Last Updated on November 27, 2020
In the lush Amazon forest grows the longest living tropical rainforest plant which bears flowers during the dry season. In the shade of the canopy created by these trees, pods with coconut-like shells grow and mature during the rainy season.
The pods fall to the ground in 14 to 15 months, but its meaty kernels are safe inside. These pods rely on medium-sized rodents to open them, letting the seeds germinate in the ground.
The Brazil nut tree bears 300 pods a year, each pod containing 10-25 kernels. These pods are picked from the rainforest bed by castañeros. The hard outer shell is cracked open with a machete to reveal the kernels which are enclosed in its own hard but thinner shell.
The kernels are usually frozen to make the shells easier to break, and then dried under the sun. Afterwards, they are collected for blanching or roasting. They can be further processed to make packaging or other Brazil nut products.
Some exporters leave the hard shell on to keep the nuts fresh and safe from air and sunlight that can cause rancidity.
The brazil nut is valued for the many health benefits it can provide when eaten or through traditional medicine. Its taste is reminiscent of chestnuts but with a nuttier flavor and creamier texture. The white to yellow flesh contains fiber, vitamins, and electrolytes.
High Selenium Content
Just two or three pieces Brazil nuts can deliver the total recommended daily value of selenium in children and adults. Selenium is an important mineral in continuous healthy DNA production, reproductive function, thyroid gland function, and protection from free radical damage.
The amount of the selenium content in a Brazil nut depends on which soil it grew from. Brazil nut trees grow in Brazil, Bolivia, and Peru but nuts specifically from the Amazon have at least 280% more of the daily recommended value of selenium when compared to nuts that were from the Mato Grosso state.
People with increased free radical damage such as smokers and drinkers should get enough selenium in their body to help against the harmful effects of oxidative stress. When damage is not regulated by antioxidants and a lifestyle change, it can lead to certain types of cancer, heart diseases, premature aging, and Alzheimer’s disease.
As an antioxidant, it can have positive effects on one’s physical appearance such as glowing skin and shiny hair. Selenium is also a precursor to another very powerful antioxidant called glutathione. It can reverse the damage caused by harmful UV rays and stimulate collagen production.
Together with the zinc, Vitamin A and E found in these nuts, Brazil nuts can alleviate and heal skin conditions such as acne, eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, dryness, and premature aging. Selenium can also reduce the symptoms of asthma and other respiratory system inflammations.
Selenium deficiency is rare but it can cause infertility and Keshan disease. It can also lead to several pregnancy issues when it is lacking. A deficiency in pregnant women can lead to fetal growth abnormalities, preterm labor, preeclampsia, miscarriage, gestational diabetes, and obstetric cholestasis.
However, one must proceed with caution when eating Brazil nuts. Eating more than 15 to 20 grams, or about 3 to 4 pieces, can lead to selenium toxicity. An early sign that you have ingested too much Brazil nuts is a metallic taste in the mouth and garlicky breath.
Selenium toxicity also leads to hair and nail brittleness, skin lesions, diarrhea, nausea, fatigue, teeth discoloration, high irritability and emotional instability.
Its more serious effects are acute respiratory distress, nervous system abnormalities, severe gastrointestinal distress, neurological distress, kidney failure, and cardiac arrest.
Good Source of Minerals, Electrolytes and Other Nutrients
Magnesium always goes hand-in-hand with potassium when it comes to maintaining balance in important cellular functions. A deficiency in magnesium can lead to low potassium levels in the body and the inability to absorb calcium.
In turn, this deficiency leads to poor musculoskeletal health and constant inflammation, cardiovascular health problems and a higher chance of a stroke, anxiety, cramps and spasms.
Calcium is especially important for growing children to develop healthy bones and teeth. Adults also need calcium no matter their age and gender. Adults who do not have enough calcium, especially women, are under the risk of deterioration of bones, joints, and muscles.
