One of the largest trees of the Amazon rainforests, Brazil nut, comes from the Bertholletia excelsa tree, which is as high as 160 feet tall with a stem of 3-6 feet in diameter (1). With a life span of 500-1000 years, a tree can give 250 Brazil nuts in a year.
What are Brazil Nuts?
Different from peanuts, cashew nuts, and almonds, Brazil buts are large and oblong. Inside hard, triangular shell, which resembles a coconut, lie smooth textured Brazil nuts with a light, buttery taste. Brazil nuts usually grow in the pristine forest as the flowers are usually pollinated by large-bodied bees, which are absent in disturbed forests.
Efforts have been made to produce the nuts on plantations, but the production is low and economically unfeasible.
The Brazil nut is local to Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia, eastern Peru, Bolivia, and Guianas (2). In addition, its dispersed trees can be found on the Rio Negro, Amazon River, Tapajos, and the Orinoco.
A single Brazil nut has 96 micrograms of selenium together with other nutrients like
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin B1
- Vitamin B6
Health Benefits Of Brazil Nuts
1. Reduces Risk of Coronary Disease
Rich in monounsaturated fats, also known as healthy fat, Brazil nuts improves cholesterol levels, ensuring good heart health. The dietary fiber in it also reduces blood cholesterol levels, reducing the risk of cardiac arrest and stroke.
2. Improves Thyroid Function
For healthy thyroid functioning, selenium plays a vital role. Being rich in selenium, Brazil nuts reduce the risk of Graves’s disease, Hashimoto’s disease, and thyroid cancer.
3. Regulates Blood Sugar levels
Some studies suggest that the selenium in brazil nuts may help in lowering insulin levels (3). It also boosts insulin sensitivity which makes the cell receptors more sensitive to insulin. Thus the cells absorb and use more blood sugar. It also helps people with type-2 diabetes.
4. Improves Brain Health
The deficiency of selenium is related to neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Selenium and other antioxidants improve brain health and also control your mood swings.
5. Improves Bone Health
Calcium and magnesium are vital for healthy bones. Brazil nuts are rich in magnesium, which plays a key role in improving bone density.
6. Redecues Inflammation
Loaded with antioxidants like vitamin E and phenols, Brazil nuts reduce inflammation and fight free radicals. Lower inflammation means a lower risk of other health conditions like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.
7. Improves Muscle Performance
Brazil nuts have magnesium, which is essential for the performance of the muscles. Magnesium inhibits the accumulation of lactic acid, thus avoiding muscular soreness and pain. It is also vital for the breakdown and assimilation of proteins.
8. Promotes Healthy Skeletal System
Brazil nuts also have a little amount of copper, which is essential for a healthy skeletal system. Copper is one of the constituents of bone tissue. It also assists in the development of softer, connective tissues. Copper also aids the absorption of iron in the bloodstream and the formation of melanin, which shields the body against harmful UV rays of the sun.
9. Boosts Testosterone Levels
Brazil nuts have gained popularity among men for its ability to enhance testosterone levels and enhance fertility. Being the essential male sex hormone, low levels of testosterone impact not only sexual function but also energy, hair growth, mood, and more. Furthermore, numerous researches have proved that selenium improves semen quality by increasing testosterone levels (4).
Though Brazil nuts are nutritious, they should be taken in moderation. One to three nuts every day is more than enough. Excess intake can lead to weight gain. Moreover, high consumption can lead to selenium toxicity, which may cause joint pain, irritability, tiredness, dizziness, brittle nails, and hair and gastrointestinal problems. In critical cases, it may cause heart and kidney failure.
How to shell Brazil Nuts?
Though they look hard to shell, there are different methods to open up these delicious nuts and relish them like never before.
- Place the nuts in the freezer for a few hours. Then, use a nutcracker to crack it open. Voila! Enjoy it.
- Boil water in a pan. Put the Brazil nuts and boil them for a minute. Remove from hot water and immerse in cold water. Crack them easily.
- Heat the oven to 180 C. Arrange the nuts on a tray and bake them for 15 minutes. Then, take them out and crack.
