Unlike their name, Brazil nuts are technically seeds that grow in the South American virgin rainforests. These large crescent-shaped seeds are enclosed in a dark brown shell which resembles those of nuts. The tree from which they come is known as Bertholletia excelsa. Agouti, a type of South American rodent eats these seeds and hides others for later consumption.
Brazil nuts are high in calories and fat, and have a rich, creamy flavour. Brazil nuts are particularly valued for their extraordinary selenium content. They have the highest selenium content among all the nuts with just four nuts providing over 100% RDA of this trace mineral. They are an important food source in many Latin American nations and can be a perfect mid-morning snack. Their rich creamy flavour makes them a tasty addition to an assortment of dishes. Some people do not like their flavour, so they often roast and season them to enhance their taste.
Brazil nut trees grow up to a height of 165 feet in the Amazon rainforests. These trees bear sweet yellowy flowers and fruits. In fact, Brazil nuts are also fruits. The seeds are harvested from the rainforests by the workers who collect the seeds when they fall from the trees during the rainy season.
Health Benefits of Brazil Nuts:
Brazil nuts are often considered unhealthy due to their high fat content. However, when taken in moderation, they provide several health benefits as they are a rich source of protein and other essential nutrients.
1. Produces Active Thyroid Hormone:
Brazil nuts are particularly beneficial for those with low thyroid function as they are an excellent source of selenium which is needed to produce the active thyroid hormone. The antioxidants in these nuts have the ability to make an active enzyme that supports the thyroid, known as “triodithyronine”.
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2. Builds Immune System:
Selenium in Brazilian nuts is also beneficial for building the immune system and helps wounds to heal. Just 3 to 4 Brazil nuts a day can fulfill your entire selenium requirement.
3. Lowers Heart Related Diseases:
According to medical research, selenium in these nuts also provides protection from heart diseases. This trace mineral activates the enzymes, thereby leading to detoxification of the rancid fat present in the membranes. Consumption of reasonable amount of selenium can also prevent blood clotting. Brazil nuts are also high in omega-6 fatty acids that can lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases. The monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats lower the level of cholesterol, thus reducing the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
4. Great Gluten Alternative Food:
Just like almonds, Brazil nuts are also free from gluten and hence are often used in the preparation of gluten-free food formulas. These can be a healthy alternative for people who are allergic to wheat food or have celiac disease.
5. Supports Healthy Cholesterol Profile:
Brazil nuts are an excellent source of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) such as palmitoleic acid and oleic acid that help to lower LDL or “bad cholesterol” and increase HDL or “good cholesterol” in the blood. Monounsaturated fatty acids also prevent coronary artery disease and strokes by supporting a healthy blood lipid profile.
6. Lowers Cancer Risks:
The minerals and vitamins present in Brazil nuts can reduce the risk of getting certain types of cancers such as prostate, colon, stomach, lung and breast cancers. The natural function of selenium in the human body facilitates glutathione, an enzyme that fights cancer-causing free radicals.
7. Boosts Immune Health:
These nuts are also beneficial for those who get frequent cold and flu as they contain nutrients like Vitamin C, zinc and selenium which boost the immune system naturally, thus helping to fight off cold or flu.
8. Improves Male Fertility:
Being a powerful antioxidant, selenium is known to protect the body from cellular damage by free radicals and improves male fertility.
9. Treats Zinc Deficiency:
Brazilian nuts can be beneficial in case of a very rare inherited disorder known as Acrodermatitis enteropathica in which the body fails to absorb sufficient amount of zinc from the diet, resulting in zinc deficiency. Brazil nuts contain high levels of zinc which helps to fulfill this deficiency.
10. Treats Iodine Deficiency & Gastrointestinal Disorders:
These nuts are also beneficial for people with iodine deficiency and gastrointestinal disorders as they suffer from decreased absorption of selenium. Research has indicated that adequate selenium levels cause a reduction in the levels of breast and prostate cancer.
11. Contains all Essential Minerals:
Apart from selenium, they contain other minerals such as copper, magnesium, manganese, potassium, calcium, iron, phosphorus and zinc. Copper prevents anemia and osteoporosis (bone weakness) whereas manganese is a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase.
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12. Controls Hungers Pangs:
Brazil nuts can aid in controlling weight. Their high content of protein and fiber helps to control hunger, thus resulting in weight loss. Omega -3 fatty acids create a satiating effect for the dieter. Snacking on these nuts creates a feeling of fullness and reduces the likelihood of overeating between meals, thus limiting potential weight gain. However, to gain maximum benefits, unsalted nuts should be taken as the salted and roasted ones are high in calories and can cause weight gain besides being unhealthy.
Benefits of Brazil Nuts for Skin:
Being rich in nutrients, particularly selenium, Brazil nuts are a natural way to treat and maintain healthy-looking skin. The minerals and vitamins in these nuts can help in reducing skin problems like acne, wrinkles and dry skin.
