Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
27 Jan

Smart Fuel: Macadamia Oil

What can compare to the sweet, buttery mac nut’s tender embrace? As far as nuts, seeds, and pseudo-nuts go, its fatty acid profile is unparalleled. Throw a handful into a bowl of Greek yogurt, along with blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries (or any berry, really), and you’ve got yourself a rich, masterful dessert with minimal linoleic acid. And it’s got good amounts of magnesium, manganese, thiamine, copper, and iron. Pack a baggy full and you’ve got yourself the perfect trail food for day long hikes. Suffice it to say, they’re my go-to snack when I’m feeling a bit peckish throughout the day.

But that’s not why I’m here today – to extoll the virtues of the macadamia nut.

I tend to get a little carried away when it comes to those little mouth bombs of satiety, so I apologize. Today’s post concerns the mac nut’s lifeblood: macadamia oil. I know what I’ve said about seed oils in the past, but this is different. I liken the concept of macadamia nut oil to that of olive oil; they are inherently, obviously, blatantly fatty foods, and extracting said fat isn’t a stretch, nor does it require industrial solvents and complex processes (they may do so to increase production and efficiency, but you can crush a mac nut and leave an oily residue; you can’t do the same for a kernel of corn to produce corn oil). In fact, the layman extracts his own virgin, first-press macadamia nut oil every time he bites into one. You can feel the macadamia oil droplets oozing out of the obliterated nut mass and into your mouth. Being the most energy (specifically, fat-derived energy) dense nut of all, it’s totally saturated with the stuff.

Macadamia oil imparts a mild, buttery, rather macadamia-y flavor to foods, but it’s mild enough to use for homemade mayonnaise. It is highly shelf-stable and resistant to heat-induced oxidation; in one test, it bested rice bran oil, walnut oil, sesame oil, almond oil, avocado oil, grapeseed oil, and hazelnut oil in an oxidative potential test. Of all the seed and nut oils, macadamia oil withstood temperatures up to 120 degrees C (about 250 degrees F) without significant oxidation. It also excelled at the shelf stability test, being the only oil tested that exceeded the manufacturer’s given “best-before” date. I rarely expect companies to be totally accurate, but to be completely wrong in the opposite direction is a nice surprise! Keep your macadamia oil in a dark bottle and in the fridge, or a cool dark place, and I bet it’ll stay fresh even longer. I’m still wary of doing any heavy duty sauteeing or high heat grilling using macadamia oil as the primary fat, but it looks to be pretty stable as far as oils go with a smoke point of anywhere between 210 and 234 degrees C (410-453 degrees F), depending on who you ask.

Macadamia oil owes its stability mostly to its extremely low omega-6 fatty acid content (the lowest of all traditional cooking oils, next to coconut oil), high monounsaturated fatty acid content (it runs over 80% MUFA, mostly oleic acid, which is higher than olive oil’s content), and a decent portion of saturated fat (around 16%, which is pretty good for a nut oil). Omega-6 linoleic acid is the most unstable, so having almost none of it makes macadamia oil superior to most. Macadamia oil also contains varying amounts of antioxidants which appear to confer some antioxidative (surprise, surprise) support. One study of vitamin E in Hawaiian cultivars found that while the tocopherol content was basically nonexistent, comparatively higher amounts of tocotrienols (T3) were detected in samples of macadamia oil extracts, including appreciable amounts of alpha-, beta-, and gamma-tocotrienols (no delta-tocotrienols were found). Though the bioavailability of tocotrienols after oral ingestion is lower than that of tocopherols, tocotrienols are more potent antioxidants. Besides, we should be focused on reducing oxidation of the fat we’re about to consume, rather than consume oxidized fats and then try to mitigate the damage by consuming antioxidants. Tocotrienols in macadamia oil seem to achieve that. Consider that walnut oil contains some of the highest levels of tocopherols and yet is the most prone to rancidity and oxidation. Don’t think that tocotrienols are totally useless orally, though; orally ingested tocotrienols have evinced bioavailability in a number of tissues and organs.

That same study also found that macadamia nut oils are rich sources of squalene, a naturally occurring antioxidant present in human skin surface lipids that protects us from sun-induced lipid peroxidation. It’s primarily used in our bodies to synthesize both cholesterol and vitamin D, but its role in macadamia nuts may be to prevent oxidative damage – kinda like how it does to our skin cell lipids. At any rate, it’s a complex relationship, the one between fatty acid profile, antioxidant content, and stability, but it can be said with reasonable certainty that monounsaturated fats are more stable than polyunsaturated fats, and antioxidants play some role in oxidative protection of fats.

