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4 important reasons to include Brazil nuts in your diet

4 important reasons to include Brazil nuts in your diet

Brazil nuts, the oddly-shaped but delectable tree nuts harvested from the Amazon rainforest of Brazil, Bolivia and Peru, are an appealing snack. While their rich, buttery taste and smooth, satiny texture combine to make them seem like the most decadent of indulgences, in reality these tasty morsels aren’t decadent at all - but a nutritious and healthy choice.

In fact, health coaches often praise Brazil nuts for their high content of vitamins, minerals, proteins and healthy fats, while researchers are intrigued by their potential for reducing risk of a host of serious diseases. To top it off, Brazil nuts may improve mood and cognition. However, they shouldn’t be consumed in large quantities.

To learn more about this fascinating food, keeping reading.

Brazil nuts have sky-high levels of a disease-fighting micronutrient

Brazil nuts are rich in selenium, an essential trace mineral needed for immune system function, cell growth and proper thyroid function.  How selenium-packed, exactly, are they? Glad you asked!  

A single Brazil nut contains from 68 to 91 micrograms - 175 percent of the adult reference daily intake for selenium - while an ounce of Brazil nuts contains a stunning 988 percent of the RDI.

Selenium supports healthy thyroid function and helps to protect against a dysfunctional thyroid that can cause health issues.  It has also been linked to better outcomes for infections, infertility, pregnancy, heart health and mood issues - and may even lower risk of developing chaotic cell division. 

A 2020 study published in Journal of Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology credits selenium with reducing negative side effects from toxic chemical treatments for cancer - without lessening the so-called "cancer-fighting" outcomes of these protocols.  The scientists noted that selenium accomplishes this by scavenging harmful free radicals, promoting the repair of cell DNA and controlling levels of inflammatory cytokines.

And, it only takes a small amount of selenium to confer benefits. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that eating two Brazil nuts a day was as effective at raising selenium levels as a selenium supplement.

Clearly, when it comes to maintaining healthy selenium levels, Brazil nuts have you covered!

When it comes to ingesting selenium through diet, though, a little bit goes a long way.  Eating excessive amounts of Brazil nuts can cause breathing and gut issues.  In fact, ill effects from selenosis (the medical name for selenium overdose) can occur with as few as 11 or 12 Brazil nuts, eaten at one sitting. As the tolerable upper limit for selenium for adults is 400 mcg a day, natural health experts advise staying on the safe side by limiting your daily consumption to no more than three Brazil nuts.

Brazil nuts contain potent antioxidants to support heart health

When it comes to delivering antioxidants - natural compounds that help to prevent oxidative damage and disease - Brazil nuts are truly “firing on all cylinders.” They are rich in vitamin E, along with a pair of polyphenols known as gallic acid and ellagic acid.

In addition, the selenium in Brazil nuts works to replenish and increase levels of glutathione, the body’s ultimate disease-fighting antioxidant enzyme, thereby reducing inflammation and protecting against toxins and oxidative stress.

Brazil nuts have been shown to promote the health of the heart and blood vessels, which they do by lowering levels of harmful LDL cholesterol while increasing beneficial HDL cholesterol. In addition, Brazil nuts contain significant amounts of magnesium, an essential mineral vital for regular heartbeat and stable blood pressure.  

Brighten mood and sharpen memory

After nibbling on a few delicious Brazil nuts a day, you just might find that you are experiencing elevated mood, sharper memory and better cognitive function. As it turns out, both ellagic acid (which is also found in good supply in walnuts) and selenium may have antidepressant effects.

In a controlled study published in European Journal of Nutrition, older adults with mild cognitive impairment consumed a single Brazil nut a day for six months - and displayed improved verbal fluency and mental function. (And, who couldn’t use some more of that?)

Brazil nuts feature a great nutritional profile

At 100 calories, a serving of three Brazil nuts is a high-quality, nutrient-rich snack.

Brazil nuts really are a storehouse of valuable minerals, with three of them containing about a quarter of the RDI for copper - essential for the formation of healthy red blood cells - along with phosphorus, a mineral needed for the health of bones and teeth. The same three Brazil nuts also contain .61 mg of zinc - essential for immune health - and healthy amounts of thiamine, a B vitamin needed for the conversion of food to energy.

And, they contribute 2 grams of plant-based protein, 1.76 grams of carbs, and over a gram of dietary fiber. While Brazil nuts are high in fat, with three nuts containing up to 10 grams, much of it is in the form of beneficial polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Brazil nuts’ impressive health benefits and rich flavor may tempt you to gobble them by the handful – but it’s safer and healthier to limit yourself to the “daily three.”  Eaten in this judicious amount, these selenium-rich nuts are a great addition to your healthy diet.

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