Ingredients and Uses

Brazil Nuts: The Selenium-Rich Nuts And Their 12 Benefits

Reviewed By Registered Dietitian Laine Greenawalt, MS, RD, LDN
by
Brazil Nuts: The Selenium-Rich Nuts And Their 12 Benefits Hyderabd040-395603080 August 20, 2019

Brazil nuts are one of the richest sources of selenium – a trace mineral important for several bodily functions. Coming from the Brazil nut tree (and native to the Amazon rainforest in Brazil), the nuts look like coconuts and are also called castanhas-do-pará (which means chestnuts from Para). Brazil nuts can help play a role in  regulating thyroid health and boosting immunity, in addition to promoting health in various other ways.

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How Do Brazil Nuts Play A Beneficial Role?

The most important characteristic of Brazil nuts is their selenium content. One ounce of Brazil nuts (about six nuts) contains 544 micrograms of selenium, which is almost 10 times the RDA (55 micrograms). Selenium interacts with proteins in your body to form selenoproteins, which are known to play a role in thyroid function and can enhance immunity.

Selenium also fights inflammation in the body. It takes part in the antioxidant activity and helps prevent free radical damage. Well, we have got more.

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What Are The Benefits Of Brazil Nuts?

1. Brazil Nuts Support Thyroid Health

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The thyroid gland has the highest selenium content than any other organ in the body. Selenium binds with other molecules in the gland, and helps your body create and use thyroid hormones. Research has linked thyroid issues with selenium deficiency (1). Studies have also found that individuals with thyroid irregularities could increase their selenium intake through Brazil nut supplementation. This improves thyroid functioning (2).

The selenium in Brazil nuts may also protect the body from antibodies that cause thyroid disease, but more research is required to establish this (3).

2. Can Help Prevent Heart Disease

Brazil nuts contain calcium, potassium, and magnesium. These three minerals help regulate blood pressure.In addition, the soluble fiber in the nuts can help lower LDL cholesterol levels.The antioxidants in Brazil nuts reduce free radical damage and lower the risk of heart disease (4).

Another study talks about how a single serving of Brazil nuts can acutely improve lipid profiles in healthy volunteers (5).

3. Fight Inflammation

Like most other nuts, Brazil nuts contain mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids that help fight inflammation (6).

The selenium in the nuts also helps combat inflammation. Studies have found that eating just one Brazil nut a day can have anti-inflammatory benefits. Even a single serving of Brazil nuts was found to decrease long-term inflammation (7).

Did You Know?

It’s illegal in Brazil to cut down a Brazil nut tree.

 

4. Brazil Nuts May Aid Cancer Treatment

The selenium in Brazil nuts can be used to reduce cancer risk and improve outcomes of treatment (8).

The ellagic acid in the nuts has been found to exhibit anticancer and antimutagenic properties (9).

Some types of cancer can also be caused by toxic levels of mercury or other heavy metals in the body.

Even the National Foundation for Cancer Research states that selenium in Brazil nuts can help treat the disease (10).

5. Aid Weight Loss

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Brazil nuts are rich in fiber, which can make you feel full and discourage overeating. The nuts are also rich in arginine, an amino acid that can aid weight loss by promoting increased energy expenditure and fat burning.

The selenium in Brazil nuts is involved in many metabolic processes. It keeps your metabolism working efficiently, and this helps burn maximum calories.

[ Read: Top 10 Nuts You Should Eat For Good Health ]

6. Boost Immunity

Selenium in the nuts carries messages from different immune cells that ultimately coordinate the right immune response (11). Without selenium, this may not happen as effectively.

Another mineral in Brazil nuts, zinc, also boosts immunity and destroys pathogens (12).

7. Brazil Nuts Support Brain Health

One study found that older individuals who consumed  just one Brazil nut daily for six months saw better verbal abilities and spatial skills. The selenium in the nuts boosts antioxidant activity and protects the brain from damage. The ellagic acid in the nuts has anti-inflammatory effects that can protect the brain (13).

Selenium can also elevate mood and help prevent depression. The mineral has been shown to  increase serotonin levels, resulting in a better mood (14).

8. Help In Digestion

Brazil nuts are a source of both soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber attracts water, turning to gel and slowing digestion. Insoluble fiber adds bulk to stool and helps food pass through the stomach and intestines.

9. Boost Testosterone Levels

Studies have confirmed a correlation between selenium, zinc, and testosterone. It was also found that men who were infertile were found to have low levels of selenium (15).

10. Brazil Nuts Improve Sexual Health

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The nuts play a role in hormonal health. Selenium supplementation was found to improve sperm count and sperm motility. These nuts can also help treat erectile dysfunction (16).

Did You Know?

A Brazil nut tree can grow up to 200 feet, making it one of the largest trees in the world. It can also live up to 800 years.

 

11. Help Treat Acne

The selenium in the nuts improves skin elasticity and relieves redness and inflammation. The mineral also helps in the formation of glutathione, which neutralizes the free radicals that cause acne (17).

