Health Benefits of Brazil Nuts with Recipes and Risks – SuperFat - Amazing Nut Butters

Health Benefits of Brazil Nuts and Recipes, Cautions, and More!

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Some of the questions we'll answer:

  • Are brazil nuts keto?
  • How many carbs in brazil nuts?
  • Are brazil nuts from Brazil?
  • How much protein is in a serving of brazil nuts?
  • What's the nutritional value of brazil nuts?
Estimated Reading Time: 10 minutes (2,000 words)

Written By: Toni Sicola
Published: Nov. 1, 2019

Brazil nuts are probably the most forgotten nut. When you think mixed nuts, you're likely thinking cashews, almonds, pecans, and maybe even hazelnuts. But Brazil nuts are often at the bottom of the list. But this much-forgotten nuts offers a host of health benefits that you've probably never considered. The health benefits of Brazil nuts are actually quite vast, starting with the fact that just one Brazil nut gets you to the RDA for the mineral selenium. That's a lot to pack into a single food source!

Brazil Nut Image

But there's more to Brazil nuts than just their selenium content. This superfood offers antioxidant benefits, helps promote heart health and healthy thyroid function, and much more. These nuts also make for a great snack and an addition to lots of delicious and creative recipes. Let's dig into Brazil nuts.

Brazil Nut Nutrition Facts

Beyond the selenium content, Brazil nuts are rich in a number of other nutrients, especially minerals. These minerals offer a number of health benefits, which we'll get into in subsequent sections. Brazil nuts also contain a rich profile of fatty acids — saturated fat, monounsaturated fat, and polyunsaturated fat — in addition to an array of amino acids, all of which offer their own health benefits.

 

Amount per serving

(100 grams)

% Daily value

2000 calorie diet

Calories

659

33%

Calories from fat

603

Total fat

67.1 g

30.1%

Saturated fat

16.1 g

7.2%

Trans fat

0g

   

Cholesterol

0mg

 

Sodium

3mg

Total carbs

11.7 g

2.3%

Dietary fiber

7.5 g

1.5%

Sugar

2.3 g

0.46%

Protein

14.3 g

2.86%

Vitamin E  5.65 mg

Vitamin C  0.7 mg

Calcium 160 mg

Selenium 1917 µg

Potassium 99 mg

Magnesium 56 mg

(source)

Background on Brazil Nuts

Brazil nut trees are Amazonian rainforest inhabitants native to South American countries like the Guianas, Venezuela, Brazil, and the eastern regions of Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia. The trees tend to be as wide as 6 feet in diameter and as tall as 160 feet, although much larger trees have been observed in nature. 

The nuts themselves — which are technically seeds, not nuts — grow inside the fruit of these trees sort of like sections of an orange. Each fruit can yield anywhere between 10 and 21 nuts, and a single brazil tree can produce up to 250 pounds of nuts in one year!

Brazil nuts are cousins to other tropical fruit- and nut-bearing species like the cannonball tree (Couroupita guianensis), the anchovy pear (Grias cauliflora), and the monkey pot

In addition to being a food source, Brazil nuts are also processed for use in soaps, shampoos, conditioners, and body care products.

These bountiful trees are considered "vulnerable," due to a continuing decline to their habitat and their extreme sensitivity to deforestation. They have a complex set of ecological requirements to thrive and produce fruit. Thet can't be cultivated or farmed and require an undisturbed habitat to successfully produce fruit. They rely on large native bees for pollination and native rodents called agoutis for seed dispersal. Without these rodents, Brazil nut trees would go extinct, so protecting this habitat is vital, not only for the longevity of the trees but for the native Amazonians who heavily rely on Brazil nuts for sustenance and income.

Brazil nuts are harvested in the wild from the forest floor by local people. They're then removed from the fruit (still in their own shells), sun-dried, washed, and distributed. Native Amazonians use the empty fruit pods as containers and brew the tree bark to treat liver ailments.

These long-living giants have huge importance in the Amazon rainforests. The trees that produce Brazil nuts can live for more than 500 years, sometimes reaching as old as 1000 years. So it's super important that the health of the trees be protected for the long haul. There's no replacing them in anyone's lifetime. 

Health Benefits of Brazil Nuts

The myriad health benefits of Brazil nuts probably seem a lot more interesting now that you know how vital the trees are to the rain forest and local Amazonian economies. As we mentioned before, these nuts offer a host of minerals, fatty acids, and proteins that help boost your health in more ways than one.

Benefit #1: Promotes Heart Health

The high fiber and healthy fat content of Brazil nuts make them a heart-healthy food. Fiber-rich foods not only improve cholesterol levels (the ratio of HDL to LDL), they also lower the overall risk of heart disease and stroke. Adequate dietary fiber intake also reduces the risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Monounsaturated fats are present in foods like olive oil, coconut oil, red palm oil, and avocado oil. This is the type of fat that makes the Mediterranean diet so popular among heart doctors. 

Saturated fats, while misunderstood among many nutrition advocates, are no longer demonized as they used to be. Studies now show that there's no link between saturated fat intake and heart disease. While it's not a good idea to overdo any particular type of food, you can rest easy when eating saturated fat from healthy sources, such as nuts, seeds, coconut meat, pastured chickens, and grass-fed beef. 

Adding a variety of nuts in general, beyond just Brazil nuts, to a balanced diet can help improve heart health. In a 2019 study on tree nut consumption, there was a significant decrease in the risk of cardiovascular disease and even heart attack among the participants who ate nuts. All of the participants in this study had a type 2 diabetes diagnosis as well. 

