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What are Macadamia Nuts? Discover Benefits and Everything You Need to Know

A bunch of macademia nuts from a sack.

You may know them as those pretty, nearly white nuts that show up sometimes in cookies. But macadamia nuts have a reputation for being super nuts. They’re loaded with health benefits, but these nuts are also loaded with some not so super qualities. Macadamia nuts are associated with Hawaii but they actually come from much farther away. Once you know more about how macadamia nuts became the super nuts they are today, you’ll appreciate these tasty, unique little nuts a whole lot more.

Related: Cashew Nuts | Peanuts | Brazil Nuts | Pine Nuts | Chestnuts | Types of Nuts | Types of Pecans

Where Do Macadamia Nuts Come From?

Macadamia trees, which produce the macadamia nut, grow natively in Australia. The trees grow up to 40 feet tall and have elongated leaves that grow in small groupings. Macadamia nuts have a creamy texture. The meat of the nuts is very light brown, almost white, in color.

Ferdinand von Mueller, a German-Australian botanist, named the macadamia in 1857. He named the tree after John Macadam, a Scottish-Australian chemist. Macadamia trees were introduced to Hawaii in the late 1800s. However, the macadamia nut industry didn’t really become big business in Australia until the 1970s.

Today, most of the macadamia nuts that make their way around the world are grown in Hawaii. The U.S. alone eats a little bit more than half of the entire macadamia nut consumer market. That’s a pretty popular tree nut.

A close look at macademia nuts and the fruit where it comes from.

Macadamia trees grow in rich soil in warmer climates with lots of rainfall. Macadamia trees grow in environments that have no frost. They’re evergreen trees that produce nuts year-round. Growing macadamia nuts is possible in USDA hardiness zones 9 and 10.

Hawaii provides an ideal climate for the macadamia nut tree. The Hawaiian Macadamia Nut Company leased 75 acres of land in Honolulu and began the first macadamia tree orchard in Hawaii in the 1920s, beginning an industry that continues to thrive in the state to this day. Macadamia nuts are also called “Hawaii nuts” and many macadamia companies have made their homes in the state.

Amazingly, all of the many, many macadamia nut trees that thrive in Hawaii came from a small group of trees in Queensland, Australia. In fact, they all may come from the same tree.

As macadamia nuts grow and ripen, they naturally drop from the tree. Special tools are used to collect the nuts, which are then put through processing machines that remove the tough outer husks. Sometimes, the shells are removed through additional processing equipment, though the nuts e also sold in their shells.

Macadamia Nut Nutrition Information

Macadamia nuts nutritional facts

An illustrative chart depicting the nutritional facts of the macademia nut.

Macadamia nuts have a reputation for being a super nut. That’s because they’re packed with vitamins and minerals, including protein, iron, and vitamin A. Macadamia nuts are packed with antioxidants. One ounce of macadamia nuts is about 200 calories and 21 grams of fat, only three grams of which are saturated fats. One ounce of macadamia nuts has almost four grams of carbohydrates. They also contain magnesium, thiamine, and vitamin B.

These nuts make your heart healthier and protect against heart disease. They can help lower blood pressure and high cholesterol levels. Macadamia nuts can actually help treat diabetes and they will improve the health of your skin and hair. Not bad for one nut, right?

Research shows that the macadamia nut may also improve brain health and skin health. They also have fiber, so they can help you feel fuller if you eat a few with a meal. This means they may aid in weight loss, too. There’s such a long list of the known and potential health benefits of these nuts, it’s no wonder they’re called super.

The Not So Super Stuff

However, there’s another side to these sweet little nuts. Macadamia nuts can be deadly to anyone with a tree nut allergy. Remember, people who have nut allergies are affected by all nuts and not just peanuts or more common nuts. Macadamia nuts may look and taste different from other nuts but they can still be dangerous to people who have nut allergies.

Macadamia nuts are a rich source of fiber and that’s exactly why you can eat them only in moderation. Too much fiber can cause uncomfortable gastrointestinal issues. Also, macadamia nuts are pretty high in calorie count, compared to other nuts. Macadamia nuts pack more calories into each serving than the same serving size of almonds, walnuts, and pistachios.

This is a close look at a fresh macademia nut.

Macadamia nuts have the hardest shell of any other nut. This makes them the toughest nuts to crack. You can crack the shells with a hammer or even a standard nutcracker if you use enough force. People who collect nuts right off the trees in Hawaii sometimes drive their cars over the nuts to crack the shells.

Shelled macadamia nuts can be expensive, compared to other nuts, because of this extremely tough shell. Macadamia nuts are the most expensive of all the nuts. One pound of these nuts can cost $25, which is twice as expensive as the next most expensive nut on the price list.

Macadamia nuts are extremely toxic to dogs. It does not have any toxicity to humans or cats, so there is some mystery as to why these nuts are so harmful to dogs. However, they are extremely dangerous for your fur babies. Macadamia nut poising in dogs can cause depression, weakness, vomiting, tremors, and fever. Dogs who eat too many of the nuts may be unable to walk.

Cooking With Macadamia Nuts

Macadamia nuts are often used in desserts and baked goods like cookies and cake. You can also use these nuts to make nut butter or nut oil. It’s easy to figure out how to toast macadamia nuts to enjoy a crunchy, warm treat, too. You can do this with a baking sheet and low heat. When the roasted macadamia nuts become slightly browned and fragrant, you can remove them to cool and eat.

This is a close look at macademia nut tarts.

Super Nuts

Macadamia nuts do have a great flavor and a ton of health benefits. They can be used in cooking and baking and they’re tasty whether they’re chopped, toasted or baked. But even super things must be enjoyed in moderation. Integrate some macadamia nuts into your diet to reap the health rewards but avoid going overboard. Make them part of a healthy diet and a healthy lifestyle and find out how super macadamias really are.