By its name, Brazil nuts sound like a variety of nut. But in reality, they are not. Brazil nuts are seeds which come from the Brazil nut tree. They also produce massively around 250 pounds of nuts in a year. The nut looks like a coconut which holds 10 to 20 seeds. Brazil nuts are the most abundant natural source of selenium, a mineral which is essential for good health.
Selenium has potent antioxidant properties. Selenium is also necessary for proper functioning of the immune system and normal thyroid function. It also helps in sperm motility thereby reducing infertility.
Over 1.5 billion people are selenium deficient worldwide. Just two Brazil nuts a day are effective at raising selenium levels in your body. Most of the health benefits of brazil nuts are due to their high selenium content.
There are several Brazil nuts benefits and some of them are better heart health, improves fertility, prevents constipation, etc.
What are Brazil nuts?
Brazil nuts grow on the Brazil nut tree (scientific name Bertholletia excelsa). This tree, which can grow more than 200 feet, is found in the Amazon rainforests and is native to South America.
These nuts are nutrient dense, rich in selenium, copper, omega 6 fatty acids, thiamine, zinc, and magnesium.
Brazil nuts are delicious and have many health benefits such as protection against cancer, cardiovascular disease, inflammation, zinc deficiency, etc. Being an excellent, excellent source of dietary fiber, they also help prevent constipation.
How to consume brazil nuts?
Brazil nuts can be consumed raw. The preferred forms of consumption are roasted, salted or as a part of recipes such as fudge, puddings, desserts.
You can use Brazil nut oil as a salad dressing. Brazil nut milk is a highly nutritious alternative to soy or regular milk. You can even use brazil nut in dips and cheeses.
Brazil nuts benefits on health
1) Protects the heart
When consumed in small amounts, the high content of omega 6 fatty acids in Brazil nuts decreases LDL cholesterol levels in your body. LDL cholesterol is also called bad cholesterol because it is responsible for atherosclerosis.
Atherosclerosis is a process by which cholesterol plaques build up in your blood vessels, reducing the blood flow. So, Brazil nuts despite being high in fat are right for your heart.
2) Fights off inflammation
Brazil nuts are rich in ellagilic acid, a potent antioxidant, and neuroprotective agent. (1) Ellagilic acid along with selenium has a potent anti-inflammatory effect.
Antioxidants protect your body against free radical-mediated damage. Free radical damage causes aging, wrinkling of skin, cancer, and autoimmunity.
3) Improves fertility
Brazil nuts contain selenium, which is essential for sperm motility. Brazil nuts also have high amounts of vitamin E. Vitamin E deficiency is implicated in causing infertility.
L arginine found in the nuts is helpful in erectile dysfunction. L arginine serves as the precursor for nitric oxide which helps in erection. A steady diet of Brazil nuts is helpful in conception.
4) Fights cancer
Cancer is called the king of maladies, and rightfully so. One of the important pathways by which cancer arises is chronic free radical-mediated damage to your cells.
Selenium, ellagilic acid, vitamin E are all antioxidants which protect against free radical damage. Ellagilic acid also has additional antimutagenic properties.
Selenium reduces toxic mercury levels in the body by promoting its excretion. Since mercury exposure can cause cancer, selenium plays a defensive role here. (2)
Selenium also increases levels of reduced glutathione which helps in free radical scavenging. Thus, Brazil nuts act in multiple ways to prevent cancer.
5) Improves mood
Selenium consumption leads to increased serotonin levels. (3) Serotonin regulates mood, appetite and sleeps among other things. Selenium deficiency is a contributing factor to irritability, depression, and stress. (4)
All these findings make selenium a vital diet component, especially for people undergoing treatment for depression.
6) Helps in normal thyroid functioning
The thyroid gland is central to many functions of the body. Thyroid hormone decides your basal metabolic rate, your heart rate, brain development, energy levels and bowel movements.
Both, deficiency and excess of thyroid hormone are harmful and can be life-threatening. Selenium helps in the functioning of deiodinase, an enzyme which regulates levels of thyroid hormone in the bloodstream.
Selenium also protects from autoimmunity against the thyroid gland. Hence, selenium is essential for healthy thyroid functioning. (5)
7) Keeps your skin glowing
Vitamins E and C, selenium, omega 3 fatty acids found in Brazil nuts keep your skin healthy. Vitamin C is essential for collagen formation.
Collagen forms the support of your skin. Antioxidant properties fight free radicals in your skin and prevent wrinkling. Brazil nut oil is used topically on the skin to avoid dryness and exfoliation of the skin.
8) Prevents constipation
The high fiber present in Brazil nuts stimulates gut motility and prevents constipation, bloating and cramps. High fiber also prevents gastric ulcers and colon cancer.
Fibre also reduces the spike in blood sugar levels seen after a high carbohydrate meal.
9) Counters zinc deficiency ( Acrodermatitis enteropathica)
Zinc deficiency leads to acrodermatitis enteropathica disease. This disease manifests with severe diarrhea and skin rash. Zinc supplementation is curative.
Brazil nuts are rich in zinc and they can be used in prevention as well as treatment of acrodermatitis enteropathica.
Brazil nuts nutrition (6)
Nutritional values for raw 100g Brazil nuts
|Principle||Nutrient Value||Percentage of RDA|
|Total Fat||67.10 g||221%|
|Dietary Fiber||7.5 g||20%|
|Pantothenic acid||0.184 mg||3.5%|
|Vitamin A||0 IU||0%|
|Vitamin C||0.7 mcg||1%|
|Vitamin E-γ||7.87 mg||52%|
What to buy?
Buy nuts that have their shells intact. Buy whole, brown colored nuts that are full and feel heavy. Do not buy shriveled nuts as they can have fungal growth and maybe already spoiled.
How to store them?
The high polyunsaturated fatty acid content of Brazil nuts makes them susceptible to become rancid. To prevent them from going stale, keep the raw nuts in a cool, dry place, such as a refrigerator.
Preferably you should use air sealed bags to store them. Remove the shell of the nuts while storing them, so they don’t rot inside.
What are the potential side effects?
People who are allergic to nuts such as cashew, pistachio, etc. should be careful because adverse effects ranging from urticaria to anaphylaxis can occur.
Selenium toxicity is possible if you go overboard with the brazil nuts. Some symptoms of selenium toxicity are a metallic taste in the mouth, nausea, vomiting, garlicky smell, alopecia ( hair loss), dermatitis and neuropathic pain.
Dental caries may also occur. Therefore, it is advisable to consume brazil nuts in moderation.
Over to you
Brazil nuts are seeds from the Brazil nut tree, which is one of the enormous trees growing in the Amazon rainforests. This nut is the best natural source for selenium. Selenium fights inflammation and is a powerful antioxidant.
Brazil nuts help to fight inflammation, improve mood, reduce infertility, thyroid function, prevent cancer, and maintain good skin. It’s important not to consume these nuts in large quantities because the high selenium content is harmful to your body.
Brazil nuts spoil quickly, so it is wise to purchase them in small amounts and store them in refrigerators.