Brazil nuts are packed with Omega 3s fatty acids, minerals (including selenium), vitamins, and antioxidants, all of which work wonders on your skin. Selenium gives your skin a natural glow and adds elasticity that pushes back wrinkles. Its antioxidant properties neutralize free radicals and help prevent skin cancer. Weight loss, a healthy heart, and normal thyroid function are added perks.
The chewy, nutty, and distinctive flavor of Brazil nuts is hard to beat, especially when you consider how good they are for you. So what does the once humble nut native to South America have to offer that has put it on the radar of fitness enthusiasts and health conscious A-listers?
Packing A Punch, One Nut At A Time
A Brazil nut is packed with goodness. An ounce of the oval nuts has about 185 calories with 2 grams of fiber, 4 grams of protein, and 3 grams of carbohydrates. But the true power of this nut lies in the 19 grams of healthy unsaturated fats and the high concentration of minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants, and the powerful mineral selenium in that serving.1
Health Benefits Of Brazil Nuts
Brazil nuts are a source of several vital nutrients and minerals, making them a good natural means to maintain overall health. They are used in naturopathy as part of an overall balanced diet or as an alternative to artificial supplements for these nutrients.
Omega-3 fatty acids palmitoleic acid and oleic acid, also called “good cholesterol,” are present in abundance in Brazil nuts. They play a key role in reducing the omega-6 fatty acids in the body that are responsible for cardiovascular problems. By bringing a healthier balance to your cholesterol levels, they can help reduce heart attacks and strokes, and prevent atherosclerosis. The flavonoids, phenolics, tocopherol, squalene, and phytosterol in the nuts have antioxidant properties, reducing your risk of developing atherosclerosis.2 On the flip side, due to their high content of saturated fats, Brazil nuts must be taken in very small numbers.
The same antioxidants in the Brazil nut that help prevent atherosclerosis can also be beneficial in preventing certain cancers. A study from Cornell University and the University of Arizona demonstrated that those test subjects who took 200 mcg selenium (which Brazil nuts are packed with) every day for at least ten years showed a significant reduction (as much as 41 percent) in cancer rates compared to those who did not.3
Skincare And Acne Prevention
The nutrients in Brazil nuts are great for your skin. The selenium in them helps give skin a glow and the elasticity that prevents premature aging. More importantly, it promotes glutathione activity. This is a powerful antioxidant that rids your skin of free radicals associated with skin cancer.4
Due to the high levels of zinc found in these nuts, they are useful for countering the effects of acne and even protecting against it. The antioxidant benefits can be gleaned by consuming the nut or by topical use of the oil extracted from it.5
Digestion And Weight Loss
The blend of high fiber, protein, nutrients, and complex carbohydrates makes the Brazil nut a filling snack for anyone who is trying to get healthy or lose weight. The fiber content also helps it keep the body’s digestive system in good working order. Your intake must, however, be limited to very few nuts since it is quite calorific.6
Treating Selenium Deficiency
Selenium deficiency in nations where the soil is low in the mineral has been associated with heart disease, asthma, anxiety, depression, seizures, and rheumatoid arthritis. One study among New Zealanders found that those suffering from this deficiency could benefit from the inclusion of Brazil nuts in their diet, and recommended this over fortified foods or supplements.7 Just one Brazil nut can give you about 160 percent of the recommended daily allowance (RDA).
The trace mineral selenium is needed for normal thyroid function and is important for the immune system. The copper in these nuts also aids thyroid function.8
Maintaining Healthy Bones, Teeth, And Connective Tissue
These nuts can also help maintain healthy bone and connective tissue, and dental health, because of their copper and phosphorus content.ref]Yang, Jun. “Brazil nuts and associated health benefits: A review.” LWT-Food Science and Technology 42, no. 10 (2009): 1573-1580.[/ref]
The body’s iron absorption and utilization, as well as tissue repair and melanin production, require copper, and Brazil nuts contain 25 percent of the RDA. An ounce of the nuts has 27 percent of the magnesium your body needs each day to maintain proper muscular function, energy absorption from food, and protein production.ref]Yang, Jun. “Brazil nuts and associated health benefits: A review.” LWT-Food Science and Technology 42, no. 10 (2009): 1573-1580.[/ref]
Ayurveda And Brazil Nuts
The anti-inflammatory properties of Brazil nuts see its application in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. The lecithin in the nuts has the building blocks (choline) necessary to create acetylcholine, which is usually diminished in those with the illness.9
Brazil nuts are also considered to be good for “pacifying vata.” According to Ayurveda, vata represents all that is dry, cool, light, and rough. To balance the body and any excess vata, it is important to have foods that neutralize it. The oily and warm nature of the nut makes it good for this purpose.10
As with all nuts, Ayurveda recommends you first soak dried nuts to rehydrate them, thereby reducing the phytic acid content that aggravates and irritates the stomach.11 Under ayurvedic principles, anyone with a weak digestive system should avoid eating too many of these nuts. Dried nuts are heavy and oily, making them difficult for the body to digest and upsetting the balance in the system.
Don’t Go Overboard
While Brazil nuts are great for health, having too much of them can be counterproductive. They are high in saturated fats and a single serving can give you as much as 21 percent of the RDA. If you are calorie counting, a single ounce will add 200 calories to your day, so eat them sparingly.12
More alarmingly, extremely high consumption to the tune of 10 times more than your daily recommended intake of selenium could lead to nervous disorders, skin rashes, diarrhea, fatigue, and leave your hair and nails brittle.
References [ + ]
|1, 12.||↑||National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28, Basic Report: 12078, Nuts, brazilnuts, dried, unblanched. United States Department of Agriculture|
|2, 5, 8.||↑||Yang, Jun. “Brazil nuts and associated health benefits: A review.” LWT-Food Science and Technology 42, no. 10 (2009): 1573-1580.|
|3.||↑||Combs, G. F., L. C. Clark, and B. W. Turnbull. “An analysis of cancer prevention by selenium.” Biofactors 14, no. 1‐4 (2001): 153-159.|
|4, 7.||↑||Thomson, Christine D., Alexandra Chisholm, Sarah K. McLachlan, and Jennifer M. Campbell. “Brazil nuts: an effective way to improve selenium status.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 87, no. 2 (2008): 379-384.|
|6.||↑||Vadivel, Vellingiri, Catherine N. Kunyanga, and Hans K. Biesalski. “Health benefits of nut consumption with special reference to body weight control.” Nutrition 28, no. 11 (2012): 1089-1097.|
|9.||↑||Singhal, Anil Kumar, Vijay Naithani, and Om Prakash Bangar. “Medicinal plants with a potential to treat Alzheimer and associated symptoms.” International Journal of Nutrition, Pharmacology, Neurological Diseases 2, no. 2 (2012): 84.|
|10.||↑||ramaiah Ramakrishna, Basavapatna. “HEALTHY LIFE-STYLE PRESCRIPTIONS FOR DIFFERENT PERSONALITY TYPES (TRIDOSHA PRAKRITI).” Journal of Ayurveda and Holistic Medicine (JAHM) 2, no. 7 (2014): 30-36.|
|11.||↑||Igbedioh, Sylvester O., Kehinde T. Olugbemi, and Maurice A. Akpapunam. “Effects of processing methods on phytic acid level and some constituents in bambara groundnut (Vigna subterranea) and pigeon pea (Cajanus cajan).” Food Chemistry 50, no. 2 (1994): 147-151.|