Brazil nuts: properties, nutrition and uses in the kitchen

Brazil nuts stand out for their versatility and significant nutrient content. What are its benefits? In this space we detail them.

Written and verified by the nutritionist Anna Vilarrasa on September 21, 2021.

Last update: September 21, 2021

Brazil nuts (Bertholletia excelsa) They are the edible seeds of a tree native to the Amazon rainforest of Peru, Bolivia and Brazil. It is an energetic and nutrient-laden food whose intake has a positive impact on health.

The fruit that this tree produces is very large and shaped like a coconut. Inside there are between 10 and 24 seeds that are the edible part that we know. Thus, contrary to what is usually thought, it is not a dried fruit. However, it shares many of its characteristics with these.

In particular, it has a crunchy texture that becomes creamy as it is chewed. Its mild flavor is reminiscent of raw almonds. Added to this, contains vitamins, minerals and healthy fats that can improve the quality of the diet. Do you want to know more about its benefits? Keep reading!

Nutritional values ​​of Brazil nuts

Brazil nuts are characterized by having a great supply of nutrients and energy. Next, we detail the nutritional values ​​of 100 grams of raw edible part.

  • Water: 3.42 grams.
  • Energy: 659 kilocalories.
  • Protein: 14.3 grams.
  • Lipids: 67.1 grams.
  • Carbohydrates: 11.7 grams.
  • Fiber: 7.5 grams.
  • Calcium: 160 milligrams.
  • Magnesium: 376 milligrams.
  • Match: 725 milligrams.
  • Zinc: 4.6 milligrams.
  • Selenium: 1920 micrograms.
  • Vitamin B1 (thiamine): 0.617 milligrams.
  • Vitamin E: 5.65 milligrams.

These seeds stand out for the contribution of energy, fats with a healthy profile and dietary fiber. In addition, they are one of the most important sources of trace elements such as selenium.

Brazil nuts stand out for their significant contribution of selenium. In addition, they contain fiber and healthy fats.

Possible benefits of Brazil nuts

A review disclosed through Food Research Internationall points out that Brazil nuts have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and modulating properties of the serum lipid profile. Because of this, its consumption contributes to promoting well-being. What is it for?

Important source of selenium

Selenium is an essential component for the body, which means that it must be provided through food, since the body cannot manufacture it. It is a trace element that affects the normal functioning of the thyroid gland, the immune system and the production of antioxidant enzymes.



Thyroid function

The thyroid is a small butterfly-shaped gland located in the throat. Its function is to secrete hormones with essential functions in growth, metabolism or the regulation of body temperature.

A good amount of selenium is concentrated in its tissue, which is necessary both for the production of T3 hormones and for the proteins that protect the thyroid from oxidative damage. A low intake of selenium is related to a reduction in the activity of this gland and disorders such as Hashimoto's thyroiditis or Graves' disease.

In addition, if you suffer from any of these diseases, selenium can help to improve some symptoms. In Hashimoto's disease there are studies that show an improvement in the immune response and mood. However, more scientific evidence is needed to corroborate the use of selenium in the treatment of these pathologies.

Cardiovascular health

In general, nuts are good for the heart and have a preventive activity in the onset of cardiovascular diseases. These have an interesting amount of polyunsaturated fatty acids, in addition to antioxidants, phenolic compounds, minerals and fiber.

In order to evaluate this possible relationship, the magazine The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has published a recent prospective study. This has been carried out for 10 years, with adults from 30 to 70 years old, residing in 16 countries on 5 continents.

After this time, and when analyzing the data obtained, the authors conclude that «a higher intake of nuts is associated with a lower risk of mortality from cardiovascular and non-cardiovascular causes in low-, middle- and high-income countries ».

These findings support the advice of experts at the American Heart Association. Substitute saturated fats and trans by other monounsaturated and polyunsaturated helps lower cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood. Consequently, the chances of heart disease or stroke are reduced.

Body weight

Brazil nuts have a high energy intake due to the considerable amount of fat they provide. For this reason, there is a belief that nuts are fattening and that they are not suitable in weight loss diets.

However, in recent years, scientific evidence has appeared that refutes this belief, and even throws data to the contrary. Thus, it has been observed that the consumption of nuts is related to a lower incidence of overweight and obesityas these can help in the reduction of body fat.



Diabetes

The nutritional content of Brazil nuts appears to be useful in the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes. In a study published in the journal Nutrients The possible mechanisms that would explain this property are analyzed.

The presence of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, fiber, polyphenols and minerals seems to be the main reason. These have a positive effect on blood glucose balance, body weight control, and vascular health.

The intake of Brazil nuts as part of a healthy and varied diet can help to maintain stable glucose levels.

Antioxidants

Due to the presence of selenium and vitamin E, these nuts have the property of counteracting the action of free radicals. A balance between these two components is necessary for the proper functioning of the body.

When free radicals exceed the body's ability to stop them, oxidative stress occurs and damage occurs to DNA, proteins, and lipids. In turn, this situation has been related to the appearance of some chronic, degenerative diseases and premature aging.

Possible contraindications

Generally speaking, it can be said that Brazil nuts are a safe food for most of the population. Even so, there is a percentage of people with allergies to them. There is evidence that this food may be a common allergen regardless of the existence of other allergies to nuts.

Also, in this case, a high consumption of Brazil nuts is not synonymous with more benefits. By containing such a high amount of selenium, there is a risk of poisoning by this component, known as "selenosis". Some of its symptoms include the following:

  • Dizziness
  • Intestinal problems.
  • Hair loss.
  • Brittle nails
  • Fatigue.
  • Irritability.
  • Muscle or joint pain

In rare cases, other complications may occur, such as acute respiratory distress syndrome, myocardial infarction, kidney failure and heart failure.

The average selenium content per 1 Brazil nut is about 68-91 micrograms. And the recommended daily allowance for adults is 400 micrograms, for both men and women. Thus, an intake of 1 or 2 units of these seeds per day seems to be a safe option.

How to introduce Brazil nuts in the diet?

Brazil nuts can be eaten alone as a snack to satisfy hunger, or, added in the preparation of other dishes. In salads, stir-fries, with yogurt, muesli or oatmeal porridge are a perfect nutritional complement, which also provides flavor and texture.

They are also a common ingredient in pastries. One of its best combinations is with chocolate, so it can be added in recipes for brownies replacing walnuts (or combined with them).

If used whole, they are perfect for decorating cakes and fruit tarts, since they have a very original and attractive shape. Ground into irregular pieces or in the form of flour, it can be used to make sponge cake or cheesecake bases.

What is there to remember about Brazil nuts?

This food is ideal to add regularly to the diet, as it provides energy, antioxidants and many nutrients. It is easy to do so, as it is very versatile and combines well with both savory and sweet dishes.

Its consumption is recommended in almost all people, except children under 3 years (due to the risk of choking) and in allergic people. Yes indeed, moderate portions are recommended, about 2 units daily, combined with other nuts such as hazelnuts or almonds.