Brazil nuts, botanically called Bertholletia excelsa are derived from the Brazil nut tree fruit pods. The nuts are seeds of the tree that is native to Amazon rainforests. The nuts are separated from the fruit pods, washed, dried in sunlight, and then packed for transport.
Brazil nuts are eaten raw or roasted, often blanched. The nuts have a buttery texture and traditional tree nut flavor.
The brazil fruits hanging in the tree are often compared with coconut trees. Somewhere, these brazil nuts replace coconut in specific recipes.
Selenium is an important chemical compound found in brazil nuts that improve thyroid health, heart functions, brain health, immunity, and support overall health.
The overall nutritional profile of brazil nuts includes healthy fat, protein, minerals, vitamins, lipids, amino acids, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory properties, which are beneficial in various health ailment treatments.
What are Brazil nuts?
Brazil nuts are edible seeds derived from fruit pods of Brazil nut trees native to parts of tropical Amazonia such as Amazonian Colombia, Bolivia, Brazil, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Surinam, and Venezuela. It is widely found in Brazil’s states, such as Acre, Amazonas, Maranhao, Mato Grosso, Para, and Rondonia. The trees usually reach 160 feet in height and live for almost 700 years. Brazil nut trees create deep forests on the banks of the Amazons, Rio Negro, and Esmeraldas, on the Orinoco.
Between January to June, every mature tree produces 300 fruit pods where each pod contains 12 to 24 seeds/nuts. Brazil nuts are often linked to some tropical nut-bearing species such as the anchovy pear (Grias cauliflora), the cannonball tree (Couroupita guianensis), and the monkey pot.
With the various essential nutrients, vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, amino acids, and lipids, these brazil nuts have a high concentration of selenium. These nuts have a high amount of saturated fat that reduces bad cholesterol levels and increases HDL. Additionally, these nuts are gluten-free, making them a great protein alternative for celiac disease.
Brazil nuts are used not only for consumption but also in soaps, conditioners, shampoos, and other cosmetic products.
Importance of Selenium
According to some scientific studies, selenium may prevent heart illnesses and remedy cardiovascular conditions, thyroid, and liver diseases. The thyroid glands in the body have a high concentration of selenium and help maintain a balance in metabolism.
Plant Description: Brazil Nuts
Brazil nut is a large tree that grows 30 to 60 m in height, usually in humid, hot wet, and rainforests. Sandy clay soils or well-drained soils are their choices of the medium. This deciduous tree has a grey, cylindrical, and straight trunk that reaches 1 to 2 m diameters.
The tree has smooth and grayish bark.
There are alternate, large, oblong, simple, and coriaceous leaves with a dimension of 20 to 35 cm X 10 to 15 cm. The leaves have parallel lateral veins from 29 to 45 pairs.
Brazil nut tree flowers are small, have green-white color, 5 to 10 cm long panicles. The calyx is two parted and deciduous. A flower has six unequal petals in creamy color.
The fruits are hard-shelled and spherical, 10 to 15 cm in diameter, hanging in thick branches of a tree, which resembles a coconut tree. Each pod weighs 2.3 kg, approximately 5 pounds, 15 cm diameter, and has a maximum of 12 to 24 nuts in them. The nuts inside the pods are lined similarly to orange.
We can get a minimum of 300 pods from a well-matured brazil nut tree, which is dark brown and has a thickness of 8 to 12 mm. Usually, harvested after the fruits ripe and fall on the ground between January and June. Once collected the pods, the seeds or nuts are removed, dried, washed, and then packed for export. The hard shell of pods contains three sides.
Brazil nuts pods include a minimum of 8 to a maximum of 24 seeds that are three angles and have 3.5 cm to 5 cm X 2.5 to 1.8 cm dimensions. These dark brown seeds have thick and woody skin. The inner flesh of seeds is pale brownish-white, delicious, and nutty.
The nuts have a typical nutty flavor, butter taste, and each weighs 5 grams.
The brazil nuts can be eaten raw, roasted, toasted, fried, chopped, and topped, or by extracting their juice or oil. In all ways, the brazil nuts are an excellent therapeutic remedy for various health ailments.