Another feature of macadamia oil is its palmitoleic acid content. Palmitoleic acid is an omega-7 monounsaturated fat; it’s a common constituent of human adipose tissue, and we synthesize it from saturated palmitic acid. The most prominent fatty acid in human sebum, the natural moisturizer produced by the body, is palmitoleic acid. It has positive effects on blood lipids (without the oxidative potential of the highly unsaturated fatty acids that are so often lauded for their similarly “positive effects”) and, given its resemblance to sebum, makes for an effective moisturizer. I even tried shaving with macadamia oil to great effect. A half dozen drops applied to my shower-softened facial hair provided adequate protection from my razor. Plus, without all that cream or gel, I could see where I was going with the blade.

What about varying grades of macadamia oil – is there yet a caste system in place, like with olive oil? Not obviously. It’s still a relative newcomer to the scene, and most macadamia nut oils are fairly expensive and boutique-y. I’ve been sampling one from Whole Foods, the name of which I’m not sure (and I don’t have it in front of me), and it tastes fine. You could always hop on Amazon and see what the reviews are saying about the different mac nut oils. Given the stability of the oil and the lack of market saturation, I imagine most macadamia oils you come across will be edible. Just look for macadamia oils that actually taste like macadamia nuts; you’ll know it by the buttery flavor and the golden color. Perhaps in a year or two we’ll be able to produce a comprehensive “Definitive Guide to Macadamia Oils,” but not quite yet.

You can use macadamia oil for salad dressings, personal hygiene (shaving, moisturizing, perhaps even sunblock given the squalene content), light sauteeing and stir frying, mayo-making, and essentially anything you’d normally use olive oil for.

You can buy macadamia oil at most grocery stores now, or you can look online for (probably) better deals. Here are a few I was able to dig up:

  • NOW Foods makes an oil from organic, unhybridized macadamia nuts.
  • Species Nutrition seems to have a reasonable offering.
  • Brookfarm makes a macadamia oil that’s very popular on Amazon.
  • The popular Slanker’s Grass-Fed Meat folks have the “Oils of Aloha,” which include both regular and flavored macadamia oils.

In closing, I think macadamia oil has its place in Primal living. If you’re using olive oil, there’s no reason to exclude macadamia oil, and if you’re looking for a more neutral salad or light cooking fat, macadamia nut oil seems to fit the bill.

What kind of macadamia oil do you use (I’m always on the hunt for new stuff)? Any brands people should look out for? Let us know your mac oil experiences in the comments!

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Marc is asking about sources for oil. Slanker’s Grass Fed Meats has Oils of Aloha Macadamia Nut Oil from Hawaii in 5 oz, 12.7 oz, and gallon sizes with five flavors (pure, Kauai Herb, Garlic Isle, Haleiwa Heat, Pele’s Fire). The only source I know of for gallons.

    http://texasgrassfedbeef.com/id79.htm#macadamia_nut_cooking___salad_oil

    Don Wiss wrote on January 28th, 2011
  2. If interested in buying mac oil by the gallon, Oils of Aloha have it for $45 a gallon and shipping is about $10. http://oilsofaloha.com/cart.php?m=product_detail&p=9

    Stacey wrote on January 28th, 2011
  3. Mac nuts – like all nuts – are rich in phytic acid…an anti-nutrient. If you eat a lot of nuts I suggest you look into how this may affect you.

    I wonder if the mac oil would avoid this problem?

    Robert wrote on January 28th, 2011
    • Robert wrote on January 28th, 2011
      • no info on nuts in this article

        Fred wrote on June 29th, 2015
    • Thanks Robert. I had not gotten that far in Nourishing Traditions yet, which apparently has a section on this. Just had a quick search though, and I will now be soaking my macadamia nuts in salt water overnight to solve this problem. The problem is not only phytic acid for nuts, but also enzyme inhibitors.

      Kitty wrote on January 28th, 2011
  4. Macadamia is great oil – I’ve used it before and kind of forgot about it, so thanks for the reminder. I am going to try it in my on-stove grill pan AND in my hair, as conditioner ….

