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. Olivado makes the best mac oil we have tried. Our WF sells it or we buy it from the company website if WF’s is out of stock. Makes the best mayo ever and my daughter pours it on everything!

    Teoma wrote on March 19th, 2012
  2. FYI: I contact NOW and they said they use BPA plastic for their bottles of mac nut oil due to cost and shipping issues. :( I’m gonna try Oils of Aloha.

    Debbie T. wrote on April 2nd, 2012
  3. Lectins – what about lectins?

    Mark wrote on May 17th, 2012
  4. What are the phytate levels for Macadamia Oil?

    Gigi wrote on June 7th, 2012
  5. I am growing and pressing organic mac nut oil here in South Africa. My oil has a clear apperance and a very light yellowish colour. There are other mac oils with a more honey like yellow colour. Does someone know where the difference commes from?

    Andre

    Andre wrote on August 9th, 2012
  6. I just purchased a great organic cold pressed macadamia nut oil made by Life Flo out of Phoenix, AZ from a natural foods store here in Arkansas. I definitely like it better than olive oil for flavor. I used it in sauteing salmon burgers by pouring it over the top and it made them much more moist and tasty. Did not notice the flavor change as salmon is strong flavored, but it definitely made them tastier.

    Thelma wrote on August 16th, 2012
  7. Does Macadamia oil still have anti nutrients?

    Cassie Bond wrote on November 18th, 2012
  8. We are a small family macadamia farm in Southern California and are new to the retail market. Right now, we have raw nuts (shelled and cracked) available for sale and are working toward having macadamia flour (all macs, not a mix of other things) available in early 2013. Also in the works are smoked nuts; we’ll see how they turn out.

    If I can find an affordable oil press (and another local farm to supply nuts; I imagine oil would take a large quantity), I would consider making that available, as well.

    If anyone has a suggestion, I am very happy to learn as I go. So glad to see people enjoying macadamia nuts as much as we do!

    ~Rina at CaliMac Nut Company

    CaliMac Nuts wrote on December 2nd, 2012
  9. Check out Fred Pescatore’s research – Hamptons Health Clinic. Macadamias are native to Australia and have weight loss benefits if grown in Australia. As an Australian I have eaten macadamias (known as Queensland nuts before they were marketed) all my life – as a kid picked them up from undere the trees and cracked them with Dad’s hammer. They are native to SE Qld and far nthn NSW. To make mayo I use half extra virgin olive oil and half macadamia oil. I am able to buy macadamia oil in Queensland at my local supermarket and health shop. Just Google and you are sure to find plenty of Australian sites to buy it from. Also, get raw nuts, don’t buy roasted nuts, you don’t know what they are roasted in. The flavour of roasting macadamias is wonderful – the family will be lining up. I usually eat mine raw as a snack, but great roasted in salads or desserts – try adding freshly roasted to vanilla icecream, or use in biscuits (cookies for Americans!). The best nut in the world – make sure you buy Australian.

    Jen Beattie wrote on January 21st, 2013
  10. Hey, just to let everyone know, my family has a Certified Organic Macadamia Farm in NSW called “Hand ‘N’ Hoe Organic Macadamia’s” our nuts actually made the final for the Australian ABC Delicious Awards in 2011, we are the only nut product to make the final… We do macadamia kernel, butter, plain (unsalted) kernel,honey roasted and Belgium choc coated (dark,milk,white) we have a Facebook page so if anyone is interested by all means like use n help us get the macadamia’s out in the world

    Hand 'N' Hor Otganic Macadamia's wrote on February 1st, 2013
  11. We love this stuff. After buying a small bottle of it at Whole Foods, I ordered the gallon size from Oils of Aloha. They tell me Whole Foods will special order the larger sizes on request. Apparently stores don’t normally stock the gallon size because it takes up too much shelf space.I opted for mail order or UPS delivery here in Honolulu, which was only $9. .

    Tom Dolan wrote on April 3rd, 2013
  12. Have been buying Macadamia oil at a local farm in Medowie ( NSW Australia) not far from home. I love the stuff, top quality and not too expensive ( $10 Australian – 500ml ). It’s a beautiful oil for all manner of uses. Great for cooking, ingesting or as a skin moisturizer. Would highly recommend it to all. :-) Oh yeah it gives a nice glow and golden color to skin when used as “sunscreen”.

    Steve wrote on May 16th, 2013
  13. I know Mark said that mac nut oil is pretty heat stable but does anyone know if making paleo bread wu\ith it, if its fats would still be relatively in tact?

    Makeda wrote on May 31st, 2013
  14. I have had macadamia nuts before, but not the oil. I am fascinated and will hunt for the oil. Thanks for the informative site.

    Godwill wrote on June 4th, 2013
  15. Macadamia oil is aaah-mazing for dry, irritated, inflamed skin. Regardless of how well I eat, my skin is an issue…ahem, WAS an issue…until I hooked it up with some deliciousness…I call thee, Mac Oil! Since washing my face with honey or mac oil(the oil cleansing method), leaving my face damp and gently rubbing in some mac oil….no more redness, irritation, occasional breakouts. Now I enjoy smooth, glowy, and creamy facial skin. Coconut oil was too much for my hair and skin and I began despising eating eggs cooked in it. Mac oil to the rescue….again!!

    Kat wrote on October 20th, 2013
  16. Great post! I use it and love it.

    Thank you

    Carolina wrote on November 3rd, 2013
  17. By the way, yogurt is not a greek taste!!…Yogurt is Turkish !

    Baris wrote on November 4th, 2013
    • Revisionist Turk!

      Turk wrote on May 30th, 2014

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