Benefit #2: Fights Inflammation

Inflammation is at the root of nearly every chronic disease that affects human beings. Cancer, cardiovascular disease, autoimmunity, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer's, and obesity all have an inflammatory component. When it comes to immunity, inflammation is actually a good thing that helps your body fight off infection. That's why you get a fever when you're sick. The fever is your body kicking into defense mode to heat up and kill whatever it is that has infected you. In a healthy, well-working human system, the inflammation turns on when you need it and off when you don't. 

Chronic inflammation is something different. It happens when your immune system turns on in times of a threat but then doesn't turn off again when the threat is over, leaving inflammation to potentially cause harm to the human tissues it's meant to protect. Eating foods that help reduce chronic inflammation can improve your overall health outcomes and reduce your risk for that laundry list of diseases we mentioned in the previous paragraph.

Brazil nuts are rich in antioxidants, which help keep your system healthy in a multitude of ways. A big way is that they fight inflammation and free radicals. Free radicals are damaging subatomic particles that can also cause damage to human tissue either through food, environment, or chemical exposure. That damage is called oxidative stress. 

The antioxidants in Brazil nuts include selenium, vitamin E, and phenols like gallic acid and ellagic acid. Selenium activates an enzyme that helps reduce inflammation and protect your body from oxidative stress. Vitamin E acts as a microscopic house cleaner, organizing the cell structures to keep them sound and healthy, and thereby protecting them from damage and oxidation. Multiple studies have shown that Vitamin E's antioxidant effects are protective against heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, cataracts, Alzheimer's and autoimmunity. 

Brazil nuts are so rich in antioxidants, that even a single serving of 4 to 10 nuts can significantly reduce the number of inflammatory markers. A small study of 10 people showed this level of remarkable activity. Even though this change happened quickly, long-term changes are required to sustain the effects. Follow-up studies showed that the participants had to keep eating Brazil nuts to maintain these positive outcomes.

Benefit #3: Promotes a Healthy Thyroid

We've mentioned selenium a number of times so far. In addition to offering antioxidant support, selenium also helps ensure proper thyroid function and may even improve certain symptoms for those who have thyroid disorders. 

Hypo- and hyperthyroidism are both often linked to autoimmune disorders. These disorders (Hashimoto's for hypothyroid and Graves for hyperthyroid) eventually destroy the thyroid gland, creating long-term problems with metabolism, energy production, weight control, and more. In cases of hypothyroidism, suffers tend to feel a loss of energy, constant coldness, and unexplained weight gain. In the case of hyperthyroid, suffers can experience bulging eyes, unexplained weight loss, trouble sleeping, and eventual burnout. 

While more work in the area of treating these thyroid issues with selenium still needs to be done, there's a lot of promising research in this area. Some reviews have found positive results for Hashimoto's thyroiditis patients in the way of mood and immune function improvements. Another study observed that using a selenium supplement may improve thyroid function and delay the progression of some symptoms in subjects with Graves disease

By including Brazil nuts in your daily diet, you can help tonify your thyroid and promote healthy production of thyroid hormone. 

Benefit #4: Promotes a Healthy Nervous System

We've already discussed that antioxidants have a powerful anti-inflammatory effect and pointed out that there's an inflammatory component to Alzheimer's. Both selenium and a polyphenol called ellagic acid are found in Brazil nuts and offer benefits to your brain and nervous system through their antioxidant benefits.

In fact, patients with Alzheimer's and Parkinson's often show low selenium levels. One study showed that mentally impaired older adults eating just one Brazil nut per day for six months showed improved verbal fluency and mental function. Pretty remarkable.

Depression and anxiety affect tens of millions of Americans, and unfortunately, many sufferers go untreated. While, in some cases, medication is necessary, it's possible that some of these individuals could benefit tremendously by changing their diets and lifestyle. Something as simple as eating Brazil nuts could lead to positive change in mood, due to the components in this superfood. Ellagic acid has been shown in multiple studies to offer an antidepressant benefit, and selenium may help with that as well. While eating Brazil nuts should by no means replace medical advice or counseling, it certainly wouldn't hurt to add a couple into your daily diet if you're dealing with depression. 

Brazil Nut Recipes

While these nuts are delicious to add to a trail mix or eat on their own, it's also fun to explore the world of recipes to find creative ways to add them to your diet.

Here are some of our favorites:

Risks of Eating Brazil Nuts 

Nut allergies are very common in the US, so it's important that you're aware of whether or not you have an allergy before you start adding Brazil nuts to your diet. It's also important to know that you can overdo it. It's possible to eat too many Brazil nuts. We know that Brazil nuts are a good source of selenium, but eating too many selenium-rich foods does have consequences. 

The most common side effects of eating too many Brazil nuts are hair loss, brittle hair and nails, and overly dry skin. If you really overeat these nuts, you could risk selenium toxicity, or selenosis. Most likely, to get to this level, you are both eating Brazil nuts and taking a supplement with high levels of selenium. Roughly 5,000mcg (equivalent of about 50 nuts)of selenium could cause toxicity, which can lead to trouble breathing, kidney failure, or heart attack. 

Ideally, you're consuming no more than 400mcg of selenium per day. Limit your Brazil nuts to just a few per day to avoid these problems. 

For more health benefits of other nuts, check out our guide to the healthiest nuts you can eat.


Author: Toni Sicola

Published:  Nov. 1, 2019 

Toni is a wellness professional with a Master's in Integrative Health, is passionate about spreading health, happiness, and personal fulfillment to as many people as possible. She has a professional background in health and wellness, dietary supplements, and nutrition, and embarks every day to live a well, balanced, happy life.
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