Miss Macadamia takes the crown! Fats demystified

Macadamia wears the crown

Macadamia is the sweetheart of Hawaii.

Verse 3

Whose dress is made of sweetgrass?
who wears a golden lei-a?
Who’s promised to be kind and true?

The queen of nuts…

Moving along to my third post honoring the wonderful nut, I admit, Okay… maybe this poetry thing is a little beyond my capabilities. But before I finish with my nutty soliloquy begun in my past two posts, I wanted to sing the praises of Macadamia. Difficulty with rhyming and pentameters isn’t going to hold me back. Because if I’m any judge, Macadamia wins the healthy nut contest hands down.  And it’s not just because of her pretty face and fine figure.

In fact, when it comes to the amount of fat on her frame she’s often considered a plus-sized model. Sadly, her reputation has suffered in the past because of this.

But our relationship with fat is changing.

It’s complicated

We now know that  fats are not created equal. There are good fats and bad fats, and humans’ minds and bodies need a dose of the good ones every day.

Only a few years ago, nutritionists were saying saturated fats were the bad guys and unsaturated fats were the goodies. But as in all things food related, it turns out that balance is key. With the fats family, their influence depends  on who and how many are along for the ride.

Unsaturated fats

On the unsaturated side, we have monounsaturated  and polyunsaturated fats. The polys include omega-3 and omega-6 fats. And the omega-6 fats, we now know, can do serious damage if omega-3 isn’t there to provide protection.

Omega-9, a mix of poly- and mono-unsaturated fats, also rides shotgun, protecting us from the effects of omega-6 on chronic disease.

Omega-6 is a mean one

It’s a highly unstable character when you’re cooking at high heat. It’s usually rancid on the shelf. And, thanks to public hysteria over animal fat, it’s in absolutely everything nowadays. I’m pointing fingers here at processed and fast foods. Unstopped, omega-6 fats promote inflammation, the cause of many serious illnesses.

When there are too many omega-6 blokes in the neighborhood, omega-3 is overpowered.

Omega-3 holds its own when there are 4 or less omega-6s for each of them to contend with. Some nut oils have ratios up to 20 to 1.

That’s where Macadamia shines. Her talent is her high proportion of omega-3 and -9 fats, which vastly out-number the less popular omega-6. In fact, Macadamia’s ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 is an awesome 1 to 1.

Macadamia nut trees thrive in Hawaia

This tree wears a lei of macadamia nuts. It thrives in Hawaii.

 Take a peek at the amount of omega-6 in 1/4 cup of nuts:

  • Macadamias – 0.5 g
  • Cashews – 2.6 g
  • Hazelnuts – 2.7 g
  • Pistachios – 4.1 g
  • Almonds – 4.36 g
  • Pecans – 5.8 g
  • Brazil nuts – 7.2 g
  • Walnuts – 9.5 g
  • Pine nuts – 11.6 g

Macadamia has a lot of unsaturated fat and just a little is of the omega-6 variety. That makes her a wonderful contender for a tasty salad oil or for baking at moderate temperatures. With her superior taste and texture, and her stability under heat, she easily wins first place in the nutty cuisine category.

And when we compare nut oils to other vegetable oils, the results are even more astounding. Olive oil, still considered a healthy choice, has a ratio of 14 omega-6 fats to 1 of omega-3. But that’s a wonderful showing compared with corn and palm oils, the darlings of the food industry. This pair has 50 times as much omega-6 as omega-3 fats. Grapeseed oil tops them all with a whopping 678 times as much omega-6 as omega-3. Omega-3 hasn’t a chance against those odds. And scientists are finding how badly our health suffers. We need both, but the ratio of 4 to 1 is optimal. Here’s a list of diseases linked with a top-heavy consumption of omega-6 fats.

  • cardiovascular disease
  • type 2 diabetes
  • obesity
  • metabolic syndrome
  • irritable bowel syndrome & inflammatory bowel disease
  • macular degeneration
  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • asthma
  • cancer
  • psychiatric disorders
  • autoimmune diseases

Of course, there’s a lot more to nut nutrition than the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio. But it’s an important factor. That makes the macadamia nut and its oils a valuable addition to our pantry.

It’s best to store your nuts and nut oils in the fridge for a longer shelf-life. Buy nut oils in smaller quantities and choose oils sold in dark bottles. Each nut oil has its own special qualities imparted by its unique components. Enjoy them all in a balanced diet.

Next week I have a treat featuring macadamia nuts you can feast on without breaking your New Year’s resolutions. It’s a yogurt and apple tea-cake, packed with nutrition and flavor. Stay tuned!

Macadamia nut tea cake
Use macadamia nuts and their oil to help offset omega-6 overloads.


