Going by the scientific name of Bertholletia Excelsa, Brazil nuts are a nuts found in the Amazon forests of South America.
These forests grow some of a unique plant species in the world like Brazil nuts and Acai berries. These cannot be found in any other parts of the world.
They are produced in these very rain forests and are considered as one of the most popular food items in many Latin American nations.
It is much sought after by the native peoples of the Amazon forests as these nuts are not only delicious but also, give them good protein, fat content and other required nutrients.
The Brazil nut belongs to the family of Lecyhidaceae and also goes by many other names. Some of them are para-nut, cream-nut, castania, castanha-do-para, castanha-de-Brazil etc, to name a few. ]
They appear creamy in colour and texture as they contain a high amount of fat in them.
Technically speaking, Brazil nuts are not nuts, but the seeds of the Brazil nut plant. Most people confuse them for nuts because of their brown, nut-like shells or coverings that these seeds have.
The seeds are tasty on their own, but they are added to other dishes as well because of its rich flavour.
The tree from which these seeds are derived from can reach a maximum height of 45 metres or 150 feet. Not only are they tall, but their height helps them in playing a significant part in maintaining the rain forest ecology.
The trees possess straight, smooth trunks which open up to form large branches of canopy. Like all other flowering plants and trees, these shed their leaves during the dry season.
As part of the forest ecology, many animals are dependent on the produce of these trees for their survival. The nuts, sometimes on their own develop into trees naturally. Thus, they contribute helpfully to the maintenance of forest ecology.
What is fascinating to know is that the flowers of these trees are thick. Hence, they cannot be penetrated by most insects that can otherwise pollinate other plants.
There is a special kind of bee that is found only in these Amazon rain forests which can penetrate the thick flowers. Thus, there is a self-sufficient, but an interdependent system of livelihood developed in these rainforests.
Brazil nuts develop inside a huge capsule and thus it looks like a coconut in its appearance. when you look inside, you will find a huge number of three-sided nuts.
Each mature tree bears up to 300 such capsules or pods in a season. After pollination, a period of fourteen months is required for it to start developing. Each such capsule can weigh up to three kilos. They fall from the tree with a crashing sound every now and then but it does not result in any breakage.
These nuts inside have very hard shells which are difficult to crack open. But if you are successful, then you get fat and protein-rich seeds. Each pod contains 25-30 such seeds. The kernel surrounding these parts is also edible on its own. They are required especially for their protein content in people who are vegetarian in their food preferences.
The downside of the brazil nuts is their high fat content which leads to the nuts getting spoiled quickly if not stored under proper, hygienic and cool conditions.
Beware of the brazil nuts going rancid if not stored properly. The best way to preserve them is to put them in air-tight bags and store them in the refrigerator. This way, they will last for a much longer span of time.
The oil content in the brazil nuts can be tapped and used in everyday cooking. The oil that is derived as a result is thick, rich and carries a distinctive flavour. It is not only used as a cooking agent in many households, but is also known to be a good lubricant.
Even if the oil form is hard to find, you can easily get the seeds and extract oil from it yourself. Listed below are some of the health benefits of brazil nuts. The more you consume them, the better.
1. High in calories
Studies have shown that Brazil nuts contain a high amount of calories. It implies that if you consume Brazil nuts instead of other nuts, you are going to lose weight.
How does this work?
The more calories that you consume, more the increase in the metabolic rate of your body. It being said, you are to burn more fat and body weight by consuming Brazil nuts.
They also contain a reasonable quantity of vitamins, antioxidants and minerals.
2. Reduces bad cholesterol
It is true that Brazil nuts contain a lot of fat, but this is the kind of fat that helps reduce the LDL or bad cholesterol in your heart.
Even the high calorie content in Brazil nuts also comes from the fat content in the nuts. Alternately, it also increases the HDL or good cholesterol in your blood.
People who consume Brazil nuts are shown to be at a lesser risk to develop coronary heart diseases.
3. Good source of Vitamin E
Vitamin E is a major requirement for the human body. These brazil nuts are a good source of Vitamin E. it is a powerful lipid soluble antioxidant.
The human body requires it in a good amount to maintain the integrity of the cell membranes. These cell membranes can be either of the mucus membranes or the skin.
The harmful oxygen-free radicals protect from free radicals. Accumulation of free radicals is harmful to the body.
4. High levels of Selenium
Selenium is an important factor for the functioning of antioxidants in the body. Consuming just 1-2 of these Brazil nuts is beneficial for the same as they consist of extremely high levels of Selenium.
It also contributes to the prevention of heart disease, liver cirrhosis and cancers.
5. Natural and Gluten-Free
Brazil nuts are natural ingredients used in making gluten-free products. Like other nuts – almond and pine, these are healthier alternatives for people who suffer from a gluten allergy.