13. Offers Natural Skin Glow:
Selenium contained in Brazil nuts improves the immune system that speeds up cell turnover and provides your complexion with a natural glow. It promotes skin health by improving the elasticity of the skin. This is because it facilitates glutathione which combats free radicals that deteriorate the skin collagen.
14. Fights Skin Cancer:
Selenium is also effective in combating and preventing skin cancer. Research has indicated that inadequate levels of selenium in the body are associated with a higher incidence of basal and squamous skin cancer.
15. Treats Acne:
Being a good source of selenium and zinc, Brazil nuts can be used as an alternative natural medicine for treating acne. Zinc naturally reduces inflammation of the skin (redness) and helps build collagen while selenium, being an anti-bacterial agent, can aid the pains of acne.
16. Reduces Signs of Aging:
Wrinkles are largely caused due to exposure to the sun and with the advancement of age. Being loaded with antioxidants, Brazil nuts for skin can reduce the occurrence of wrinkles considerably. Vitamins A and E on the other hand help to increase skin collagen, resulting in a smoother complexion. Oil extracted from these nuts can be directly applied on the skin once or twice a day. This will not only smooth out minor infections, but also add a healthy shine to your complexion.
17. Treats Skin Dryness:
Brazil nuts are beneficial for dry skin as they contain zinc which promotes skin cell growth, faster skin-cell turnover and helps decrease painful dryness as well as prevents diseases such as eczema and psoriasis.
18. Heals Dry & Cracked Skin:
Brazil nut oil can be applied to dried or cracked feet and heals to relieve painful tightness and itching.
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Benefits of Brazil Nuts for Hair:
Hair growth depends upon adequate nutrition and slow hair growth is often associated with the lack of right nutrients in the body. Selenium is one of these nutrients, which is present in Brazil nuts in high amounts. Thus, consumption of these nuts can encourage hair growth and combat skin problems.
19. Improves Hair Growth:
Selenium is an important trace mineral which is vital for hair growth. Deficiency of selenium in your diet is often associated with poor hair growth even if you consume enough protein. Though Brazil nuts cannot reverse severe hair loss such as male pattern baldness, they can definitely improve slow hair growth due to poor nutrition.
20. Adds Shine to the Hair:
We all strive for shiny hair and often spend time and money on conditioners or leave-in sprays or visit salons for this purpose. Brazil nuts for hair are an easier and cheaper way to make your hair shinier as they are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. They are also used in shampoos, conditioners and hair treatments. Thus, if you eat a handful of Brazil nuts regularly for a few weeks, you will notice an improvement in the quality and shine of your hair.
Nutritional Value of Brazil Nuts:
Like most other nuts, Brazil nuts are rich in nutrients. Besides being one of the richest dietary sources of selenium, these nuts are rich in iron, copper, phosphorus, zinc and magnesium. They are also very rich in protein and dietary fibre. Their nutritional value can be explained as follows.
|Brazilnuts, raw,Nutritional value per 100 g.(Source: USDA)|
|Principle||Nutrient Value||Percentage of RDA|
|Total Fat||66.43 g||221%|
|Dietary Fiber||7.5 g||20%|
|Pantothenic acid||0.184 mg||3.5%|
|Vitamin A||0 IU||0%|
|Vitamin C||0.7 mg||7%|
|Vitamin E-gamma||7.87 mg||52%|
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- Fat and Calories: Brazil nuts are high in calories and fat. A 28 grams serving of Brazil nuts provides about 190 calories out of which 170 calories can be attributed to its fat content. They are also high in fat out of which 5 grams is saturated fat, 7 grams is mono-unsaturated fat and the rest 7 grams is unsaturated fat. It is free of cholesterol, trans-fat and sodium.
- Selenium: Brazil nuts are the richest sources of selenium. As stated earlier, this mineral along with protein helps in producing antioxidant enzymes which prevent cellular damage caused by free radicals. An ounce serving of Brazil nuts provides about 544 micrograms of selenium which is equivalent to 777% of the recommended daily value. Hence, precautions should be taken as intake of high levels of selenium can upset your stomach, cause irritability, fatigue and loss of hair and nails. An ounce serving comprises of 6 to 8 Brazil nuts. Hence, it is advisable to consume 2 to 3 nuts to meet the recommended daily intake of 70 mcg of selenium.
- Magnesium: Brazil nuts contain the highest amount of magnesium among all the plant sources. An ounce serving of Brazil nuts provides about 65 mg of magnesium. This mineral is important as it enhances the release of energy from foods to support nerve and muscular functions. It also facilitates the absorption of calcium in the body.
- Protein: These nuts contain a complete range of proteins which supply all the essential amino acids necessary for optimal growth and development. 28 grams of Brazil nuts contain about 4 grams of protein which makes them an ideal vegetarian source of protein.
- Fiber: These nuts have a high content of dietary fibre which can keep you full and enables weight control when taken in moderation. A serving of 28 grams of Brazil nuts provides about 2 grams of fibre.