7 Surprising Benefits of Hickory Nut

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

The benefits of hickory nut may include its potential ability to help with weight gain, protect the heart, ensure healthy growth and development, boost metabolism, increase circulation, calm nerves, and protect your kidneys.

Hickory Nut

The hickory nut, as the name implies, comes from hickory trees, which all fall within a broad genus, Carya, which is composed of approximately 18 species of hickory trees, all of whose nuts are quite similar in nutrient composition and possible applications, although the strength of their shells varies widely. The different species of these trees are native to everywhere from Indochina, India, and China, to the United States, Canada, and Mexico. [1]

Regardless of that dispute, the value of the hickory tree is widely known, including the use of its bark, wood, bark extract, and nuts stretch across the world. In terms of its beneficial effects on human health, hickory nuts not only have many of the traditional values of nuts, but also some unique qualities that make them stand out. You don’t find hickory nuts in every grocery or health food store, as the outer husk is quite difficult to crack and extract the meat of the nut, but if you search hard enough, you can usually locate some.

Once you manage to get to the meat inside, the calorie-rich nuts are delicious and well worth the extra effort. That being said, not every species of hickory nut is palatable. There are some that are downright bitter and unpleasant, but varieties like shagbark and shellbark hickory have long been a favorite for their culinary applications.

Hickory nuts falling from a jute bag on a placemat

Hickory nut harvesting is a fun, family activity. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Health Benefits of Hickory Nuts

Adding hickory nuts provide a unique source of numerous essential minerals, organic compounds, and nutrients, so let’s take a closer look at the many health benefits of hickory nuts.

May Help In Healthy Weight Gain

While many people are more concerned with losing weight, hickory nuts may be a great option if you want to pack on calories and pounds quickly, such as if you are recovering from an injury or surgery of some kind. A small handful of hickory nuts has nearly 200 calories, which is perfect for a healthy snack, as well as a filling serving that will keep your snacking urges down by making you feel full. Oddly enough, this is a snack that can also help people lose weight, if they monitor their intake and use hickory nuts as appetite satisfiers, rather than loading up on these calorie-rich nuts. [2]

May Balance Cholesterol Levels

It is a common misconception that all “fat” is bad, but in fact, our bodies require certain “good” types of fat to function properly. A single serving of hickory nuts may contain nearly 18g of fat, but only 12-15% of that fat is the “bad” variety. This may mean that hickory nuts can help re-balance your cholesterol and fatty acid balance in the body, promoting cardiovascular health and lowering your chances of developing atherosclerosis or suffering from a heart attack/stroke. [3]

May Increase Energy Levels

With more than 5 grams of carbohydrates in a typical serving of hickory nuts, you can count on a solid energy boost when you reach for these nuts rather than a sugary snack. Simple sugars can break down quickly in your system, promoting a “sugar rush” or energy boost, but that is usually short-lived and is followed by a crash. [4]

May Promote Growth

Like most nuts, hickory nuts provide an impressive amount of protein, possibly making this an essential snack for vegetarians and other people practicing protein-deficient diets. Animal and vegetable proteins are crucial for our growth and development, as protein can be deconstructed and re-formed for our body’s purposes, such as proper growth of bone, muscle, and organ systems, thus making a satisfactory amount of protein vital for health and wellness. Furthermore, the vitamin B-6 found in hickory nuts facilitates protein metabolism, which increases the efficiency with which proteins are processed by the body. [5]

May Improve Metabolic Activity

The vitamin B family has long been known as a key part of the body’s metabolism and general functioning. Hickory nuts may contain a significant amount of vitamin B-1, which we need to ensure the proper functioning of our muscles, heart, and nervous system. This is the type of vitamin that is easily overlooked or forgotten, making it even more important to pop a few hickory nuts from time to time!

May Boost Bone Growth

Magnesium is possibly one of those versatile minerals that seem to play an important part in many bodily functions, but in particular, magnesium improves the enzymatic activity in the body, may regulate calcium levels and may aid in metabolic optimization. The combination of magnesium, phosphorous, and calcium regulation makes hickory nuts great for protecting bone mineral density and delaying/preventing the onset of osteoporosis and other degenerative bone disorders. [6]

May Improve Digestion

The combination of natural fiber and specific minerals makes hickory nuts great for promoting digestion and gastrointestinal health. It can eliminate constipation and promote regular excretion, effectively reducing flatulence, cramping, bloating, and more serious conditions that can affect the stomach.

Word of Caution: As with any variety of nut, hickory nut allergies do exist, and can be serious. If you have a known nut allergy, avoid hickory nuts. For those with selective nut allergies, speak to your allergist or trained medical professional before consuming hickory nuts or using them in any way. [7]

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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