Calcium also plays a role in healing bone injuries and open wounds. It helps blood clot faster, enclosing wounds from infection and delivering nutrient-containing blood to the area.
It is also an important mineral that contributes to the healthy communication of the brain with the other systems of the body.
Phosphorus comes in second as the most abundant mineral in the human body. It’s not always stressed how beneficial phosphorus is to health but it has a great effect on how fat and carbohydrates are distributed as an energy source.
It is vital in the production of ATP and proteins in the body. Healthy bones and teeth contain 85% of the phosphorus in the body.
The fat and cholesterol found in Brazil nuts are not detrimental to the body. They mainly consist of monounsaturated fatty acid which lowers bad cholesterol while increasing good cholesterol in the body.
As you’ll see in the following section, it also contains Vitamin A, B-complex, C, and E. Not only that, it also gives you enough calories for energy, and contains dietary fiber to help with digestion. Brazil nuts have anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties.
According to the USDA, 100 grams of Brazil buts contain the following:
- 656 Kcal of Energy
- 12 grams of carbohydrates
- 14 grams of protein
- 66 grams of fat
- 8 grams of dietary fiber
- 22 μg of folates
- 0.295 mg of niacin
- 0.184 mg of pantothenic acid
- 0.035 mg of riboflavin
- 0.617 mg of thiamin
- 0.7 μg of Vitamin C
- 5.77 mg of Vitamin E
- 3 mg of sodium
- 659 mg of potassium
- 160 mg of calcium
- 1.743 mg of copper
- 2.43 mg of iron
- 376 mg of magnesium
- 1.223 mg of manganese
- 725 mg of phosphorus
- 1917 mcg of selenium
- 4.1 mg of zinc
Including Brazil Nuts in Your Diet and Other Daily Uses
Brazil nuts are gluten-free, which is good for people suffering from Celiac disease, gluten intolerance, and wheat allergies. Many gluten-free alternatives contain Brazil nuts. Brazil nuts can be prepared in many ways and be included in many recipes as the main ingredient or as a secondary ingredient for texture or flavoring.
- Brazil nut oil can be used in making salad dressing and cooking.
- Their husks and pods can be boiled for tea.
- Brazil nuts can be enjoyed alone. They can be prepared by roasting or baking, and can be sweetened, salted, candied or spiced.
- Brazil nuts can be added to baked desserts and fruitcakes, chocolate.
- They can be added to salads, stir-fried vegetables, and meat dishes.
However, people with nut allergies should avoid Brazil nuts. It can also have counter-effects or cross-reactions with some medicine, fruits, and other nuts.
If you are pregnant and lactating, taking medication, or undergoing chemotherapy, you may need to consult with a physician. Sometimes Brazil nuts can cause a reaction when eaten with cashew nuts, mangoes, and pistachios.
Brazil nuts are not only valued for their kernels. The husk or shell can be used for a variety of things such as skin exfoliants, ceramic and metal polish, or fuel for heat and light. Its tree bark and pods are also steeped or boiled as tea to help with liver ailments.
The extract and oil from Brazil nuts are widely used in making hair and skin care products as well as chocolate.
Brazil nuts are an excellent source of minerals that are not normally found in abundance in other types of food. It is packed with vitamins and monounsaturated fatty acid. Eating it in moderation will get you its full benefits.
Some people include Brazil nuts in their diets due to their positive effects on physical appearances but consuming them can also be very good for maintaining homeostasis in the body.
Energy levels, blood pressure and good cholesterol levels are also regulated. It keeps the cardiovascular system, musculoskeletal system, reproductive system and digestive system healthy.
Brazil nuts are widely exported to sustain the livelihood and trade of indigenous communities in South America. You can almost always find Brazil nuts sold at your local organic grocery store and regular supermarkets.
They are stored in air-tight containers to prevent going rancid and sometimes they even have the husk on. If you see some, why don’t you pick up some to keep in your pantry?