Have you ever had a brazil nut? Maybe you’ve seen these giant nuts and wondered what they are. They are much less common than almonds, cashews and walnuts, yet they are an amazing source of selenium, an important, hard-to-get nutrient that can have profound impacts on your health.
What are Brazil Nuts?
The first thing you need to know about Brazil Nuts is that they aren’t actually nuts at all! They are really the seeds of the Brazil nut tree, which grows wild in the Amazon. The actual nut from a Brazil tree looks like a coconut and weighs up to 5 pounds. When you split it open, you’ll find that the insides look like the segments of an orange. Those are the seeds. They are separated when the nuts are harvested, and they are what we have come to know as Brazil nuts.
Brazil nut trees are among the largest in the world. They grow up to 200 feet tall and can live for 500 to 800 years! The Brazil nut tree is so treasured that Brazil has made it illegal to chop one down. This is largely due to the fact that the Brazil nut is one of the country’s most important exports. Their sale represents $50 million a year! One Brazil nut tree produces about 250 pounds of nuts per year.
Though Brazil nuts are high in calories and fat, they are also gaining recognition for their amazing health and beauty benefits. Just a little of this superfood can go a long way towards heart health, skin and hair health, and fighting cancer and other diseases.
1. Brazil Nuts Are the World’s Top Food Source of Selenium, Plus Other Nutrients
Brazil nuts pack a lot of nutrients into a small package. Let’s look at what a one-ounce, 5 or 6 nut-serving provides:
Calories – 185
Carbohydrates – 3.5 grams
Protein – 4 grams
Fat – 18.8 grams
Fiber – 2.1 grams
Selenium – 542 mcg (774% of RDV)
Magnesium – 106 mg (27% of RDV)
Copper – 0.5 mg (25% of RDV)
Phosphorous – 205 mg (20% of RDV)
Manganese – 0.3 mg – (17% of RDV)
Thiamine – 0.2 mg – (12% of RDV)
Vitamin E – 1.6 mg – (8% of RDV)
Zinc – 1.1 mg – (8% of RDV)
Calcium – 45.2 mg (5% of RDV)
Potassium – 186 mg (5% of RDV)
Iron – 0.7 mg (4% of RDV)
Brazil nuts are so nutritious that eating just one or two a day can make a big difference in the quality of your hair and skin, your thyroid health, and your heart health. Brazil nuts have the highest amount of selenium of any food with 95.9 mcg in a single nut. This is more than you need in a day, which has led to warnings against eating too many of them the food with the highest amount of selenium, there are actually warnings against eating too many of them. This is not only because of their calories or fat: if you eat too much selenium you can end up suffering from a toxicity that can lead to symptoms like hair loss, nausea, and a metallic taste in the mouth. Keep your intake down to just a few per day for the most benefit.
Bottom Line: Brazil nuts high nutritional value and delicious taste give them a powerful health punch in a small package.
2. Brazil Nuts Support Thyroid Health
As the world’s top source of selenium, Brazil nuts are one of the most important foods you can eat to support the health of your thyroid gland. The thyroid is one of the most misunderstood organs, but when things go wrong it can have a big impact on your health. It secretes hormones that control your metabolism and your ability to synthesize protein, and it uses selenium to create those hormones. Studies have shown that people who have low levels of thyroid hormone also have low levels of selenium. Eating Brazil nuts boosted their levels.
Bottom Line: Eating Brazil nuts can counter the effect of selenium deficiency, and may even provide a natural way to raise thyroid hormone levels without having to take medication.
3. Brazil Nuts are a Heart Healthy Food
In addition to selenium, Brazil nuts also contain magnesium, potassium and calcium. All these important nutrients are helpful for lowering blood pressure. And even though the nuts are high in fat, the fat they contain is filled with mono-unsaturated fatty acids. These have been shown to boost levels of HDL cholesterol, which is known as the good cholesterol. More importantly, a small study showed that when healthy people ate just one serving of 4 Brazil nuts, their cholesterol levels fell in just 9 hours, and stayed low for an entire month.
Bottom Line: Eating just a small portion of Brazil nuts can make a big improvement in your cardiovascular health and lower your risk of heart attack or heart disease.
4. Brazil Nuts are A Cancer Fighting Food
The selenium that can be found in Brazil nuts has long been known as a way to cut the risk of cancer, and especially of esophageal cancer. One study found that in areas where the rate of that type of cancer is high, the intake of selenium was very low, while another found that high selenium levels are associated with a low risk of breast cancer. Selenium help to lower levels of mercury in the body, and a 5-year study showed that by increasing selenium intake, patients had a significant decrease in their risk of cancer of the prostate, the lungs, and colorectal cancer. Part of this may be because Brazil nuts also contain ellagic acid, which is known to help prevent cells from mutating and growing into cancerous tumors.
Bottom Line: The nutrients found in high levels in Brazil nuts are known for their cancer-fighting properties.
5. Brazil Nuts Can Help to Lift Your Mood
Another one of selenium’s superpowers it the fact that it is a proven way to fend off depression and boost your sprits. A study conducted in Wales followed 50 volunteers, with half given about one Brazil nut’s worth of selenium per day and the other half given a placebo. At the end of five weeks they found that the group given the selenium had lower levels of fatigue, depression and anxiety. And selenium boosts serotonin, the feel good chemical that our brains make, and which helps you sleep well at night.
Bottom Line: If you want a delicious snack that will also help you feel happier, add Brazil nuts to your shopping list.
6. Brazil Nuts Are a Beauty Secret
The nutrients in Brazil nuts not only make you feel better, they make you look better too. They contain minerals and vitamins that help to improve both the skin and the hair. When it comes to your skin, the selenium in Brazil nuts helps quicken the skin’s ability to replace dull, dead skin with fresh new skin cells. They are loaded with antioxidants and Vitamin E that fights damage from the sun and pollution. The copper in Brazil nuts can help prevent skin cancer by boosting your body’s production of melatonin, and the zinc that they contain reduces skin redness while the omega-3 fatty acids stop dryness and flakiness. As for your hair, the selenium in Brazil nuts can help keep your hair from falling out while the omega-3 fatty acids keep your hair shiny and strong.
Bottom Line: Eating Brazil nuts will improve your health, inside and out.
Brazil Nuts are A Healthy, Delicious Snack That Are Easy to Add to Your Diet
Though your market may sell Brazil nuts that have been roasted or salted, they are at their most nutritious when they are raw or blanched. They’re available in the shell or out, but when you look for them be aware that they can go bad quickly because of their high fat content. Store them in an airtight container out of the sun, and if you buy them in the shell, crack them open and put them in a container quickly to keep them fresh. They can last months if kept in a sealed container in the refrigerator.
To enjoy Brazil nuts, throw a couple into your brown bag lunch for a mid-morning snack, or chop them up and use them to add crunch to a salad. Many vegans make them to use a creamy base for cheeses and sauces.