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Brazil Nuts: Selenium-Rich Amazonian Nutrition

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Brazil nut is a powerhouse of nutrients like healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants and has several benefits. Read this article to know more.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Sebastian Denscy Mol

Published At February 13, 2023
Reviewed AtMarch 13, 2023

Introduction

The Brazil nut (Bertholletia excelsa) is a large nut that contains nutrients that are energy dense and of high quality. In addition, they contain antioxidants, healthy fats, and essential micronutrients. Unfortunately, people do not know the nutritional benefit of Brazil nuts, so they tend to ignore these and prefer the commercially available nuts. This article will explain how to consume Brazil nuts, their nutritional content, health benefits, and potential side effects.

What Are Brazil Nuts?

Brazil nuts are obtained from the Brazil nut trees (Bertholletia excelsa) that grow primarily and extensively in the Brazilian amazon rainforests. They also go by the name Castanhal-do-pará or the chestnuts of Para. The name is implied since it is obtained from the Brazil nut tree. The majority of Brazil nuts in the United States are imported from Bolivia. These nuts often get confused with baru nuts and jackfruit seeds. Since Brazil nuts are highly nutritious, eating Brazil nuts as a snack boosts immunity and benefits a person's health in many ways.

What Is the Nutritional Content of Brazil Nuts?

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) enlists the following nutrition information for 1 ounce or 28 grams of dried Brazil nuts.

  • Protein: 4.01 grams.

  • Fat: 18.8 grams.

  • Carbohydrates: 3.29 grams.

  • Calcium: 44.8 milligrams.

  • Fiber: 2.1 grams.

  • Selenium: 537 micrograms.

  • Copper: 0.488 milligrams.

  • Magnesium: 105 milligrams.

  • Phosphorus: 203 milligrams.

  • Manganese: 15 percent daily value (DV).

  • Thiamine: 0.173 milligrams.

  • Vitamin E: 1.58 milligrams.

  • Zinc: 1.14 milligrams.

  • Calories: 185 kcal.

What Are the Benefits of Brazil Nuts?

1. Anti-Diabetic: Unsaturated fat is very high in Brazil nuts. This benefits diabetic patients and prevents the progression of diabetes in normal individuals. The selenium levels are also high in Brazil nuts. These high levels of selenium lower insulin levels and boost insulin sensitivity, improving the sugar levels in type 2 diabetes-affected individuals.

2. Cardioprotective and Boosts Thyroid Health: Brazil nuts contain healthy fats, monounsaturated fatty acids, and polyunsaturated fatty acids. These healthy fats improve cholesterol levels, decreasing the risk of stroke or heart disease. The high selenium content plays a role in the production of hormones by converting the thyroxine hormone (T4) into the triiodothyronine hormone (T3). A deficiency in selenium causes hormonal imbalances and affects a person's sleep, concentration, metabolism, and mood. So, obtaining selenium from dietary sources can regulate thyroid problems like hypothyroidism. Brazil nuts provide dual benefits; cardioprotective and boost thyroid health. Since the dietary content of selenium can be obtained through Brazil nuts, health - care providers, dieticians, or nutritionists may not recommend high doses of selenium for supplementation.

3. Boosts Bone Health: Brazil nuts are a good source of calcium and magnesium, which are essential for improving bone density. A single serving of Brazil nuts yields around 105 milligrams of magnesium. This equals nearly 25 to 33 percent of the recommended dietary allowance in adults.

4. Boosts Immunity and Prevents Infections: A single ounce of Brazil nut yield around 1 milligram of zinc which is less than what an average adult requires. The requirement is around 8 to 11 milligrams of zinc per day. So consuming Brazil nuts regularly can cover up to ten percent of this daily dietary requirement. Zinc deficiencies can cause low immunity and sometimes impairs the immune system. Daily zinc is required to activate T-lymphocytes in the body's metabolism. Low levels of zinc in the body are also linked to higher chances of pneumonia or other respiratory tract infections. Brazil nuts would be a good source of zinc for vegans since they do not consume meat products which is a good source of zinc.

Will Brazil Nuts Cause Any Allergies?

Yes, Brazil nuts can cause allergies in some individuals. Brazil nut allergies are usually severe and even life-threatening. But these allergies are rare and tend to appear more during early childhood, adolescence, or among the younger age groups. If a person experiences any allergies like rhinitis, rash, or asthma symptoms, it is important to undergo an immediate evaluation with the doctor or the allergy specialist.

What Are the Side Effects Associated With Brazil Nuts?

  • According to nutrition experts, by regularly consuming Brazil nuts, a person can easily surpass the daily upper limit of selenium, which is up to 400 micrograms obtained from a serving of Brazil nuts.

  • Hence, consuming Brazil nuts at moderate levels and not exceeding the daily limit is advised.

  • Dietary supplements that contain selenium should not be consumed daily.

  • An excess intake of selenium in Brazil nuts can cause several effects ranging from brittle hair and nails to more severe neurological or respiratory issues.

  • Excess selenium would cause kidney failure or tremors in individuals with renal or neurologic problems.

How Are Brazil Nuts Available and How Are They Consumed?

Brazil nuts are usually found in the supermarket and most grocery stores worldwide. They are sold in various forms ranging from dry-roasted varieties to the commonly sold sliced, raw or blanched nut varieties. Roasted nuts are commercially available with or without added salt. Brazil nuts should be purchased as a pack or as part of mixed nut varieties. The Brazil nuts usually have a shell that is usually fresh and is considered the best during the fall and early winter seasons. However, they are available throughout the year in some countries. These nuts can be easily stored in or out of their shell in an airtight container or refrigerated. It is important to note if any unusual odor or rather rancid smell occurs after a while of preservation, it indicates that the nuts are spoilt and are unfit to be consumed.

Brazil nuts can be consumed as a snack or added to salads or vegetables to flavor them with healthy fats and protein. In addition, these nuts can be strained and taken as Brazil nut milk.

Conclusion

Brazil nut is a highly nutritious nut, containing many nutrients like selenium, copper, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, thiamine, and vitamin E. They help boost a person's general immunity, promote bone health, are cardioprotective, and regulate thyroid health. However, it is important to consume Brazil nuts only at moderate levels, as increased consumption can lead to increased levels of selenium, which can cause several side effects. If a person is suffering from systemic diseases or is on certain medications, always consult the healthcare provider or nutritionist before including Brazil nuts in the diet.

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Dr. Achanta Krishna Swaroop
Dr. Achanta Krishna Swaroop

Dentistry

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