Though nuts and seeds sometimes get a bad rap for being high in fat and calories, brazil nuts are an extremely nutrient-dense food containing health promoting poly and monounsaturated fats.
These seeds of the brazil nut tree can supply many of the nutrients that people usually have to take in supplements, in an easier to digest form and as a whole food.
Because they’re a food, brazil nuts offer a much more readily absorbed, bio-available form of specific nutrients than pills or capsules can provide. They contain several crucial, health-protecting compounds, including the essential minerals selenium and magnesium, a wide variety of B vitamins, antioxidants, and heart healthy fats.
Brazil nuts are the seeds of a large South American tree and are found exclusively in the Amazonian rain forests.
They are part of Ericales, which is the same taxonomic order that phlox, persimmons, blueberries, cranberries, kiwis, and tea all belong to.
Though they are called “nuts,” brazil nuts are not true nuts at all. They are actually the seeds of the fruit of the brazil tree. A single fruit will house several “nuts,” packed in a circular configuration like the segments of a grapefruit. Externally, the fruits of a brazil nut tree somewhat resemble a coconut.
Check out the following short video that shows what the fruit and seeds look like when taken from the brazil nut tree:
Rich In ‘Good’ Fats To Protect The Heart
Brazil nuts contain exceptionally high quantities of mono- and polyunsaturated fats. These fats are known to help lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, the “bad” cholesterol and raise beneficial high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or “good” cholesterol in the blood.
High cholesterol is a known component of cardiovascular disease and we generally don’t eat enough foods that actively lower it. Just a handful of brazil nuts every day can go a long way in helping to lower your overall cholesterol levels.
Brazil nuts are also high in fiber which is good for the digestive system and will also fill you up and stop you from craving sugary snacks.
Health Promoting Minerals
Brazil nuts are the best dietary source of selenium, a trace mineral humans require in small amounts. Although a selenium deficiency is rare, researchers have discovered that people with low body stores of selenium have been linked to cardiac problems, mental retardation, hypothyroidism, and a weakened immune system.
Selenium is used in the making of selenoproteins. These are essential to thyroid function, immune regulation, and have an antioxidant effect that may protect against heart disease and cancer, especially prostrate, lung, colon and rectum.
Brazil nuts are actually the world’s most abundant source of dietary selenium – a single ounce of them provides 780% of an adult human’s daily intake of this trace mineral.
Magnesium is an important mineral that can be hard to find in everyday foods. It is classed as a ‘major’ mineral and is measured in milligram quantities. Many people have to take supplements to ensure they get enough of this crucial nutrient.
Magnesium keeps our bones strong. Three quarters of the magnesium in our body is stored in our bones. It is also used by the body to regulate energy release, production of protein, muscle contractions and normal nerve cell functioning.
Magnesium helps support a healthy immune system and is responsible for more than three hundred different chemical reactions in the body.
Although the symptoms of magnesium deficiency are rare, it is important the body has enough stores of this mineral in order to protect against cardiovascular disease and immune dysfunction.
A 100 gram serving of brazil nuts provides about 300 milligrams of magnesium. The current recommended RDA for magnesium for adults is approx 400 mg per day for men and 300 mg per day for women.
In addition to selenium and magnesium, brazil nuts contain good amounts of other minerals including major minerals; potassium, calcium, iron, phosphorus and zinc and the trace mineral; copper. Copper helps prevent anemia and bone weakness (osteoporosis). Manganese is an all important co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase.
Protein Without The Saturated Fat
Nuts are high in protein and brazil nuts are no exception. But simply being high in protein doesn’t mean much. Many foods are high in protein, but these proteins are “incomplete”- that is, they don’t contain all of the amino acids necessary for good health.
So, if someone were to eat those foods as their only protein source, they could develop deficiencies and health problems.
By contrast, Brazil nuts are a complete protein. They contain every necessary amino acid, which makes them comparable to animal protein in the human diet.
Protein is a “macronutrient” which means the body needs a lot of it and it is responsible for a number of essential body functions including – building bones, muscles, blood, skin and cartilage. Hair and nails are almost entirely made from protein and it is an important compound to almost every cell in the body.
Traditionally protein is obtained from animal sources such as steak and chicken, but these food groups – especially steak are high in artery clogging saturated fat, and their consumption should be limited.
Foods like nuts; in particular brazil nuts, contain equally high amounts of protein without the unhealthy saturated fat. Just 1 ounce of brazil nuts contains 4-5 grams of protein which is not much less than 1 ounce of broiled ribeye steak.
Brazil Nuts Provide Good Antioxidant Protection
Brazil nuts are high in vitamin E, a nutrient which helps keep fats from going rancid, and acts as an antioxidant in the body. A hundred gram serving is enough to provide around one-third of the RDA of vitamin E.
Vitamin E helps protect cells from free radical damage, protect the integrity of cell walls, and keep skin healthy. This is part of the reason that brazil nut oil is also applied topically during massage for its benefits to the skin.
Super B Vitamins
Many diets, particularly those of people who don’t eat meat, can be deficient in a number of B-complex vitamins. B vitamins are usually found in animal protein, although there are a few good vegetarian sources of these vitamins.
Brazil nuts are an excellent source of thiamine. Without adequate thiamine, serious deficiencies can result. Beriberi is a disease that arises from inadequate thiamine, and can result in a host of cardiac, muscular, and neurological symptoms.
A 100 gram serving of these nuts provides over 50% of an average adult’s recommended daily thiamine intake. Brazil nuts also contain riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, and folate.
Selecting Brazil Nuts
Brazil nuts can be bought with their shells or without. The shells should be a brown color without any sort of discoloring, not shriveled or cracked. Fresh nuts won’t rattle and should feel quite weighty. Damaged or old ones may have fungus growing.
Storing Brazil Nuts
Unshelled brazil nuts can be kept fresh for months if stored in a cool, dry place. Shelled nuts need to kept in the refrigerator and preferably in an air tight container. The polyunsaturated fats tend to turn the nut rancid quite quickly if exposed to air and daylight.
How To Add Brazil Nuts To Your Diet
Experts recommend avoiding nuts which have been roasted in oil or salt, since this will contribute excess sodium, calories, and other compounds you don’t particularly need. Instead, purchase plain brazil nuts, or nuts in the shell.
Brazil nuts are delicious eaten on their own and can be had as a quick, energy boosting snack at any time of day. Have them mixed with walnuts, almonds, or other heart-healthy snacks. They can also be added to hot and cold dishes as well as in recipes for cakes, nut breads, granola, or any other dish where nuts are called for.
Brazil nuts can even make an interesting substitute for sunflower seeds or pine nuts in salads, or even sauces like pesto.
Brazil nuts are flavorful, versatile, and supply a number of health promoting minerals. They are good for the heart, contain cancer fighting free radicals, and help maintain a number of bodily functions. All of these factors make it an excellent idea to add a small handful of brazil nuts to your daily diet.
You can purchase raw brazil nuts online from Amazon.com (no pun intended!).
If you have any comments or questions regarding brazil nuts health benefits, please drop them below.