Brazil nuts are actually edible seeds from the Brazil nut tree, and they can be eaten raw or blanched. The nuts grow inside a round, coconut-like shell, in orange-like segments that, when split open, reveal about 12-20 Brazil nuts.
Brazil nuts have a high proportion of monounsaturated fat, which is a healthy fat. They also contain some protein and offer a good source of important nutrients, including magnesium, zinc, calcium, and vitamin E.
Most renowned for their high selenium content, Brazil nuts are actually the richest known food source of this vital nutrient. Selenium is an essential mineral and antioxidant that is required daily to support a healthy immune system. In fact, a single Brazil nut can contain 68-91mcg of selenium, easily meeting the recommended daily allowance of between 60-75mcg.
Health Benefits of Brazil Nuts
1. Good for the Brain
Brazil nuts contain a polyphenol known as ellagic acid which has both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that may offer neuroprotective and anti-depressant effects on the brain. Further research has shown that selenium is involved in supporting key brain signaling pathways such as GABA and dopamine signaling within the central nervous system, which is of particular importance in conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
2. May Support Healthy Cholesterol Levels
Thanks to their heart-healthy polyunsaturated fatty acid profile, high fiber, and mineral-rich content, Brazil nuts have been shown to reduce total and LDL cholesterol levels (known as ‘bad cholesterol). In fact, just one serving of Brazil nuts is sufficient enough to improve lipid profiles in healthy adults.
3. Good for Thyroid Health
Selenium is a key nutrient required to support healthy thyroid function, with studies showing that Brazil nut consumption could improve thyroid hormone levels in those who were deficient. While little research has been done to look at the direct effect of Brazil nuts on specific thyroid conditions such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Graves’ disease, some evidence has shown improvements in mood and immune function following selenium supplementation.
4. Strong Anti-Inflammatory Properties
Inflammation in the body can lead to increased free radical activity. Brazil nuts are abundant in antioxidants which help to protect cells from the oxidative damage caused by these free radicals. As well as this, selenium increases levels of glutathione peroxidase, an enzyme that helps to reduce inflammation and protect the body from oxidative damage.
5. May Support Mood Balance
Low selenium levels have been linked with several mood-related disorders including anxiety and depression. One study demonstrated that these symptoms decreased after just five weeks of taking 100mcg selenium a day (which would be the equivalent of about 1- 1.5 Brazil nuts).
6. Maintain Strong Bones
Along with calcium, Brazil nuts are a good source of magnesium, an essential mineral for bone density. In a serving of Brazil nuts, you get 105 milligrams of magnesium. This equates to 25%–33% of the recommended dietary allowance for most adults.
Magnesium is known to be involved with bone formation and the behavior of bone-regulating cells. Studies on both men and women have indicated that higher magnesium intakes lead to greater bone mineral densities.
7. Aids Immunity
An ounce of Brazil nuts provides just over 1 milligram of zinc. The average adult requires 8–11 milligrams per day, so Brazil nuts can easily cover 10% of this requirement. Zinc deficiencies cause immune system impairments because zinc is required for the activation of T-lymphocytes.
Poor zinc status is associated with higher rates of pneumonia and other infections. Brazil nuts are a beneficial source of zinc, especially for vegetarians who don’t consume zinc through animal foods.
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