Nutritious and filling, nuts are the ideal food to stave off the munchies. These delectable treats are packed with protein, fiber, and healthy fats. Some nuts are more nutritious than others, however. Brazil Nuts, for example, go above and beyond the health benefits offered by other nuts – making them a top superfood.
What is a Brazil Nut?
A Brazil nut is a seed from the Bertholletia excelsa tree, which thrives in the Amazon rainforest. On these trees grow hard-shelled fruits that look like coconuts. Within these hard fruits are dozens of edible Brazil nut seeds. These seeds are oblong and larger than more common nuts like peanuts and almonds. When consumed, Brazil nuts have a delicious, light, buttery flavor.
Brazil Nuts: The Next Superfood?
Humans have been consuming Brazil nuts since the Paleolithic era, but these nuts weren’t introduced to the U.S. until the 1800s. Therefore, despite their unique taste, Brazil nuts don’t enjoy the same popularity as pecans and macadamia nuts. Fortunately, their superfood status is bound to make them a household name in the future.
1. Brazil Nuts Are Nutrient Dense
- 187 calories
- 4.1 grams of protein
- 2.1 grams of fiber
- 19 grams of healthy fats
- 3.3 grams of carbohydrates
Of the Reference Daily Intake determined by the National Institutes of Health, Brazil nuts meet RDIs through these percentages:
- Zinc 10%
- Thiamine 16%
- Vitamin E: 11%
- Phosphorus 30%
- Magnesium 33%
- Copper 55%
- Selenium 988%
Peanuts contain only half the amount of magnesium and copper compared to Brazil nuts. This high nutrient content makes Brazil nuts a top superfood.
2. Brazil Nuts are High in Selenium
Looking at the data above, one number should stand out – Selenium. Brazil nuts contain 988% of the RDI for selenium, more than any other nut. In contrast, peanuts only have 5%. Selenium is essential for the proper functioning of body systems. Selenium is a potent antioxidant that is necessary for thyroid function and cell growth.
According to the National Institutes of Health, selenium helps prevent cancer through DNA repair as an antioxidant and boosts the immune system. Epidemiological studies have indicated that people who consume diets that are high in selenium have lower rates of bladder, lung, esophageal, and gastric cancers. (03) Although more research is needed to solidify the relationship between selenium and cancer risk, the current studies remain promising.
3. Brazil Nuts Reduce Inflammation
Inflammation is a natural reaction that the immune system uses to fight pathogens. Unfortunately, chronic uncontrolled inflammation can lead to conditions like heart disease and increased free radical activity. Consumption of Brazil nuts keeps inflammation in check due to the nutrients contained in the nuts, like ellagic acid and selenium.
The ellagic acid in Brazil nuts, for example, prevents oxidative stress and reduces inflammation. Selenium also has anti-inflammatory properties and guards against tissue injury from inflammation by increasing glutathione peroxidase levels. Glutathione peroxidase is an enzyme that limits inflammation, protecting tissues from damage. (04, 05) One study of 10 participants found that Brazil nuts significantly reduce inflammatory markers in the participants’ bodies. (06)
4. Brazil Nuts Stabilize Thyroid Function
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that lies near the base of the throat. The thyroid produces various hormones that control vital body functions, like body temperature regulation, growth, and metabolism. Stable thyroid function is essential for general well-being.
Selenium, the key nutrient in Brazil nuts, is necessary for a healthy thyroid. Studies show that consuming Brazil nuts can improve thyroid hormone levels in people with selenium deficiency. The thyroid is also important in stabilizing mood. Consuming brazil nuts may help control erratic mood shifts, improving mood overall. (07)
5. Brazil Nuts are High in Polyunsaturated Fats
Although selenium gets much of the attention when it comes to Brazil nuts, the heart-healthy fats – particularly Omega-3 fatty acids – they contain are also beneficial. Cholesterol is a waxy substance that causes clogged arteries, compromising healthy blood flow. Polyunsaturated fats lower “bad” cholesterol (LDL), reducing the risk of heart disease. (04)
Brazil nuts are high in these polyunsaturated fats, which:
- Lower triglyceride levels, a type of fat in your blood
- Slow cholesterol and calcium plaque buildup
- Stabilizes blood sugar
- Prevents strokes
- Lowers blood pressure
In addition to helping the heart, Brazil nuts are also good for the brain. The polyunsaturated fats and antioxidants in Brazil nuts have a neuroprotective effect on the brain. The selenium in Brazil nuts supports the appropriate neurotransmitter pathways in the brain and the rest of the nervous system, boosting cognitive health and reducing the risk of conditions like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. (04)
How to Make Brazil Nuts a Part of Your Diet
Like most nuts, Brazil nuts make an ideal snack. These nuts can be consumed raw or roasted and, because of their delicate flavor, can be eaten with other foods. Brazil nuts can be roasted in the oven or on the stove for short periods (5 to 10 minutes) on medium heat. The nuts become aromatic and develop a slightly oily sheen. This is the perfect point for adding seasonings like cinnamon or caramel. Brazil nuts are a great addition to trail mixes, brownies, muffins, and cookies. Because of their large size, cutting or slicing them makes them easier to add to recipes.
Selenosis: Too Much of a Good Thing
Like most things in life, it’s possible to have too much of a good thing. Brazil nuts are no different. When it comes to Brazil nuts, moderation is key.