Are Brazil Nuts Nutritional?

Discover the nutritional composition and health benefits of Brazil nuts. You'll get amazed by the numerous benefits of these unusual-looking nuts.

Most nuts have a reputation for being a healthy snack, even though many nuts are somewhat high in calories and fat. But Brazil nuts are superstars in the nut world, famous for being packed with good stuff your body needs.

Is this claim to fame really well-earned, or is this just a nutty observation that’s full of flaws? Find out exactly what Brazil nuts do to your body and whether or not it’s something you want on a regular basis. 

Brazil Nuts Nutrition Information

One ounce of Brazil nuts, or 28 grams, contains just over four grams of protein and 187 calories. It has 19 grams of carbs and 3.3 grams of carbohydrates. This serving also has just over two grams of fiber. This means that Brazil nuts are a filling snack.

Fat and Fatty Acids

The fat contained in Brazil nuts is what’s known as healthy fats. They’re polyunsaturated fatty acids, a type of polyunsaturated fat that actually benefits your heart and reduces the risk of heart disease. Unsaturated fats have been associated with heart health and lower cholesterol levels. Brazil nuts contain fatty acids like oleic acid and other acids associated with heart health.

Vitamins and Minerals

But this tree nut is packed with nutrients, too. This same one-ounce serving contains vitamin E, thiamine, zinc, copper, magnesium, phosphorus, and manganese. In fact, a one-ounce serving of Brazil nuts contains 10 percent or more of your recommended daily intake of all of these minerals. 

Vitamin E is also a natural antioxidant that helps keep you healthier overall. reducing inflammation and strengthening cells.

Dietary Facts

A single, average-sized Brazil nut, which is about five grams, contains 33 calories, about half a gram of fiber, about half a gram of carbohydrates, almost one gram of protein, and almost three and a half grams of fat, according to The Healthy.

A closeup view of a woman holding Brazil nuts.

Selenium and Brazil Nuts

However, the Brazil nut has a much better claim to fame than all these other nutrients: selenium. These nuts are such an extremely good source of selenium, eating that one-ounce serving will give you almost 1,000 percent of the daily selenium levels your body needs. But is that a good thing or a bad thing? The answer to the question all lies in knowing just what the heck selenium does.

What is Selenium?

You probably don’t hear much about selenium but it’s actually essential for your body. Selenium is an element that is naturally found in soil. Therefore, selenium sometimes appears in foods, like the Brazil nut tree. It’s an antioxidant, which means it helps to protect cells from damage. This may reduce your risk of certain cancers. Selenium has been used to treat a variety of health conditions.

Brazil nuts on stacked bowls.

Reducing Health Risks

Free radicals can cause oxidative stress, which damages healthy cells in the body.  Oxidative stress has been linked to conditions including Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, heart disease, and cancer. Anything that can reduce your risk of diseases this severe is definitely worth consideration.

Thyroid Health

Selenium intake is also linked to thyroid function and thyroid health. The thyroid gland produces the necessary thyroid hormone that your body needs. Diseases associated with the thyroid have been successfully treated with selenium by supplements.

Since the hormones produced by your body play such a huge role in how your body functions, anything that can keep your thyroid healthy is worth consideration. Thyroid health is essential.

Asthma Treatment

In some studies, selenium was even proved to help reduce symptoms of asthma. This may be because asthma is associated with oxidative stress and general inflammation in the body, conditions that selenium helps treat. 

Diabetes and Selenium

Foods that are rich in selenium content, like the Brazil nut, have also been shown to reduce blood sugar. In a study reported by Medical News Today, eating a single Brazil nut per day for eight weeks lowered the cholesterol level and glucose level in adults.

Healthy Snacking

In general, selenium can boost your immune system by identifying and destroying disease and other threats to your overall health. In other words, it’s definitely worth going for the Brazil nut in the bowl of mixed nuts at the party! Forget the cashew, the pistachios, even the macadamia nuts. The Brazil nut packs a lot more selenium levels than all of them.

Too Much of a Good Thing

Anyone who’s ever suffered from brain freeze understands the concept of having too much of a good thing. It’s like when your teeth ache after you have that king-sized candy bar, or when you eat so much turkey that you can’t even move. Taking too much selenium, even when it’s inside of food like Brazil nuts, can be dangerous. 

Wooden bowl filled with Brazil nuts.

In other words, eating too many Brazil nuts can be bad for you. Consuming a lot of them can cause selenium toxicity and in extreme cases, it can even kill you. So like all good things, eat Brazil nuts only in moderation.

Selenium Toxicity

How many nuts are too many nuts? You don’t want to eat 5,000 mcg of selenium, which you can get in about 50 average-sized Brazil nuts, because this is can cause selenium toxicity. You don’t need to consume more than 400 mcg of selenium per day, to put this into perspective.

According to Healthline, eating one to three Brazil nuts per day will give you the right selenium levels to help you reap all the benefits of this element without suffering the negative side effects of consuming too much. Unless you’re also consuming a lot of other selenium-rich foods or taking a selenium supplement, this is a good rule to go by.

Heart Health

Brazil nuts are good for your heart. Because they’re loaded with fatty acids and polyunsaturated fats, they can lower your risk of heart disease and even lower your cholesterol. In one study, Brazil nuts lowered LDL cholesterol levels (which is known as bad cholesterol) and increased levels of HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol). 

Brain Health

Selenium can reduce inflammation and has a lot of good effects on your body, but this element can also have a positive effect on your brain. This is why Brazil nuts can actually help to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and possibly even help with the effects of Alzheimer’s.