How to eat Brazil Nuts
You can eat them as snacks due to their subtle flavor. However, you can also use them in other ways like
- Add them to salads
- Make energy bars
- Roast them
- Add them to cookies and cake
- Add them to pasta or rice
Brazil nuts were called “nigger toes,” a slang term used in North America in 1896. However, the term was then used less frequently as it became socially offensive.
Brazil Nuts For Keto Diet
Brazil nuts are nutrient-dense and a good choice for those on a keto diet. A single Brazil nut can provide you several benefits. First, it is a good source of protein, which gives you a feeling of satiety and fullness. This prevents you from binging at mealtimes.
Moreover, they are also one of the lowest net-carb nuts available. Net-carb? By subtracting the fiber carb from the total carbs, you get the net carb. (Total carb-fiber= net carb). However, moderation is the key to the Keto Diet. Don’t go overboard by munching Brazil Nuts. Try to include one to three Brazil nuts by chopping them in your salad or including it in a keto-approved smoothie.
Brazil Nut Keto Recipe
Brazil and Macadamia Spread
- Brazil nuts 2-4
- Macadamia nuts 1 cup
- Salt a pinch
- Vanilla bean 1
- Put the nuts, salt, and vanilla pods in a food processor.
- Run the processor till it turns crumbly.
- Run for another 4 minutes till it is runny
- Store for a month in the fridge.
Selection of Brazil Nuts
Brazil nuts are available at different grocery stores, bulk food stores, and health food stores in various forms: raw or roasted; shelled or unshelled; salted or unsalted. At times, you can find them coated in chocolate or turned into butter. If you are looking for nutrition, then go for unsalted, unroasted Brazil nuts, whether shelled or unshelled. If going for unshelled Brazil nuts, opt for pale and fleshy nuts. Withering and yellowing indicate stale nuts. For shelled nuts, look for nuts that have smooth, deep brown shells. Moreover, they don’t clatter when shaken, an indication of a fully formed nut.
Because of their high-fat content, Brazil nuts can become spoiled. Humidity and temperature can also pace up the spoilage. Shelled nuts can be kept in an airtight container in a freezer or refrigerator for about one year. Then, they can be kept in a cool, dry place at room temperature for three to four months. It is important to wrap them properly once the packaging is opened to preserve its taste.
Brazil Nut Oil
Due to its rich mineral and vitamin content, Brazil nut oil is excellent for skin and hair care. It is included in beauty products for the following reasons:
- It is an excellent moisturizer for dry skin and can also treat skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema.
- It improves skin elasticity and keeps premature wrinkles at bay.
- It also reduces the appearance of acne and aging.
- It stimulates cellular repairing and growth, invigorating the skin
It shields the skin from harmful ultraviolet rays, reducing the chances of skin cancer
- Rich in selenium and omega-3 fatty acids, it treats dry and damaged hair, making them healthy and shiny.
- It also boosts hair growth and mainly treats male baldness.
Brazil nuts are seeds that are grown in Bertholletia excelsa trees found in the Amazon rainforest. Brazil nuts are dense in terms of nutrients and provide numerous benefits. However, one must observe moderation in consumption as high intake can have adverse effects. One to three Brazil nuts are adequate for daily consumption. Brazilian nuts are suitable for people on a keto diet. Brazil nuts are available in different forms. Brazil nuts can be stored both at room temperature and freezer; however, there are chances that they may go rancid due to their high-fat content. Brazil nut oil is used for skin and hair care. Due to its excellent medicinal properties, it is hugely beneficial for the treatment of skin and hair problems.
Frequently Asked Question (FAQs)
Why are Brazil nuts costly?
First of all, a shortage of supply makes Brazil nuts expensive. Secondly, its high nutritional value has made it go higher on the price scale.
What are the other names for Brazil nuts?
Brazil nuts are also known as Pará nuts.
Are Brazil nuts’ shells harmful?
The shells of Brazil nuts contain aflatoxin, a possible reason for liver cancer. For this reason, the EU imposed severe restrictions on the import of Brazilian-harvested Brazil nuts in their shells in 2003.