Scientific Classification: Brazil Nuts
|Scientific Name||Bertholletia excelsa|
|Subkingdom||Tracheobionta (Vascular plants)|
|Superdivision||Spermatophyta (Seed plants)|
|Division||Magnoliophyta (Flowering plants)|
|Family||Lecythidaceae (Brazil-nut family)|
|Genus||Bertholletia Humb. & Bonpl. (Bertholletia)|
|Species||Bertholletia excelsa Humb. & Bonpl. (Brazilnut)|
|Synonyms||Barthollesia excelsa Silva Manso, Bertholletia nobilis Miers|
Common Names of Brazil Nuts
- Botanical Name: Bertholletia excelsa
- English Name: Brazil Nuts
- Tamil Name: உணவுக்குதவும் பிரசீல் மரக்கொட்டை
- Malayalam Name: ബ്രസീൽ പരിപ്പ്
- Telugu Name: బ్రెజిల్ కాయలు
- Kannada Name: ಬ್ರೆಜಿಲ್ ಬೀಜಗಳು
- Hindi Name: ब्राजील नट्स
- Marathi Name: ब्राझील काजू
- Gujarati Name: બ્રાઝીલ બદામ
- Punjabi Name: ਬ੍ਰਾਜ਼ੀਲ ਗਿਰੀਦਾਰ
- Bengali Name: ব্রাজিল বাদাম
- Urdu Name: برازیل میوے
15 Health Benefits of Brazil Nuts
Brazil nuts are filled with nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that make them a healthy snack and protect us from serious ailments. Brazil nuts are a great source of protein and have beneficial amino acids that play an essential role in enhancing body functions.
Here we listed some of the possible health benefits of consuming Brazil nuts.
1. Reaches RDI for Selenium
Brazil nuts are a great source to fulfill the daily recommended intake value of selenium. Moreover, these nuts have a high concentration of this chemical compound with an average of 90 mcg/nut compared to other tree nuts. The amount of this mineral in these nuts may vary based on the region and soil it grows. With that said, some varieties offer a maximum of 400 mcg selenium per nut.
The recommended daily intake of selenium for adults in a day is 55 mcg; thus, the nuts have 175% DV of selenium.
Selenium is a mineral or a chemical compound found to be necessary for the proper functions of the body. These are beneficial or vital for thyroid glands and improve immunity.
At major levels, selenium is associated with the immune system, cancer prevention, infertility, heart and brain functions, pregnancy, and more.
It is less likely for someone to have a selenium deficiency, but people in the UK, Europe, and the Middle East are reported with insufficient intake of selenium.
For them, brazil nuts are an easy way to increase the selenium level in the body. Various studies on finding effect selenium intake through brazil nuts found that two brazil nuts a day significantly fulfill the daily value and are healthier than consuming its supplements.
2. Antioxidant Effects
Brazil nuts with a high amount of selenium improve the antioxidant levels of the body and thus hampers oxidative stress. The liver breaks down the selenium and selenoprotein P, an adequate protein that expels excessive free radicals from the body and prevents cell damage. These harmful free radicals can lead to oxidative stress, heart failures, and increase the growth of cancer cells.
A study evaluated the antioxidants of brazil nut consumption involving 91 people with high blood pressure and high blood lipid levels, who were given 13 grams of defatted brazil nuts for three months.
The participants who consumed brazil nuts reported increased selenium levels and antioxidant activity of an enzyme called GPx3 while decreasing LDL.
3. Anti Inflammation Effects
Antioxidants in brazil nuts such as selenium, vitamin E, and phenols such as gallic and ellagic acids help lower inflammation associated with chronic health conditions.
Selenium, a mineral that increases GPx levels, is an enzyme that, in turn, reduces inflammation and prevents oxidative stress.
A 2014 study examined the health benefits of consuming one brazil nut a day in participants with chronic kidney disease for three months. It concluded that consumption of brazil nuts reduced inflammation and oxidative stress markers in the body while increasing the levels of selenium and GPx.
Another study in 10 people with 20 to 50 grams of brazil nut consumption showed a reduction in inflammation markers.
Also Read: Effective Spices & Herbs For Inflammation
4. Improves Thyroid Health
The thyroid gland is in the throat that builds up several hormones that are important for metabolism, body growth, and regulating body temperature.
Thyroid tissue contains a high amount of selenium content, which is essential for producing thyroid hormone T3 and proteins that prevent thyroid damage.
Selenium deficiency causes cellular damages, affects thyroid functions, and autoimmune disorders. In deeper, these conditions can lead to thyroid cancer.
In China, a study tested people with low selenium levels and found that they are prone to thyroid diseases such as thyroiditis, hypothyroidism, and enlarged thyroid than those who consumed adequate selenium.
It is a must to maintain the right selenium levels to support the thyroid gland that plays an essential role in producing, distributing, and regulating essential hormones.
5. Treats Thyroid Disorders
By ensuring the proper thyroid function, selenium in brazil nuts may treat symptoms of thyroid disorders.
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune disorder caused due to selenium deficiency in thyroid tissue and leads to hypothyroidism with symptoms like weight gain, fatigue, and cold body.