    Olive oil works wonders for that You can put it in your hair for as short as 20 minutes (and as long as 2 days, which I’ve done at the beach). Just rub a little in your hands (about 3/4 tbs for long hair) and rub it through. It washes out completely with plain old shampoo. Gives you the softest, shiniest hair ever. (So conditioner is a complete waste of money). Anyway – I’m going to try macadamia oil or this and see how it compares. :-)

    Susan Alexander wrote on January 28th, 2011
  5. I….am a self confessed….Private Selection Macadamia nut-ahollic! Once I pop open the jar, I just can’t put the damn things down! Which, considering how calorically dense they are, it’s not necessarily a good thing.

    I’ve maintained for a long time that the Mac-nut is near enough a perfect low-carb food. With its fatty-acid profile being so heavily skewed in the MUFA direction, a decent amount of protein, and very few carbs, it’s been my favorite snack for a while.

    If only they weren’t so awfully expensive!!

    Barry Cripps wrote on January 28th, 2011
  6. Wow! Censorship! I place a link where you can buy macadamia oil by the gallon @ 1/2 price of recommended brands and the post is removed.

    Stacey wrote on January 28th, 2011
  7. Bruce, from where I come from QLD, Australia, there are heaps of macadamia nuts. And I love its buttery like flavour and taste. It’s definitely my fav nuts. This post is packed full of info though. Didn’t know that it has squalene in it and gosh using it as a shaving cream? Now that’s very primal 😀

    Bryan wrote on January 31st, 2011
  8. I buy Oils of Aloha mac nut oil by the gallon and use it for everything we saute, for making salad dressings and mayonnaise, in the low-carb baked goods I make and I put it on my face too. Oils of Aloha produces both edible and cosmetic products and their oils are superlative. I live in Hawaii so that makes the products easier to obtain, but they have an excellent website where orders can be filled and delivered across the globe.

    Barbara wrote on February 4th, 2011
  9. WHat a rip off. This stuff is overpriced, and most of this is bull shit.

    Tom Mac wrote on February 4th, 2011
    • I’ll put it in terms your grumpy butt can understand: this is the most delicious cooking/salad oil in the world and that alone makes it worth the price.

      But to each his/her own — If we were all bitter trolls, then what would you do for fun, stingypants? XD

      Lauren wrote on March 10th, 2011
  10. Hi All,

    Mark, first, thanks for the wonderful write up. I love the Brook Farm brand oil.

    Second, I have a “Misto” oil sprayer – you know, the kind you fill up on your own, pump, and spray. I’m noticing that the oil that I put in the sprayer has a more pungent scent to it after a few days – do these sprayers increase rancidity? What is your opinion on these? I don’t like to just pour the oil on the salad, because then the spices that I sprinkle over don’t stick as well. It’s also nice to spray on fish and other dishes right before serving, to give them that extra “glisten.”

    If anyone knows about rancidity in these self-pump misters, I would really appreciate the information.

    Thanks,
    Ashley

    Ashley wrote on February 26th, 2011
  11. This site appears to have some tasty macadamia treats http://www.ailaniorchards.com/products.html

    Ron wrote on April 16th, 2011
  12. I have been looking into the benefits of Macadamia Oil versus Argan Oil for hair care, as not only are these oils great for cooking/salad dressing they are said to have amazing results when used on the hair and skin. Thanks.

    Haley Claire wrote on August 26th, 2011
  13. Just bought 16oz Now – I’m excited to cook with it, it’s easier to travel with than butter and can handle higher temps than olive oil!

    Found it online for $11.19 with free shipping through naturalhealthyconcepts.com

    Johnny wrote on August 26th, 2011
  14. Hi there, my name is Andre and I am growing and pressing mac nut oil. I am certified organic and use a german build expellar. The coulor of the oil is clear with a light yellowish shine (like a souvignon blanc vine). I never had a dark yellow coulor. What causes the differnce in coulor between the two types of mac nut oil available?

    Andre
    Northdale Farm
    rl.ak@mweb.co.za

    Andre Kuhn wrote on October 12th, 2011
  15. I use Macadamia Nut Oil in place of all other cooking oils. Love it. I get mine from Oilsofaloha.com This company is in Hawaii, always has the freshest product since they are the ones who make it. I love their flavored oils for popcorn and dressings, and of course their plain oil for cooking. Oh, and they ship internationally.

    keri wrote on November 21st, 2011
  16. I just got my macadamia nut oil from Brookfarm. Ger is looking forward to his many eggs in the morning. I will be experimenting……

    Dinah Houston wrote on March 7th, 2012

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