  • Macadamia treats us to her tea cake Macadamia nuts offer a treasure chest of healthy, stable  fats for your dining pleasure. At just under 200 calories a serving, this tea cake, resembling the British scone, can be had with less than 5 grams sugar. And it’s yummy!

14 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. E. M. Lores, Ph.D.
    Nov 02, 2015 @ 17:48:17

    Good post. Macadamia nuts, coconut and chestnuts are the only three nuts I eat at all– they do still have more 6 than 3, but not nearly as much as most other nuts as your post shows. One technical point, omega-9 is a fat (9 refers to the location of the first double bond counting from the methyl end of the fat), it is just not an essential fat. Oleic acid (an omega-9) is not essential like 6 and 3, but it is beneficial and protects our cells when they have too much palmitic acid (C-16 saturated fat). A build-up of palmitic acid in our cells can cause damage–but here is where most nutritionist make the big mistake–most people don’t get the high levels of that C-16.saturated fat from eating saturated fat—they get it from eating CARBS! When we eat too much, our bodies make C-16 saturated fat! Pretty much half of the lipids that make our cell membranes are saturated fats–our body will work against the odds to make that happen because the mixture of saturated and unsaturated fats that make our membranes is important and controls the permeability. Balancing your 6 and 3 is the probably the most important thing we can do with our diet to improve our health.


    • Vinny Grette
      Nov 02, 2015 @ 23:35:16

      I’ve fixed up that incorrect reference to omega-9s – thanks, Dr. Lores! Concerning your comment about carbs, recently I’ve been working on recipes for sweets with reduced sugar and no refined flour. Trying to do without them is nearly impossible, especially for kids who go to birthday parties and love cookies and candy for snacks. I’ve been working with stevia (preferred) and coconut sugar (with baked goods needing crystalline structure). It’s a challenge!


  2. heatherinsf
    Feb 19, 2014 @ 11:36:38

    My former grandmother in law had a macadamia tree in her yard in San Diego county, they had a special vise like nut cracker to get the shells off, it took a lot of work to crack one nut!


    • Vinny Grette
      Feb 19, 2014 @ 12:04:35

      Hi Heather – We don’t realize how lucky we are these days with all the really hard “food-processing” done for us. My next-door neighbor just brought me back a package of macadamia nuts all ready to eat from her trip to Hawaii. Yum!


  3. {Main St. Cuisine}
    Jan 22, 2014 @ 22:02:37

    I’m looking forward to the yogurt apple tea cake recipe. Sounds like just the bit of sweet I need mid-day. Thank you for taking the time to research your post. I like that right at the beginning of your post, you note that “balance is key.” We eat a variety of nuts as snacks and I must say I feel better about my children reaching for a handful of nuts, than I do a bag of chips with orange powder. Thank you again for the well thought out post. It’s a great reference!



  4. Shanna Koenigsdorf Ward
    Jan 21, 2014 @ 19:29:19

    My husband and I were sent some Hawaiian macadamia nuts by a blogging friend. They were SO good. We put them on a few salads and devoured them in days! I had no idea about the myriad health benefits. Do you have a degree in nutrition? The details and explanations here are great. Oh, I can’t wait to see your apple tea cake recipe! Best, Shanna


    • Vinny Grette
      Jan 21, 2014 @ 20:50:45

      My degree is in food science, Shanna, but that certainly included studies in nutrition. I’ve just maintained my interest in this area. There have been so many wonderful developments over the years! Lucky you to have received fresh macadamias from Hawaii!


  5. Good For You Nutrition
    Jan 21, 2014 @ 16:52:33

    Great blog! Just this morning I read a report from the New England Journal of Medicine, a team of Harvard researchers did a study with over 120,000 people for 4 years on weight gain/loss and nuts were one of the top 5 foods that consistently contributed to weight loss. Personally, I try to eat a variety of nuts (not more than 2 ounces) on most days. I have lost over 15 pounds and have been able to keep it off 🙂


    • Vinny Grette
      Jan 21, 2014 @ 20:46:42

      Another recent study showed how nuts reduced likelihood of death from any cause by 25%. Nuts are little powerhouses of goodness. Congrats on your weight loss and especially on keeping it off! Thanks for pointing me to this new study!


  6. Dalectables
    Jan 21, 2014 @ 15:02:54

    Well now, you are a font of information! And here I thought macadamias (which I love) were best served in a most minimum capacity and only for special occasions….


    • Vinny Grette
      Jan 21, 2014 @ 15:09:26

      Well, they aren’t calorie free, are they. But they have a wonderful fat profile and can be enjoyed in moderation to your health’s benefit :). I eat about 1/4 cup of nuts every day (a variety) and my weight seems to be holding constant – yay!


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