Several studies proved that adequate consumption of selenium could improve immunity and mood disorders in participants with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
Graves’ disease is a thyroid disorder in which excessive thyroid hormone is produced and causes weight loss, body weakness, and sleeping disorders.
Though research shows that selenium supplements improve thyroid function and reduce thyroid disorders in some people, we still need more research on this topic for safety.
6. Good For Heart
Brazil nuts contain fatty acids, healthy fats such as polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, antioxidants, fiber, minerals, vitamins, and nutrients which are beneficial for treating heart diseases and lowering the risks.
A study conducted with ten healthy participants tested the effects of brazil nuts on the body’s cholesterol levels. The participants were given 5, 20, or 50 grams of brazil nuts.
The participants had been tested after nine hours; the people who consumed 20 to 50 grams had reduced LDL and increased HDL than those who took low doses.
Another study evaluated selenium’s effects in brazil nuts in obese patients with selenium deficiency and was taking treatment for kidney disease. The study showed that brazil nuts with 290 mcg of selenium in a day for two months improved proper cholesterol levels and reduced the risks of heart ailments.
Heart-health benefits of Brazil nuts are promising, and further detailed human studies need to know how to reap the optimum benefits of this tree nut.
7. Good For Brain
Brazil nuts contain brain-benefiting nutrients such as ellagic acid and selenium.
Ellagic acid is an essential polyphenol in Brazil nuts that possess antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that offer protection for the brain against ailments.
Selenium is also a powerful antioxidant that may also benefit the proper functioning of the brain.
A six-month study tested mentally impaired adults by giving one nut per day and noted the increment in selenium levels, mental functions, and verbal fluency.
Selenium deficiency is linked to severe neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
However, the scientists received conflicting results from various studies that evaluated the effects of selenium in boosting brain health, so we need further promising research.
8. Lowers Blood Sugar
Selenium rich diet may improve blood sugar levels.
A two-month study published in the European Journal of Nutrition detailed that healthy adults who ate one brazil nut a day experienced reduced cholesterol levels and increased glucose levels.
Another study in type 2 diabetes patients and coronary heart diseased patients found consuming 200 mcg selenium as a supplement for eight weeks lower insulin levels and increased insulin sensitivity.
Additionally, the unsaturated fat in Brazil nuts hampers the progression of diabetes.
A study in random people replaced the carbohydrates and saturated fats from their diet with polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fats and found that the replacement reduced hemoglobin A1c levels.
Thus, brazil nuts are a healthy alternative to a high-fat diet and baked food.
Also Read: Herbs for Diabetes
9. May Increase HDL
With a high concentration of unsaturated fat, brazil nuts showed a reduction in total cholesterol and LDL while increased HDL. The adequate serving of brazil nuts can also improve lipid profiles in healthy people.
10. May Prevents Cancer
We have not yet found food or diet to treat and prevent cancer. But, there is evidence that following a healthy diet that fulfills the daily recommended intake value of essential minerals, vitamins, protein, and nutrients can reduce the risks of cancer.
A study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute suggested that maintaining the proper selenium levels was associated with reducing risks of certain types of cancers like stomach cancers.
Also, a type of polyphenol called Ellagic acid found in brazil nuts has anti-cancer properties.
Also Read: 10 Best Herbs to Treat Cancer
11. Mood Booster
Selenium has proved its ability to boost mood and prevent mental disorders like depression.
The Swansea University Department of Psychology conducted a study to examine the effect of selenium on anxiety, depression, and mood-lifting in 50 participants by giving 100 mcg of selenium thrice a day five-week. The study published in Biological Psychiatry concluded that the participants who experienced depression and anxiety due to low consumption of selenium were treated with selenium therapy.
Serotonin is a chemical found in the brain that regulates the hormones of a good mood.
The consumption of tree nut mixture, including Brazil nuts, improved the serotonin metabolites’ level, found by a study.
12. Aids Immunity
A healthy adult requires 8 to 11 mg of zinc in a day whereas an ounce of Brazil nuts contain 1 mg of zinc, which equals 10% DV of Zinc.
Zinc is essential for activating T-lymphocytes, so the low level of zinc causes weakness and collapses the immune system.
In deeper, zinc deficiency is linked to pneumonia and infections. Brazil nuts contain moderate levels of zinc to maintain the immune power of the body.
The combination of vitamin C, zinc, and selenium makes the best pair to increase the production of white blood cells and antioxidant compounds. Thus, it eventually aids immunity.
