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*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Health Benefits of Brazil Nuts
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
- Vitamin C 0%
- Iron 6%
- Vitamin B6 0%
- Magnesium 0%
- Calcium 5%
- Vitamin D 0%
- Cobalamin 0%
- Vitamin A 0%
You’ve probably seen them in bowls of mixed nuts at holiday parties. They’re large and oblong, and they stand out from the almonds, peanuts, and pecans. When you crack open their tough, triangular shells, they’re known to have a smooth texture and a light, almost buttery taste.
These unusual-looking nuts are Brazil nuts and they come from the Bertholletia excelsa tree, which grows in the Amazon rainforest. The trees produce fairly large, hard-shelled fruits that resemble coconuts, which contain anywhere from 10 to 24 edible seeds.
While humans have likely been eating Brazil nuts since the Paleolithic era, their first mention in Western sources wasn’t until the 1500s. A Spanish explorer was introduced to them in 1569, and the Dutch brought them to Europe in the 1600s. They didn’t arrive in the United States until the 1800s.
Brazil nuts are still far from the most popular nut in the U.S., but they’re gaining traction, especially among those following keto and vegan diets. Not only that, but research is showing that they may provide significant health benefits.
Brazil nuts are high in selenium, which is a trace mineral vital for proper body function.
Selenium ensures a healthy thyroid and helps to keep your immune system functioning at its best. Higher levels of selenium can help strengthen your immune system and improve your outcomes with various health conditions, such as cancer, heart disease, infections, and infertility. Eating just two Brazil nuts a day can help to maintain or increase your selenium intake as effectively as a supplement.
Other health benefits of Brazil nuts include:
Selenium is necessary for healthy thyroid function. Getting enough selenium in your diet can help to reduce your risk of Hashimoto’s disease, Graves’ disease, and thyroid cancer.
Brazil nuts contain high levels of monounsaturated fats, which are healthy fats. Incorporating monounsaturated fat into your diet can help to improve your cholesterol levels, which can reduce your risk of heart disease. The dietary fiber in Brazil nuts can also help to lower blood cholesterol levels, reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Some studies show that the selenium in Brazil nuts can help to lower insulin levels and boost insulin sensitivity, improving blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes.
Brazil nuts have several antioxidants, including vitamin E and phenols. Antioxidants can help to fight free radicals, reducing oxidative stress and inflammation in your body. Lowering inflammation can help to reduce your risk of various health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer.
Brazil nuts have calcium and magnesium, both of which are necessary for bone health. A 1-ounce serving of Brazil nuts has about 25% to 33% of your recommended daily dose of magnesium, which plays an important role in bone density. More magnesium can lead to higher bone density.
Low levels of selenium are linked to neurodegenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. The antioxidants in Brazil nuts, including selenium, can help to boost your brain health. Some research also shows that increasing your selenium intake can help to improve your mood.
A 1-ounce serving of Brazil nuts has nearly 1,000% of your recommended daily allowance of selenium. A single nut has 96 micrograms, much higher than many other types of nuts. Other nutrients in Brazil nuts include:
Nutrients Per Serving
A 1-ounce serving of dried Brazil nuts contains:
- Calories: 186
- Protein: 4 grams
- Fat: 19 grams
- Carbohydrates: 3 grams
- Fiber: 2 grams
- Sugar: 1 gram
Things to Watch Out For
When it comes to Brazil nuts, less is more. They’re high in calories and fat, which may lead to unwanted weight gain if you eat too many.
Eating too many Brazil nuts may also lead to selenium toxicity. Signs of selenium toxicity include:
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Brittle hair and nails
- Joint pain
In more severe cases, it may cause:
- Kidney failure
- Heart attack
- Heart failure
How to Prepare Brazil Nuts
You can typically find Brazil nuts in grocery stores, either shelled or unshelled. Store them in a cool, dry place for up to a month. To keep them longer, place them in a resealable bag or container and put them in the refrigerator or freezer.
You can eat Brazil nuts plain or with other nuts as a healthy, energy-boosting snack. They have a smooth texture and delicate flavor that is delicious as is. You can also prepare them in a variety of other ways, such as:
- Roasting them, either alone or with other nuts.
- Sprinkling them raw on a salad.
- Using them instead of pine nuts in a pesto.
