Unique to the Amazon forests, Brazil nuts have been loved and relished by people all over the world. Because of their brown colored casing, many people think that these are nuts while in fact they are actually seeds. Brazil nuts have a sweet smell and rich creamy tang, which when added to dishes renders a wonderful taste. Brazil nuts are considered to be a protein rich food, hence making them a great source of protein for vegetarians. These nuts are also used to make cooking oil that is creamy and highly flavorful.
Nutritional value of Brazil nuts
Brazil nuts are rich in calories and contain plenty of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other nutrients. About 656 calories are obtained from a 100 gram serving of these nuts. They are a rich source of mono-unsaturated fatty acids like oleic acid and palmitoleic acid, which are very helpful in lowering cholesterol and in preventing heart diseases. Brazil nuts provide high amounts of vitamin E and good amounts of vitamin C, thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, and choline. They are an excellent source of selenium and contain good amounts of other minerals like calcium, iron, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, zinc, manganese and copper.
Health benefits of Brazil nuts
Just like all other nuts, Brazil nuts are also popular for their taste, nutritional benefits and health benefits. The nutritional value of these nuts itself is an indicator of how good they are for enhancing your health.
Brazil nuts boost your immune systemIn addition to selenium, Brazil nuts contain minerals like zinc and iron that are essential for maintaining a strong immune system. Selenium helps in enhancing the ability of the white blood cells to fight off disease causing microbes. They also contain vitamin C that is beneficial for preventing the common cold and flu.
Brazil nuts are beneficial for the skin
Being a storehouse of nutrients, Brazil nuts are extremely good and healthy for the skin. These nutrients help in treating and preventing skin problems and in keeping the skin looking beautiful and healthy. Selenium found in these nuts help in stimulating the production of collagen and improves the elasticity of the skin. It helps in maintaining the natural glow of the skin. Selenium is also capable of preventing skin cancer. Brazil nuts are a good source of zinc which helps in promoting the growth of skin cells. This is beneficial in preventing dryness of the skin and conditions like eczema and psoriasis. Applying Brazil nut oil is a great way to moisturize your skin and prevent dryness and cracking of skin. These nuts are a wonderful remedy for acne as they are rich in selenium and zinc. While zinc helps in producing collagen and has anti-inflammatory properties, selenium has anti-bacterial effects that fight off the bacteria that cause acne.
Brazil nuts prevent premature aging
The high levels of antioxidants in Brazil nuts help in fighting off free radicals and in preventing the oxidation damage caused by these free radicals. This helps in slowing down the process of aging and in reducing the signs of aging like wrinkles, fine lines and dark spots. Nutrients like vitamin E and vitamin A aid in increasing the production of collagen, thus giving you smoother and flawless skin.
Brazil nuts for healthy hair
Brazil nuts contain nutrients that not only promote health of your body but also the health of your hair. Selenium is a mineral that is vital for the healthy growth of hair. Brazil nuts, being rich in selenium can help in improving hair growth. These nuts are an excellent source of omega fatty acids that add shine to your hair. Many shampoos, conditioners and hair products make use of Brazil nuts because of these benefits.
Brazil nuts improve thyroid functioning
A healthy thyroid is extremely important for the overall health of an individual. Selenium is a nutrient that plays a critical role in the health of the thyroid gland. Brazil nuts are an excellent source of selenium and hence are very beneficial for people suffering from low thyroid function. Moreover, the antioxidants present in these nuts produce an enzyme called triodithyronine that supports the thyroid and also helps in controlling the body’s metabolism.
Brazil nut as selenium supplement
Brazil nuts contain 2mg of selenium per 100g of nuts, which is very high, and just few brazilnuts are sufficient to meet the daily dietary requirement of selenium. Selenium is strong antioxidant and helps in protecting liver and heart. Being one of the richest source of selenium, brazil nuts can be used as alternative to selenium supplement – selenomethionine or selenium selenite. Selenium is strong antioxidant and helps in getting rid of free radical from body. It is helpful in treating skin problems like acne, psoriasis and other inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis.
Studies show that Selenium boosts testosterone levels in men. This is helpful for treating infertility and enhancing body build. Consuming brazil nuts would also enhance sex drive due to raised hormones and have been long considered as an an aphrodisiac. However consuming over 6 brazil nuts per day may lead to overdose of selenium in body and can be harmful. Still studies show that brazil nuts are better than selenium supplements as they have superior selenium absorption.