Also Read: 10 Best Herbs to Boost Immune System
13. Maintains Strong Bones
With a high amount of essential minerals for bone strength such as calcium and magnesium, brazil nuts are healthy snacks to strengthen bones. In one serving, brazil nuts provide 105 mg of magnesium that fulfills 25 to 33% of DV.
Our body needs an adequate amount of magnesium for healthy bone density, bone formation, and regulating bone cells.
Also Read: Herbal Plants for Bone Health
14. Weight Loss
The fiber in Brazil nuts satisfies the nutrient density and gives a feeling of fullness that, in turn, prevents you from food cravings often. An ounce of Brazil nuts contain 200 calories, so you must be careful not to exceed the daily recommended value of calorie.
Also Read: 10 Best Herbs for Weight Loss
15. Digestive System
Brazil nuts contain dietary fiber that benefits the digestive system. Fiber is essential for allowing peristaltic motion in the gastrointestinal system, reaping the nutrients and energy from the food, and moving it throughout the body.
It prevents constipation, gastric ulcers, stomach cramps, bloating, and other stomach aches. With adequate fiber, the carbohydrates and calories we intake are changed to energy and prevent weight gain due to fat.
Also Read: 10 Herbs that Boost Digestion
Benefits of Brazil Nuts for Skin Health
A high concentration of protein and other assorted vitamins in Brazil nuts are beneficial in maintaining a healthy look to the skin. Selenium in Brazil nuts offers glow and radiance to the surface. It further improves skin elasticity, prevents aging, and treats skin conditions.
Selenium invokes glutathione activities, an antioxidant that expels free radicals from skin cells, reduces oxidative stress in skin muscles, and thus hampers wrinkles, fine lines, and even skin cancer.
1. Lowers Acne
Brazil nuts have a high amount of zinc, a useful mineral that prevents aging and reduces its signs. You can consume two nuts a day to see the effective result or apply the Brazil nut oil to the affected area. The antioxidants and vitamins in the oil cause positive effects on skin quality, look, and health.
2. Reduces Signs of Aging
Aging and high exposure to sunlight cause wrinkles. Brazil nuts with their top nutrition profile of protein, antioxidants, and minerals like zinc, significantly reduce wrinkles and appearance.
Vitamin E in Brazil nuts is found to improve skin collagen and thereby a smooth complexion to the skin.
You can massage the skin with Brazil nut oil twice a day to lower minor skin infections and to get a healthy shine.
Nutritional Profile of Brazil Nuts
Serving Size: 1 Cup (133 grams)
|Calories: 876 Kcal.|
|Calories from Fat: 803.16 Kcal.|
|Total Fat (lipid)||89.24 g||254.97%|
|Total dietary Fiber||10 g||26.32%|
|Total Sugars||3.1 g||N/D|
|Calcium, Ca||213 mg||21.30%|
|Iron, Fe||3.23 mg||40.38%|
|Magnesium, Mg||500 mg||119.05%|
|Phosphorus, P||964 mg||137.71%|
|Potassium, K||876 mg||18.64%|
|Sodium, Na||4 mg||0.27%|
|Zinc, Zn||5.4 mg||49.09%|
|Copper, Cu||2.318 mg||257.56%|
|Manganese, Mn||1.627 mg||70.74%|
|Selenium, Se||2549.6 µg||4635.64%|
|Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)||0.821 mg||68.42%|
|Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)||0.047 mg||3.62%|
|Vitamin B3 (Niacin)||0.392 mg||2.45%|
|Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid)||0.245 mg||4.90%|
|Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)||0.134 mg||10.31%|
|Vitamin B9 (Folate)||29 µg||7.25%|
|Folic Acid||0 µg||N/D|
|Folate, food||29 µg||N/D|
|Folate, DEF||29 µg||N/D|
|Vitamin C (Ascorbic acid)||0.9 mg||1.00%|
|Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)||7.51 mg||50.07%|
|Tocopherol, beta||0.01 mg||N/D|
|Tocopherol, gamma||12.71 mg||N/D|
|Tocopherol, delta||0.84 mg||N/D|
|Fatty acids, total saturated||21.458 g||N/D|
|Fatty acids, total monounsaturated||31.759 g||N/D|
|Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated||32.451 g||N/D|
|Amino Acids||Value||% DV|
|Aspartic acid||1.762 g||N/D|
|Glutamic acid||4.243 g||N/D|
Purchase, Storage, and Safety of Brazil Nuts
- Brazil nuts are available raw (with or without shell), sliced, roasted, salted, or blanched.
- Raw brazil nuts could spoil very quickly, so store them in a tightly sealed container in a dry, cool place and keep it away from sunlight to prevent rancid smell. In this way, the shelf life maybe a month.
- If the stored nuts become smooth and start smelling rancid, avoid eating them.