6. Excellent source of B-complex
These creamy nuts are not only rich sources of nutrients, they are also great sources of B-complex vitamins, especially Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B -6 and folates.
7. Good source of minerals
Brazil nuts also contain high levels of other minerals like copper, magnesium, manganese, potassium, calcium, iron, phosphorus and zinc.
While copper reduces the chances of developing Anaemia, which is marked by the reduced levels of Red Blood Corpuscles and hemoglobin in the body.
It also helps control bone disorders like Osteoporosis. Manganese is a good source of antioxidants enzyme.
8. Traditional medicine
The oil from Brazil nut is used as a therapeutic oil in many massages and therapies.
Once extracted, it has a yellow colour and is pleasant to both smell and taste. It acts as a lubricant and keeps the skin moist. In aromatherapy, it is used as a foundation or base oil for many traditional medicines.
It is also used in cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries an ingredient in various concoctions and preparations.
9. Used in foods
Brazil nuts are often used in many culinary items. Apart from anything else, they can be eaten just like that. Otherwise, they can be eaten roasted, salted or sweetened with a little sugar or jaggery syrup.
They can be used in fudges, puddings, pesto sauces, chocolate-bars, etc. as a good flavoring and texturing agents.
Alternatively, ground brazil nuts as per your choice and season your fruits or vegetables with a generous sprinkling of these nuts.
They are used as major ingredients while preparing fruitcakes. They can also be used in main course dishes like meat and vegetables. For everyday cooking, albeit with some reservations, one can also use brazil nut oil.
10. Assists the thyroid glands
The high amount of Selenium in Brazil nuts is helpful in the functioning of the thyroid glands.
11. Helps you lose weight
The high amount of calorie content in Brazil nuts is beneficial for people who are trying to lose weight.
The high protein content and fiber content ensure that you don’t feel hungry often. This avoids you from snacking excessively.
12. Reduces the risk of heart attacks and strokes
As we mentioned before, consuming Brazil nuts lead to a reduced risk of developing LDL cholesterol. Therefore, it is consequently also helpful in lowering your risk of getting a heart attack or a stroke.
The benefits of these healthy fats often seem to outweigh the effects of the small amount of saturated fats found in the nuts.
13. Useful to cure Acrodermatitis
Acrodermatitis Enteropathica is a rare disorder that is characterised by the body’s failure in absorbing enough amount of zinc from the foods that you consume every day.
As a result, it leads to zinc deficiency in your body. Brazil nuts can help in the cure of this rare disorder as it contains high levels of zinc in it.
Not only does it benefit people suffering from this disorder, but also those who suffer from zinc deficiency.
How to consume Brazil nuts?
It is a known fact that people tend to put on weight if you consume too much fatty foods. Brazil nuts indeed contain a high amount of fat, so the best thing you can do to avoid its side-effects is to consume it in moderation.
Make a schedule of all the nuts that you have to consume in a week. Keep one kind of nut per day and consume accordingly. This way you will get all the required nutrients, without catching its negative effects. The presence of the compound Selenium, which is otherwise highly beneficial to the human body also has its limitation.
Many research studies have shown that consuming more Selenium-rich foods can lead to gastro-intestinal discomfort. It can cause irritability, stomach upsets and fatigue. Also, consider eating brazil nuts without adding sugar or salt.
While excess sugar leads to diabetes, excess salt content leads to high blood pressure. Another healthy tip that you can take into consideration is to look for organically grown nuts instead of those grown with chemicals and fertilisers. This way, you will be completely safe from the effects of chemicals.
People who are allergic to all kinds of nuts should be cautious while consuming Brazil nuts. Any allergic reactions can flare up and can be fatal.
The reactions can range from simple skin itching to server forms of breathing difficulties, abdominal pain, vomiting, nausea and in the most severe cases, even diarrhoea.
Cross-reactions on other fruits and nuts, when eaten together can also occur. So bear in mind that anyone who suffers from allergy should not consume these.
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.
Well, there are some health benefits of eating Brazil nuts, but remember to have just a few of them on a day as over consumption can lead to toxicity and overweight. It is recommended to have a few Brazil nuts twice or thrice per week.
The high levels of Selenium, in some individuals, cause what is known as Selenium toxicity. It may result in nausea, vomiting, garlic odour in a breath and many cases, can also lead to emotional disturbances in individuals.
Those who are prone to Selenium toxicity are more at a risk of developing dental cavities and experience loss of hair. Neuropathic pain is also another common complaint. Skin issues can also be a major symptom.
Now that you have learned about the different health benefits of Brazil nuts and some of its possible side-effects use your discretion. Keep a check on the amount of Brazil nuts you consume every day.
As we stressed before, make sure you consume a limited amount, i.e., not more than 2-4 nuts per day, or about a handful of these nuts, stretched over a week.