What are Brazil nuts?
A Brazil nut is an edible seed that comes from the fruit of the Brazil nut tree. The tree, species name Bertholletia excelsa, is a large tropical evergreen native to the Amazon rainforest.
The fruit is round with a thick hard shell and holds between 18 to 24 seeds, or nuts, which also have a woody, wrinkly shell. You can find shelled and unshelled seeds and eat them fresh.
Health benefits of Brazil nuts
Brazil nuts have many benefits and are an excellent addition to your diet.
Rich in selenium
Brazil nuts are rich in vitamins and minerals, including selenium. Selenium is an essential trace mineral your body uses as part of some enzymes and proteins called selenoproteins. These selenoproteins help make DNA and protect your cells from infections and damage.
Most of your selenoproteins are in your thyroid and are essential for proper thyroid function. Low levels of selenium can raise your risk for autoimmune thyroid disease. Studies show that taking selenium supplements might not help a healthy thyroid work better, so it’s best to get it from food.
With 96 micrograms of selenium in a single nut, Brazil nuts are some of the richest sources of selenium. Adults should get 55 micrograms a day, so eating one Brazil nut daily gives you all the selenium you need.
High in fiber
Dietary fiber mainly consists of the carbohydrates and other compounds in plants that you don’t digest well, plus some animal products. A fiber-rich diet leads to a lower risk for chronic diseases like heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Experts recommend eating at least 38 grams of fiber every day, ideally from plant sources, like nuts, seeds, fruit, vegetables, and whole grains.
Brazil nuts are an excellent source of dietary fiber: just six nuts contain 2 grams of fiber. For extra fiber, add them to a mix of other nuts, including cashews, almonds, or pecans.
Excellent source of protein
Protein is an essential micronutrient that makes up your tissues and organs and forms enzymes that drive all the activities in your body. The best protein sources have healthy fats, fiber, and low sodium and are often plant proteins, like Brazil nuts.
The recommended amount of protein is 0.8 grams for every kilogram of weight. If you weigh 140 pounds, this is about 50 grams of protein daily.
You can get 4 grams of protein from only 6 Brazil nuts, so these seeds are an excellent nutrient-dense snack to add to your day. If you eat a vegetarian or vegan diet, adding Brazil nuts is one way to meet your protein needs.
Your body constantly makes unstable molecules called free radicals as part of everyday activities. But if free radicals build up, they can damage your cells and body.
Antioxidants are compounds that neutralize free radicals. Your body normally makes lots of antioxidants, like glutathione and others, but you also get them from your food.
Brazil nuts are rich in antioxidant plant compounds like citric acid, quercetin, and catechins, and antioxidant vitamins, like selenium and vitamin E. Studies show these antioxidants can help lower free radical damage and your risk of chronic disease.
Might lower inflammation
There are two types of inflammation: acute and chronic. Acute inflammation happens after an injury or infection and is your body’s attempt to self-heal. It comes on quickly and goes away within a few hours or days.
Eating an anti-inflammatory diet rich in fruits, vegetables, fatty fish, healthy oils, nuts and seeds, and antioxidants can help lower inflammation and your risk for disease. Brazil nuts are rich in healthy oils and antioxidants; studies link eating Brazil nuts to lower inflammation markers.
Might improve heart health
Eating nuts and seeds can help lower the cholesterol and fat levels in your blood. These effects are usually because of the high fiber content, healthy fats, and plant compounds that lower inflammation.
Regularly eating Brazil nuts can lower inflammation and free radical damage that leads to heart disease. While some studies show that Brazil nuts have no effect on blood fats, others show they can lower total cholesterol and blood fats and increase antioxidant response. Eating nuts might protect against plaque buildup and atherosclerosis.
Help maintain a healthy weight
Nuts might help you maintain a healthy weight and body composition when you eat them as part of a weight-loss diet. Body composition is the percentage of fat, muscle, and bone in your body.
One small study tested the effect of Brazil nuts on women. One group followed a weight-loss diet and ate 15 grams of Brazil nuts and 30 grams of cashews every day for eight weeks, while the other group only followed the weight-loss diet. Those who had the nuts had less body fat and more lean muscle at the end than those who didn’t.
It’s not exactly clear why nuts help you lose weight. It could be the healthy fats, fiber, and nutrients, or it could be that they keep you full for longer, and you eat less. But experts suggest limiting your nut intake to two handfuls a day. More than that can add extra calories to your diet and cause you to gain weight.
Might help control blood sugar
Eating Brazil nuts might help control your blood sugar, probably because of the high fiber content. It takes longer to digest fiber, which keeps you full for longer, slows down glucose absorption, and lowers your food intake. A clinical trial found that eating extra nuts as part of a Mediterranean diet decreased the rates of type 2 diabetes.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
British Journal of Nutrition: "Brazil and cashew nuts intake improve body composition and endothelial health in women at cardiometabolic risk (Brazilian Nuts Study): a randomised controlled trial."
Frontiers in Bioscience Scholar: "Anti-atherosclerotic and cardiovascular protective benefits of Brazilian nuts."
Harvard Medical School Harvard Health Publishing: "All about inflammation," "Nuts — A healthy treat," "Quick-start guide to nuts and seeds."
Pennsylvania State University Plant Village: "Brazil nut."
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: "Antioxidants," "Protein," "Selenium."
National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements: "Selenium."
Oregon State University Linus Pauling Institute: "Fiber," "Nuts."
Tufts University: "The Health Benefits of Nuts."
U.S. Department of Agriculture FoodData Central: "Nuts, brazilnuts, dried, unblanched."
University of California Davies Health: "Body composition."
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What Happens If You Eat Too Many Brazil Nuts?Brazil nuts have an elevated amount of selenium (68-91 mcg per nut), and having too many Brazil nuts can cause the body selenium to increase above the acceptable limit.
What Nuts Are the Worst for Allergies?A nut allergy develops when the body's immune system becomes oversensitive to a particular protein in a nut. Nuts that are the worst for allergies include peanuts, walnuts, pecans, almonds, Brazil nuts and pine nuts.
Which Nuts Are Best to Lower Cholesterol?Researchers discovered that consuming roughly half a cup of walnuts per day (especially in the morning) can somewhat lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels in healthy people.
Why Is It Hard to Find Brazil Nuts?Brazil nuts are native to areas around the Amazon in the regions of Brazil, Columbia, Peru, Ecuador, and Venezuela. From there, they are exported to other places all over the world. They are edible seeds derived from one of the tallest trees in the world.