Nutrition (Pros and Cons)
Brazil nuts are considered a complete protein, making them an excellent addition to the vegetarian diet.
Because of the high fat content of Brazil nuts, they can easily go rancid, and they should be kept in a cool dry place and eaten quickly. (or frozen)
These nuts/seeds are one of the richest dietary sources for selenium which is an important antioxidant. Selenium boosts the immune system and promotes the synthesis of glutathione, which plays an important role in minimizing free radical damage. Selenium is also required for the proper functioning of the thyroid gland. Selenium is an essential cofactor for the anti-oxidant enzyme, glutathione peroxidase. Just 1-2 nuts a day provides enough of this trace element. Adequate selenium in the diet can help prevent coronary artery disease, liver cirrhosis, and cancers.
Brazil nuts contain significant amount of magnesium, phosphorus and thiamine, potassium and very rich in protein and dietary fiber.
(each nut weighs about 5 g) 28 g of Brazil nuts can provide about 20% of the daily value of phosphorus, 8% of the daily value of zinc, 25% of the daily value of magnesium and copper, 15% of the daily value of manganese and 780% of the daily value of selenium (see “cons” below) and a good source of vitamins like, thiamine and vitamin E.
Brazil nuts are a very rich source of omega-6 fatty acids that can lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
They can prove beneficial in a very rare inherited disorder, which is known as Acrodermatitis enteropathica, where the body fails to absorb sufficient amount of zinc.
Excess consumption of these nuts may result in selenium toxicity. It is, therefore, advised to eat only a few nuts (2-4 nuts) per day (each nut weighs about 5 g).
Symptoms of selenosis include hair loss, nervous system damage, skin sores and rashes, discolored teeth, diarrhea, nausea and nail brittleness or loss. In extreme cases, it may cause kidney damage, heart failure or death.
Barium is a metal that can accumulate in, grains, dairy products and drinking water, as well as Brazil nuts.
The barium concentration in the nuts varies with geographical location, and eating 3 ounces of the nuts, an amount equivalent to about 18 to 24 nuts, would supply you with more barium than is considered safe, in addition to toxic levels of selenium. Over time, excess barium intake may contribute to high blood pressure.
All nuts are susceptible to contamination by molds that produce a mycotoxin called aflatoxin. A known carcinogen also linked to liver damage, digestive problems, growth and development impairment, reproductive problems, and food allergies.
Aflatoxin is produced by two types of mold, Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus, and these molds thrive in warm and humid conditions. It is important to be aware that nuts can also become contaminated during storage. Therefore, you should always store your Brazil nuts in a dark and cool place and consume them fast. Freeze them if you don’t plan on using them within a couple of months; a great way to extend their shelf life!
The good news is that in developed countries, the risk of you ingesting high amounts of aflatoxins from one serving of Brazil nuts is very low because of set standards. Studies suggest that vitamin C may help counteract some of the harmful effects of aflatoxins, so make sure your diet contains enough foods rich in vitamin C.
Small amounts of radioactive radium is also found in Brazil nuts because of its vast root system, but is not believed to be absorbed into the body.
People allergic to nuts should refrain from consuming them.
Research was conducted in parts of the Brazilian, Peruvian and Bolivian Amazon on the health and future of Brazil Nut trees.
New trees “were most common in unharvested and lightly harvested stands, uncommon to rare in moderately harvested stands and virtually absent where seeds had been persistently collected in the 20th century,” the paper says. “The clear message from this study is that current Brazil nut harvesting practices at many Amazonian forest sites are not sustainable in the long term.”
“It’s a very simple message: If you collect too many seeds, you’re not going to have seedlings,” said Karen Kainer, who has a joint appointment as an assistant professor with UF’s Center for Latin American Studies’ tropical conservation and development program and the School of Forest Resources and Conservation.
Kainer said Brazil nuts have long been considered a model “nontimber forest product” because they enable local populations to earn cash without engaging in more destructive practices, such as timbering or clearing the land for farming. In fact, because Brazil nut trees flourish only in the wild, they provide an economic incentive to preserve the rainforest. While the research does not indicate any short-term threat to this ecologically sustainable industry, it does suggest managers should plan for the future now, she said. Options include limiting harvests, restricting harvest seasons, or nurturing and planting more Brazil nut trees, she said. (although not much success to date raising trees artificially)
After reading the article, are you wondering whether Brazil nuts are healthy for you?
It is a very good habit to consume all food items in moderation and same goes with Brazil nuts. It is recommended to have a few Brazil nuts 2-3x per week.
What’s in a Brazil Nut (per 100 grams) raw (approx. 50 nuts)
Principle Nutrient Value Percentage of RDA
Energy 659 Kcal 33%
Carbohydrates 11.74 g 9%
Protein 14.32 g 26%
Total Fat 67.10 g 221%
Cholesterol 0 mg 0%
Dietary Fiber 7.5 g 20%
Folates 22 mcg 5.5%
Niacin 0.295 mg 2%
Pantothenic acid 0.184 mg 3.5%
Pyridoxine 0.101 mg 8%
Riboflavin 0.035 mg 3%
Thiamin 0.617 mg 51%
Vitamin A 0 IU 0%
Vitamin C 0.7 mcg 1%
Vitamin E-γ 7.87 mg 52%
Sodium 2 mg 0%
Potassium 597 mg 13%
Calcium 160 mg 16%
Copper 1.743 mg 194%
Iron 2.43 mg 30%
Magnesium 376 mg 94%
Manganese 1.223 mg 53%
Phosphorus 725 mg 103%
Selenium 1917 mcg 3485%
Zinc 4.06 mg 36%
Source: USDA National Nutrient data base)