic acid may improve pancreatic 𝛽-cell survival, insulin secretion, and insulin sensitivity. ( Nunes et al, 2017)
- Palmitoleic acid can reduce hunger because it is especially good at raising levels of the fullness hormone, cholecystokinin. ( Yang et al, 2013)
We could go on, but you get the point. Palmitoleic acid that makes macadamia mac-nificent.
Palmitoleic acid from macadamias can inhibit production of new fat, block inflammation, improve insulin sensitivity, and increase satiety.
Macadamia Study and Cholesterol
A four-week human interventional trial found that eating just 15 to 30 macadamia nuts per day for four weeks significantly decreased total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol, increased HDL cholesterol, and lowered markers of oxidative stress and inflammation. ( Garg et al, 2003, Garg et al, 2007)
Eating 15 to 30 macadamia nuts per day for a month has been shown to decrease blood markers of oxidative stress and inflammation.
Roasting nuts is a tricky business. If you like roasted nuts, we think it best to roast your own nuts at home using temperatures at or below 265 - 285 F (130 - 140 C) for 20 minutes.
The temperature sensitivity of nuts derives from their fragile omega-6 fats. But because macadamia nuts are low in omega-6, they are more stable. Even at 150 °C/ 300 °F, macadamia are okay. In fact, if you roast equal amounts of macadamia and walnuts at 300 F, the macadamia will end up with 1/30th the oxidized fats! ( Schlörmann et al, 2015)
Cooking with Macadamia Oil
Because macadamia oil is low in omega-6, it’s more stable than oil from other nuts. Macadamia oil has a smoke point of 210 °C/ 410 °F, which is even higher than coconut oil or butter. Therefore, it can be used for cooking by those choosing to eat a diet that’s both low in saturated fat and omega-6.
Macadamia Nut Pesto Recipe
Here’s an awesome recipe for Macadamia Basil Pesto from our latest cookbook, The New Mediterranean Diet Cookbook!
Ingredients & Instructions
- 2 cups (30 g/1.1 oz) fresh basil leaves
- 1/2 cup (67 g/2.4 oz) macadamia nuts
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/3 cup (30 g/1.1 oz) grated Pecorino Romano cheese
- salt and black pepper
Just put all the ingredients in a food processor and enjoy!
Serve with some zucchini noodles and roast salmon and lemon wedges. Here's why wild Alaskan sockeye salmon is your best choice!
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