Other diseases associated with brain health, such as Parkinson’s, are also reduced in people who regularly eat Brazil nuts and other selenium-rich foods.

Brazil Nut Products

There are multiple ways to consume nutrient-rich Brazil nuts if you want to start reaping all the nutritional benefits. The shelled nuts can be roasted in the oven and eaten whole. You can also eat raw Brazil nuts.

A glass of milk surrounded by Brazil nuts.

But if you’re feeling ambitious, use them to make Brazil nut milk, Brazil nut butter, or Brazil nut oil. Make Brazil nut milk by soaking the nuts in water for several hours with vanilla bean. Blend it, strain it, and drink it. 

Brazil nuts are also used to make nut butter and nut oil, which you can purchase pre-made or find recipes to try on your own.

FAQs

You’ve learned a lot about what Brazil nuts can do for your body and how well they prevent selenium deficiency, but there’s still a lot to know about this snack powerhouse. Get the answers to the most common questions asked about the Brazil nut.

Where are Brazil nuts from?

Brazil nuts are tree nuts that grow on the Brazil nut tree (Bertholletia excelsa). Despite the name, Brazil nuts do not only grow in Brazil. The nuts also grow naturally in Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, and Bolivia. 

A couple of Brazil nuts hanging from a tree.

Where do they grow?

Brazil nuts grow on trees that grow in the Amazon rainforest. Brazil nuts are actually seeds that grow in large fruits that look somewhat like coconuts. Each one of these large fruit pods contains 10 to 24 Brazil nut seeds. 

Which animals eat Brazil nuts?

Because the unshelled nuts are so hard, there are few animals that can crack a Brazil nut open to get the tasty treat inside. However, the agouti can. This is a small mammal that resembles a large guinea pig. The agouti has very sharp teeth that can penetrate the nut. These animals carry the nuts and bury them to eat them later. Sometimes, those stashed nuts become new trees.

Do Brazil nuts make you sleepy?

Selenium has been cited as a cure for insomnia. So if you’re having trouble sleeping, eating a few Brazil nuts may work just as well as a cup of warm milk.

Do Brazil nuts increase testosterone levels?

Some studies show that the selenium in Brazil nuts might actually increase testosterone. In one study cited by Healthline, men experienced increased testosterone production and increased sperm count. 

How are Brazil nuts harvested?

During the wet season in the Amazon rainforest, which lasts from January to March, fruit falls naturally from the forest trees as they ripen. Thousands of people who live near the rainforest go into the forest to pick up each fallen fruit pod by hand so they can then be exported all around the world. Around 6,000 of the fruit pod seeds, the Brazil nuts, can be produced by a single tree.

Brazil nuts covered in shell.

How are Brazil nuts processed and shelled?

The shells that surround Brazil nuts are extremely hard and triangular in shape. The shells can be cracked with special large nutcrackers that use pressure to crack the shells but they are more commonly shelled with machetes. The Brazil nuts are then transported along rivers to processing facilities where they are packaged and prepared for export.

Brazil nut production is big business thanks to all the nut butter, nut oil, and other products that can be created from nuts to provide ingredients that are low in saturated fat and healthier than the alternatives.

Are Brazil nuts high in potassium?

One ounce of Brazil nuts has about 187 mg of potassium or about four percent of the daily recommended value of potassium. Brazil nuts are higher in potassium than many foods, but they are not a particularly rich source of this mineral when compared to other potassium-rich snacks.

Where can you buy Brazil nuts?

Brazil nuts are widely available at grocery stores and through online retailers. They can be even be purchased through mega e-tailers like Amazon. If your local grocery doesn’t have Brazil nuts, look for them at health food stores or purchase them online.

A glass jar filled with Brazil nuts.

When do Brazil nuts go bad?

All foods will eventually go bad and become spoiled so that they are no longer okay for you to eat. Brazil nuts are no different. According to EatByDate, a Brazil nut will go bad in the pantry after about nine months. The nuts will last much longer when refrigerated, up to one year.

Can Brazil nuts be frozen?

Brazil nuts can be frozen for easy storage if desired but this will not prevent them from spoiling. Brazil nuts stay edible in the freezer for just as long as they stay good when refrigerated, about one year.

How do you know Brazil nuts have gone bad?

If you suspect your nuts have been around for too long, look for signs that they’ve spoiled. Discoloration, such as white or green specks, indicates that mold has started to grow on your nuts. Don’t eat them if you see this discoloration. 

Brazil nuts that have gone bad also have wrinkled skin and the nuts themselves may look shriveled up or dried up. Because of the high-fat content in the nuts, you should also be able to detect a slightly rancid odor if your nuts have gone bad.

What do Brazil nuts taste like?

Brazil nuts have a buttery, nutty flavor that is tasty enough to enjoy even when the nuts are raw.

What other foods are high in selenium?

The foods that are highest in selenium are oysters, tuna, beef, pork, tofu, and mushrooms, according to MyFoodData.

Sources:

WebMD – Selenium

Healthline – 7 Science-Based Health Benefits of Selenium

WebMD – Health Benefits of Brazil nuts

Food Unfolded – The Brazil nut | How It’s Grown

MyFoodData – 15 Nuts and Seeds High in Potassium

Does It Go Bad? – Do Brazil nuts Go Bad?

Insider – These are the 3 foods you should eat for better sleep, according to a nutritionist

Elana’s Pantry – Brazil nut Milk

The Mayo Clinic – Vitamin E

ScienceDirect – Chemical evaluation and thermal behavior of Brazil nut oil obtained by different extraction processes

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