Brazil nuts fights cancer
Many studies reveal that Brazil nuts are effective in preventing certain types of cancer. Free radicals are harmful particles that can cause oxidation of cells leading to damage of the cells and tissues. Brazil nuts contain a high level of antioxidants that helps in protecting your body from the harmful effects of free radicals. By neutralizing the effects of these free radicals, they help in fighting off a number of diseases including cancer, heart diseases, and so on.
Brazil nuts protect your heart
Brazil nuts contain high levels of monounsaturated fatty acids like palmitoleic acid and oleic acid that are helpful in lowering LDL or bad cholesterol levels and in increasing the levels of HDL or good cholesterol in the blood. Brazil nuts also provide DHA, an omega 3 fatty acid that helps in lowering high blood pressure. These qualities of Brazil nuts are therefore beneficial in preventing heart attacks and heart diseases. The selenium in these nuts prevents blood clotting and help in protecting your heart from heart diseases.
Brazil nuts treat zinc deficiency
Brazil nuts are an excellent source of zinc and hence are beneficial for people dealing with zinc deficiency. These nuts have been found to be effective in treating a condition known as Acrodermatitis enteropathica , which is a very rare inherited condition where the body is unable to absorb adequate amounts of zinc from the food that you eat, hence leading to zinc deficiency. However, this deficiency can be met with by including Brazil nuts in the diet.
Brazil nuts promote weight loss
Although Brazil nuts are rich in calories, they contain other elements that aid in weight loss. They are abundant in omega fatty acids, protein and fiber, all of which create a feeling of fullness and prevent you from overeating. These nuts contain an amino acid called argentine which helps in losing weight by increase the expenditure of energy and promoting fat loss.
Brazil nuts for strong bones and teeth
Brazil nuts are a good source of calcium, a mineral which is important for the growth and development of strong bones and teeth. They also contain other minerals like magnesium, manganese and phosphorus that are needed by your body to maintain proper health of the bones and to prevent bone disorders such as osteoporosis.
Brazil nuts improve muscle functioning
Brazil nuts have a high amount of the mineral magnesium, which is essential for enhancing the proper functioning of muscles. Magnesium is helpful in preventing the accumulation of lactic acid in the muscles, thereby preventing the occurrence of muscle pain and soreness.
Brazil nuts for brain health
As mentioned earlier, Brazil nuts are rich in selenium, a trace mineral that is found to have a big impact on the health of the brain. According to many researchers, Alzheimer’s disease is associated with gradual oxidative damage of nerve cells caused by free radicals. Selenium, being a powerful antioxidant is capable of preventing cell damage and hence in preventing Alzheimer’s disease. Studies also reveal that this mineral is important for maintaining brain health and in promoting cognitive development. Brazil nuts also contain magnesium, another important mineral that plays a key role in transmitting signals between the brain and all other parts of the body.
Brazil nuts are gluten free
For people who are suffering from celiac disease or for those who are allergic to wheat, Brazil nuts are a great food option as they are free from gluten.
Buying and storing Brazil nuts
When you buy Brazil nuts, it’s always good to choose the ones in their shells. Shake them well to see if you hear a rattling sound. If you do, better avoid buying them as the nuts are likely to be very small in size. Do not buy shelled nuts that are shriveled or discolored. Because Brazil nuts are high in fat content, they are likely to go rancid easily, and so it is recommended that they be stored in a cool dry place and consumed quickly. They keep fresh for about two to four weeks when kept in a cool place. If refrigerated, Brazil nuts will stay fresh for about nine months and if kept in the freezer, they stay fresh for up to a year.
Side effects of Brazil nuts
Brazil nuts, when eaten in moderation are extremely healthy for you. However, excess consumption may lead to certain side effects. Although selenium is vital to our health, our body needs only a little amount of this mineral (a maximum of 45 mcg for kids and 400 mcg for adults). Too much intake of selenium can be toxic to your health and lead to conditions like fatigue, brittle nails, hair fall, stomach upset and irritability.
Despite the fact that Brazil nuts are high in calories, they offer high levels of nutrients beneficial for your body to function at its best and also to fight off diseases. Considering all the nutritional and health benefits provided by Brazil nuts, it is guaranteed that incorporating a few (3 or 4) of them in your diet can help in improving your wellbeing as well as overall health.Image Credits: Flickr - CIFOR, Wikimedia - Lior Golgher