- Grinding them up and mixing them into a cake batter.
- Making raw and vegan energy balls.
- Roughly chopping them and adding them to cookie dough.
- Adding them to rice or vegetable dishes for extra crunch.
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The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: “Brazil Nuts: An Effective Way to Improve Selenium Status.”
Polski Merkuriusz Lekarski: “Significance of Selenium in Thyroid Physiology and Pathology.”
Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism: “A Single Consumption of High Amounts of Brazil Nuts Improves Lipid Profile of Healthy Volunteers.”
Hormone and Metabolic Research: “Selenium Supplementation Affects Insulin Resistance and Serum HS-CRP in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes and Coronary Heart Disease.”
National Institutes of Health: “Magnesium: Fact Sheet for Professionals.”
European Journal of Nutrition: “Effects of Brazil Nut Consumption on Selenium Status and Cognitive Performance in Older Adults with Mild Cognitive Impairments: A Randomized Controlled Pilot Trial.”
Nutritional Neuroscience: “Selenium Intake, Mood and Other Aspects of Psychological Functioning.”
LWT-Food Science and Technology: “Brazil Nuts and Associated Health Benefits-A Review.”
National Institutes of Health: “Selenium: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals.”
Economic Botany: “‘Made in Brazil’: Human Dispersal of the Brazil Nut (Bertholletia excelsa, Lecythidaceae) in Ancient Amazonia.”
Rosengarten, F. The Book of Edible Nuts, Dover Publications, 1984.
8 Health Benefits Why Brazil Nuts Are Very Good for You
Brazil nuts are an excellent source of protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. The health benefits of Brazil nuts include reduced inflammation, improved heart health, weight management, and other benefits.
Brazil nuts are an excellent source of protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. They’re also high in calories, so you should probably limit yourself to only a small amount a day.
A Brazil nut is an edible seed that comes from the fruit of the Brazil nut tree. The tree, species name Bertholletia excelsa, is a large tropical evergreen native to the Amazon rainforest.
The fruit is round with a thick hard shell and holds between 18 to 24 seeds, or nuts, which also have a woody, wrinkly shell. You can find shelled and unshelled seeds and eat them fresh.
Health benefits of Brazil nuts
Brazil nuts have many benefits and are an excellent addition to your diet.
Rich in selenium
Brazil nuts are rich in vitamins and minerals, including selenium. Selenium is an essential trace mineral your body uses as part of some enzymes and proteins called selenoproteins. These selenoproteins help make DNA and protect your cells from infections and damage.
Most of your selenoproteins are in your thyroid and are essential for proper thyroid function. Low levels of selenium can raise your risk for autoimmune thyroid disease. Studies show that taking selenium supplements might not help a healthy thyroid work better, so it’s best to get it from food.
With 96 micrograms of selenium in a single nut, Brazil nuts are some of the richest sources of selenium. Adults should get 55 micrograms a day, so eating one Brazil nut daily gives you all the selenium you need.
High in fiber
Dietary fiber mainly consists of the carbohydrates and other compounds in plants that you don’t digest well, plus some animal products. A fiber-rich diet leads to a lower risk for chronic diseases like heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Experts recommend eating at least 38 grams of fiber every day, ideally from plant sources, like nuts, seeds, fruit, vegetables, and whole grains.
Brazil nuts are an excellent source of dietary fiber: just six nuts contain 2 grams of fiber. For extra fiber, add them to a mix of other nuts, including cashews, almonds, or pecans.
Excellent source of protein
Protein is an essential micronutrient that makes up your tissues and organs and forms enzymes that drive all the activities in your body. The best protein sources have healthy fats, fiber, and low sodium and are often plant proteins, like Brazil nuts.
The recommended amount of protein is 0.8 grams for every kilogram of weight. If you weigh 140 pounds, this is about 50 grams of protein daily.
You can get 4 grams of protein from only 6 Brazil nuts, so these seeds are an excellent nutrient-dense snack to add to your day. If you eat a vegetarian or vegan diet, adding Brazil nuts is one way to meet your protein needs.
Your body constantly makes unstable molecules called free radicals as part of everyday activities. But if free radicals build up, they can damage your cells and body.
Antioxidants are compounds that neutralize free radicals. Your body normally makes lots of antioxidants, like glutathione and others, but you also get them from your food.
