1 December 2014

Nicole's Taste of Health

Get Cracking – It’s the Festive Season. 
Is there a more luxurious nut than the macadamia? Its delicate flavour, velvety texture and perfectly mouth-sized roundness just trumpet specialness, happiness and joy. I associate macadamias with Christmas time – probably due to their premium price and the gift boxes I’ve been lucky enough to receive over the years – so I can add “festive” to their list of charms.

Macadamia nuts

The macadamia (Macadamia integrifolia) is native to northeastern New South Wales and central and southeastern Queensland. It’s also called Queensland nut, bush nut, maroochi nut, bauple nut, and Hawaii nut. It is known as bauple, gyndl, jindilli, and boombera in Aboriginal languages. They are the toughest nut to crack. Indigenous Australians used special stones to smash the strong outer shell and reach the highly prized kernel. These days we can buy them shelled for us.

Like other nuts, macadamias are among the nutrient-rich core foods it is recommended we eat on a daily basis. They’re heart-friendly because of their healthy fat content (mostly monounsaturated) and ability to lower bad LDL cholesterol. They are an excellent source of thiamine (vitamin B1) to help extract energy from food, rich in manganese essential for bones, and contain antioxidant phytochemicals to bolster the body’s natural defences.

Macadamias don’t have a GI value because they contain very little carbohydrate, but they can lower the GI of the meal or snack when eaten with high GI foods: macadamia nut butter on fluffy white bread moderates the GI of the bread. They do this because of their oil content which slows the rate of digestion. And while macadamias have high oil content, they are not a problem for weight control. Like other nuts they can actually help with weight management when enjoyed instead of nutritionally poor treats in a calorie/kilojoule-controlled eating plan.

Just gorgeous on their own, macadamias make the perfect delicious, nutritious, portable snack. They are also delightful in both the sweet and savoury recipes. On the sweet side, they make everyday wholegrain cereal taste like a treat, add fabulous texture to yoghurt, or give healthy edge to ice cream. They shine in baking such as loaves, cakes, tarts, muffins, muesli bars and cookies, and perfect in homemade sweets such as fudge, nougat, chocolate and toffee – Christmas gifts made with love anyone?

If you’re entertaining over the festive season, start with some simple spiced macadamias: toss raw macadamias in oil, sprinkle with your favourite spices and roast for around 10 minutes in a moderate oven. Try Australian native spices like wattleseed, pepperberry or lemon myrtle, Indian spice mix, chilli powder or good old garlic and rosemary. A macadamia crust on fish or meat, or stuffing in poultry, will certainly impress. Nuts add lovely texture and satisfaction to salads and macadamias partner well with sweet potato, beetroot, pumpkin, baby spinach, avocado and mango. Warm salads of grilled or roasted vegetables also taste great with chopped macadamias on top.

And let’s not forget macadamia oil. This delicately flavoured oil is also robust due to its stable monounsaturated fats. It has a high smoke point and can handle high heat cooking and has a long storage life. Try macadamia oil in baking or in salad dressings. Interestingly, the oil is highly valued for skincare products due to its excellent ability to moisturise. I hope you take some time to prepare good food for the ones you love this festive season. Season’s Greetings and best wishes to you and yours.

Buon appetito!

Nicole and Finn

Nicole Senior is an Accredited Nutritionist, author and consultant who strives to make healthy food taste terrific. You can follow her on Twitter or Facebook or checkout her website

Disclosure: Nicole Senior provides Nutrition Consultancy services to The Australian Macadamia Society on a fee-for-service basis.