- When you buy shelled nuts, crack and consume quickly or keep them in your refrigerator until you are up to open them!
- Roasted or salted nuts have a long shelf life, but they are high in sodium.
How to Consume Brazil Nuts
Brazil nuts are tasty and healthy as a whole, roasted, or salted. It is a great snack or toppings to add extra crunchiness.
Brazil nuts can be roasted on the stovetop or in the oven.
Brazil nuts on the stovetop
- Place the brazil nuts in a thick pan and put the stove on medium flame.
- Stir often to avoid burning.
- Do it for 5 to 10 minutes till the nuts spread the aroma.
Brazil nuts in the oven
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Place the nuts on a single-layered baking sheet and put the sheet on a preheated oven.
- Let them roast for 5 minutes.
- Take off the sheet and stir the nuts.
- Again, place the nuts on a sheet to the oven for an extra 5 minutes.
- Now, take down the nuts and season them with salt, spices, or herbs.
- Cool down the nuts and then serve.
How To Add Brazil Nuts To Your Daily Diet
- Brazil nuts are often added to Thai dishes, and in pesto replacing pine nuts.
- Chopped nuts can be used as topping for salads, oatmeal, and brownies.
- You can make brazil nut milk by blending and straining the nuts.
- Sweetened brazil nuts can be crushed and added toppings for desserts or to puddings, cheeses, and dips.
How to Prepare Brazil Nut Milk
It is a tasty and healthy alternative to almond, soy, or regular dairy milk.
- Brazil nuts – 2 cups
- Water – 4 cups
- Vanilla bean – 1
- Raw Medjool dates – 2 to 3 pitted to sweeten (optional)
- Cinnamon – 2 to 3 tablespoons for flavor (optional)
- Soak the brazil nuts and vanilla bean in water for eight hours or full night.
- The next day, strain the water, rinse the nuts, and a bean.
- Blend the soaked nuts and vanilla bean, adding four cups of freshwater till it becomes smooth.
- Add sweetening and flavoring ingredients (completely optional).
- Transfer the mixture in a milk bag and strain into a tightly sealed jar or airtight container.
- Store it in a refrigerator for future use.
You can keep the blended nut pulp and use it for making crackers or cookies.
Other Facts About Brazil Nuts
- Brazil Nut Shell
- In the Amazon basin, the empty brazil nut fruit shells are used as cups to drink water, carry smoke to repel flies, and collect rubber latex from trees.
- Also, the shells were used to create handicrafts.
- Shells are beneficial as an adsorbent in dyes like indigo carmine and methylene blue.
- Brazil Nut Oil
- Brazil nut oil is used for cooking and lighting lamps in rural areas.
- The oil is also added to make hair conditioners, soaps, shampoos, lotions, creams, and various body care products.
- Artists use this oil in their painting, and it also helps as a lubricant in clocks.
- Brazil nut trees also provide extreme quality timbers.
On the whole, brazil nuts are safe for everyone when consumed in the right dose recommended by the professional. But, taking it in high dosage or often or having other supplements results in selenosis that may cause symptoms like diarrhea, hair loss, nausea, coughing, and brittle nails.
Those who are allergic to tree nuts should avoid or at least consult the doctor before eating them.
Brazil Nuts Dosage and Risks
The maximum intake value of selenium in a day for adults is 400 mcg. Thus, the recommended intake size of brazil nuts is two nuts a day. Going overboard on these nuts may cause selenium toxicity and leads to severe health risks.
Brazil nuts are calorie-dense like other tree nuts, so intaking too much may exceed the daily recommended intake value of calories, and thus you gain weight.
Possible Risks of Overdose
Brazil nuts are beneficial in treating various health conditions, including thyroid diseases, liver diseases, and heart functions, with their high selenium content. However, the same chemical compound may cause severe health risks when overdosed.
According to proven medicinal studies, 5000 mcg of selenium is possible in 50 medium-sized brazil nuts, causing a condition called selenosis.
The National Institutes of Health found that regular intake of large amounts of brazil nuts can create selenium toxicity and cause the below symptoms.
- brittle nails
- gastrointestinal problems
- hair loss
- joint pain
- muscle tenderness or soreness
- nervous system problems
- skin rashes or lesions
The level of selenium in Brazil nuts varies based on the amount found in the growing soil.
In some cases, it can cause severe health ailments like,
- acute respiratory distress syndrome
- heart failure and attack
- kidney failure
Selenium supplements are often linked to causing prostate cancer and diabetes.
However, selenium in a natural diet has not caused any toxicity symptoms or risks. Still, it is a must to limit the dosage. One to three nuts a day is adequate.
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