Brazil nuts are rich in antioxidant plant compounds like citric acid, quercetin, and catechins, and antioxidant vitamins, like selenium and vitamin E. Studies show these antioxidants can help lower free radical damage and your risk of chronic disease.
Might lower inflammation
There are two types of inflammation: acute and chronic. Acute inflammation happens after an injury or infection and is your body’s attempt to self-heal. It comes on quickly and goes away within a few hours or days.
Chronic inflammation can start for the same reasons, but it lasts. Habits like poor diet, smoking, and lack of exercise can lead to ongoing, low-grade inflammation.
Eating an anti-inflammatory diet rich in fruits, vegetables, fatty fish, healthy oils, nuts and seeds, and antioxidants can help lower inflammation and your risk for disease. Brazil nuts are rich in healthy oils and antioxidants; studies link eating Brazil nuts to lower inflammation markers.
Might improve heart health
Eating nuts and seeds can help lower the cholesterol and fat levels in your blood. These effects are usually because of the high fiber content, healthy fats, and plant compounds that lower inflammation.
Regularly eating Brazil nuts can lower inflammation and free radical damage that leads to heart disease. While some studies show that Brazil nuts have no effect on blood fats, others show they can lower total cholesterol and blood fats and increase antioxidant response. Eating nuts might protect against plaque buildup and atherosclerosis.
Help maintain a healthy weight
Nuts might help you maintain a healthy weight and body composition when you eat them as part of a weight-loss diet. Body composition is the percentage of fat, muscle, and bone in your body.
One small study tested the effect of Brazil nuts on women. One group followed a weight-loss diet and ate 15 grams of Brazil nuts and 30 grams of cashews every day for eight weeks, while the other group only followed the weight-loss diet. Those who had the nuts had less body fat and more lean muscle at the end than those who didn’t.
It’s not exactly clear why nuts help you lose weight. It could be the healthy fats, fiber, and nutrients, or it could be that they keep you full for longer, and you eat less. But experts suggest limiting your nut intake to two handfuls a day. More than that can add extra calories to your diet and cause you to gain weight.
Might help control blood sugar
Eating Brazil nuts might help control your blood sugar, probably because of the high fiber content. It takes longer to digest fiber, which keeps you full for longer, slows down glucose absorption, and lowers your food intake. A clinical trial found that eating extra nuts as part of a Mediterranean diet decreased the rates of type 2 diabetes.
Eat Brazil nuts
Adding Brazil nuts can enrich your diet with essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. Eat unsalted nuts to avoid extra sodium and limit your intake to 4 to 5 Brazil nuts per day to avoid too much selenium.
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Medically Reviewed on 7/29/2022
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Frontiers in Bioscience Scholar: “Anti-atherosclerotic and cardiovascular protective benefits of Brazilian nuts.”
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Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: “Antioxidants,” “Protein,” “Selenium.”
National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements: “Selenium.”
Oregon State University Linus Pauling Institute: “Fiber,” “Nuts.”
Tufts University: “The Health Benefits of Nuts.”
U.S. Department of Agriculture FoodData Central: “Nuts, brazilnuts, dried, unblanched.”
University of California Davies Health: “Body composition.”
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How Many Brazil Nuts Are Radiation Poisoning?
Consuming two to three Brazil nuts per day is unlikely to pose a health risk; however, eating 50 or more nuts a day may cause radiation toxicity.
What Happens If You Eat Too Many Brazil Nuts?
Brazil nuts have an elevated amount of selenium (68-91 mcg per nut), and having too many Brazil nuts can cause the body selenium to increase above the acceptable limit.
What Nuts Are the Worst for Allergies?
A nut allergy develops when the body’s immune system becomes oversensitive to a particular protein in a nut. Nuts that are the worst for allergies include peanuts, walnuts, pecans, almonds, Brazil nuts and pine nuts.
Which Nuts Are Best to Lower Cholesterol?
Researchers discovered that consuming roughly half a cup of walnuts per day (especially in the morning) can somewhat lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels in healthy people.
Why Is It Hard to Find Brazil Nuts?
Brazil nuts are native to areas around the Amazon in the regions of Brazil, Columbia, Peru, Ecuador, and Venezuela. From there, they are exported to other places all over the world. They are edible seeds derived from one of the tallest trees in the world.