Macadamia Nut Oil Better Than Coconut Oil?

For many years, saturated fats have been demonized by the medical mainstream. They’ve been blamed for a whole host of health issues, including high cholesterol, heart problems, and obesity.

But new findings demonstrate that exactly the opposite is true—it’s polyunsaturated fats, sugars, and simple carbohydrates that inflame and toxify the body, weaken the immune system, and lead to weight gain.

It turns out that healthy fats are a health panacea. In many cases, they actually help prevent or reverse the exact conditions with which they’ve been incorrectly linked in the past.

Fortunately, the tide is turning back to an acceptance of fats as a healthy and essential component of an optimal diet. Paleo and other high-fat diets are ushering lots of new products back into the spotlight.

Coconut oil and olive oil have taken center-stage, but there’s one incredibly healthful oil that you may not have tried yet: macadamia nut oil.

An “exotic” and sustainable alternative

The popularity of healthy fats has ballooned in the past few years (the upsurge in demand for coconut oil even caused a severe coconut shortage, out of which we’re just beginning to emerge). Nevertheless, macadamia nut oil is still often overlooked, even in health food circles.

For some time, it was seen as a scarce and exotic product, since macadamia nuts are native to Australia. They’re now grown in Hawaii, California, and Florida, though, which makes macadamia nut oil no more “exotic” than coconut oil.

Macadamia nuts are also easier to produce, and arguably more sustainable, than coconuts. Coconut palms take 15-20 years to reach full productivity, which is why coconut oil producers can’t keep up with the insatiable appetite of healthy fat enthusiasts. To top things off, macadamia nut oil is available for around the same price as coconut oil or high-quality olive oil.

But here’s the real question: can it measure up to the amazing benefits of the more popular healthy oils?

The multi-talented macadamia nut

Macadamia nut oil has many of the same perks that have made saturated fats like coconut oil such beloved health companions, as well as a few of its own that make it stand out from the pack.

For starters, macadamias yield their precious oil very easily, which means that no toxic solvents or nutrient-destroying high temperatures are necessary for the extraction process. This means less pre-shopping homework and worrying for you (contrary to coconut oil and olive oil, where the variety of different grades and extraction processes nearly amount to a sort of caste system).

Macadamia nut oil also wins the prize for both stability and shelf life. When subjected to tests, it withstood up to 250 degrees F of heat, and it was the only oil that exceeded the manufacturer’s stated “best before” date.

Its stability makes it a great candidate for high-heat cooking. You should still be careful when using it for heavy-duty frying or sauteing, but its smoke point has been measured as high as 234 degrees F (when heated oil smokes, it’s a sign that it’s beginning to oxidize and form free radicals, which can damage and inflame the body).

And last but not least, it boasts a delicious, nutty flavor that’s more reminiscent of traditional cooking oils, which could make it a preferred alternative for anyone who finds the sweet flavor of coconut oil to be too overbearing for cooking.

A bounty of healthy benefits

All considerations of sustainability and convenience aside, macadamia nut oil is also rich in compounds and nutrients that make it a smart choice of saturated fat.

Its omega-6 content is the lowest of any traditional cooking oil (next to coconut oil), which makes it an excellent balancing agent for the American diet, which contains way too many omega-6 fatty acids. Macadamia nut oil is comprised of over 80% monounsaturated fat and 16% saturated fat, both of which are health-enriching, clean-burning sources of energy.

In addition to its healthy omega-3 content, it boasts a rich supply of a rarer omega-7 fatty acid called palmitoleic acid. Because of its moisturizing and tonifying qualities, this essential fatty acid is an exceptional skin care compound.

Macadamia nut oil also has a very interesting antioxidant profile. One study found that it contains vitamin E variants called tocotrienols (T3), which are even more powerful antioxidants than tocopherol (the traditional form of vitamin E). While tocotrienols are not as orally active as tocopherol, their powerful antioxidant action ensures that macadamia nut oil doesn’t oxidize to begin with. While some other oils might deliver a version of vitamin E that’s more bio-available, they’re more likely to become rancid, which completely defeats the purpose.  

And perhaps most interestingly, macadamia nut oil is a great source of squalene—a hard-to-find but invaluable antioxidant that used to be exclusively extracted from shark liver (now amaranth seed oil offers another alternative). Squalene protects the skin from sun damage, helps the body synthesize cholesterol and vitamin D, and offers extraordinary protection against radiation.

So, while macadamia nut oil may not be the most popular kid on the block, it can certainly stand up to all of the most well-loved oils. Its versatility, affordability, and healthfulness make it a worthy addition to the inner circle of healthy oils that you use on a daily basis.


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