12. Contribute To Hair Growth

A deficiency of selenium can lead to hair loss. This is because the mineral helps your body process the proteins required for hair growth.

That’s about the benefits of Brazil nuts. There are several other nutrients in the nuts that make them what they are. Let’s take a look at them now.

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The Nutritional Profile Of Brazil Nuts

Brazil nuts are among the richest sources of selenium. Just one nut contains 96 mcg of the nutrient, meeting 175% of the RDA. The nuts are also a good source of healthy fats, including polyunsaturated fats that are known to promote heart health.

Brazilnuts, raw,Nutritional value per 100 g.(Source: USDA)
PrincipleNutrient ValuePercentage of RDA
Energy656 Kcal33%
Carbohydrates12 g10%
Protein14 g26%
Fat64 g221%
Cholesterol0 mg0%
Dietary Fiber7.5 g20%
Vitamins
Folates22 mcg5.5%
Niacin0.295 mg2%
Pantothenic acid0.184 mg3.5%
Pyridoxine0.101 mg8%
Riboflavin0.035 mg3%
Thiamin0.617 mg51%
Vitamin A0 IU0%
Vitamin C0.7 mg7%
Vitamin E-gamma7.87 mg52%
Electrolytes
Sodium2 mg0%
Potassium597 mg13%
Minerals
Calcium160 mg16%
Copper1.743 mg194%
Iron2.43 mg30%
Magnesium376 mg94%
Manganese1.223 mg53%
Phosphorus725 mg103%
Selenium1917 mcg3485%
Zinc4.06 mcg36%
Phyto-nutrients
Crypto-xanthin-ß0 mcg
Crypto-xanthin-ß0 mcg
Lutein-zeaxanthin0 mcg

All good. But can you eat Brazil nuts raw? Or is there a way to eat them?

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The Best Way To Eat Brazil Nuts

The best way to eat Brazil nuts is raw or blanched, as it preserves their nutritional value. However, you can also roast and salt them like most nuts. You can include them as a convenient snack or crush them to use as a topping for salads or desserts.

But before you go ahead with a handful of them, you must also know the possible risks associated with Brazil nuts.

Possible Side Effects Of Brazil Nuts

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What Are The Side Effects Of Brazil Nuts?

  • Selenium Toxicity

Brazil nuts are so rich in selenium that having them in excess can cause selenium toxicity or selenosis. The symptoms of this toxicity include diarrhea, brittle nails, a metallic taste in the mouth, hair loss, and coughing. An intake of 5,000 mcg of selenium (about 50 average-sized Brazil nuts) can lead to toxicity and cause breathing problems, heart attack, and kidney failure. The recommended upper intake of selenium for adults is 400 mcg per day.

  • Allergies

Brazil nuts can cause allergies in people with nut allergies. Symptoms include vomiting and swelling.

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Conclusion

If you are dealing with a selenium deficiency, Brazil nuts can help. One nut a day will do the trick, but ensure you don’t eat too many.

Expert’s Answers for Readers Questions

How many Brazil nuts should you eat in a day?

One nut provides the sufficient amount of selenium. But have no more than three nuts a day.

Where to buy Brazil nuts?

You can get them from your nearest supermarket or even online from Amazon.

References

      1. The importance of selenium to human health”. Lancet, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
      2. Effect of selenium supplementation…”. Nutricion Hospitalaria, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
      3. Selenium and the thyroid gland…”. Clinical Endocrinology, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
      4. Antioxidants & heart health”. Cleveland Clinic.
      5. A single consumption of high amounts...”. Journal of Nutrition & Metabolism, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
      6. Health benefits of nut consumption”. Nutrients, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
      7. Brazilian nut consumption by healthy…”. ScienceDirect.
      8. Bioactivity of selenium from Brazil nut...”. Nutrition and Cancer, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
      9. Punicalagin and ellagic acid…”. Biomed Research Central.
      10. Taste the cancer-fighting power of Brazil…”. National Foundation for Cancer Research.
      11. The influence of selenium on immune responses” Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
      12. Zinc and immune function: the biological…” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
      13. The effects of ellagic acid upon brain cells...”. Neurochemical Research, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
      14. Nutrition for your Noggin: Foods and Brain Health ” Western Michigan University.
      15. Relationship between serum levels of testosterone…” African Journal of Medicine and Medical Sciences, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
      16. Erectile Dysfunction” University of Wisconsin-Madison.
      17. Acne vulgaris, mental health…” Lipids in Health and Disease, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.

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Ravi Teja Tadimalla

Ravi Teja Tadimalla is a Senior Content Writer who specializes in writing on Health and Wellness. He graduated from SRM University, Chennai, and has been in the field for well over 4 years now. His work involves extensive research on how one can maintain better health through natural foods and organic supplements. Ravi has written over 250 articles and is also a published author. Reading and theater are his other interests.