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If you like crispy and salty snacks, you might want to add Brazil nuts (i.e. butter or cream nuts) to your rotation. Brazil nuts are starting to become more popular in the United States, likely because they’re earthy, buttery, and packed with nutrients. Read on to learn more about the health benefits of Brazil nuts, as well as the best ways to try them.
Brazil nuts are the seeds of the Brazil nut, a tropical tree found in the Amazon rainforest of South American countries such as Bolivia, Peru, and, you guessed it, Brazil. The tree grows round, brown fruits that resemble coconuts, each containing 10 to 25 seeds, according to an article by Scientific reports. When the wrinkled, brown, woody husk surrounding the seeds is opened, you will find an edible kernel called the Brazil nut.
In addition to offering protein, fiber, niacin and vitamin B6, Brazil nuts contain a myriad of minerals, including (but not limited to!) Magnesium, potassium and zinc, according to a 2020 article. The fame of the Brazil nut, however, is its mineral selenium content, so much so that, according to a 2017 article, the nut is “the most potent dietary source of selenium.” In fact, just a Brazil nuts contain enough selenium to meet your daily needs, says Sarah Skovran, registered dietitian nutritionist, RDN, LD (For background, adult men and women need 55 micrograms of selenium per day, according to the National Institutes of Health.) Specifically, a Brazil nut contains 96 micrograms, almost double the recommended amount. So why is this remarkable? Because selenium is involved in a range of functions, such as the production of thyroid hormones and DNA synthesis, according to the NIH.
Selenium (of which, again, Brazil nuts are exceptionally rich) is an antioxidant. This means that the mineral can fight free radicals and oxidative stress, thus minimizing the risk of chronic disease. Need a quick reminder:? And there you have it: Free radicals are molecules that in excess can damage cells and cause oxidative stress, which can lead to diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. However, “antioxidants work by modifying free radicals in such a way that they become harmless, âSkovran explains. Plus, since antioxidants counteract oxidative stress, they also reduce inflammation. (This is because oxidative stress can fuel inflammation and vice versa, according to a 2018 scientific review). This is essential because inflammation is also involved in the development of the aforementioned chronic diseases. (Related: The Highest Antioxidant Rich Foods To Stock Up, Stat)
But the selenium in Brazil nuts doesn’t work on its own. âBrazil nuts contain vitamin E and substances called phenols, which are antioxidants,â Skovran shares. Vitamin E also supports immune function, according to the NIH, further enhancing the anti-disease benefits of Brazil nuts.
The selenium in Brazil nuts can also promote healthy thyroid function. ICYDK, the thyroid gland produces thyroid hormones, which regulate bodily functions such as metabolism and menstruation. With that in mind, thyroid health is crucial for overall well-being, and the selenium in Brazil nuts can help. âThe production of hormones in the thyroid gland is dependent on selenium, so a deficiency can have a significant impact on metabolism,â says Kelsey Lorencz, RDN, registered dietitian nutritionist and founder of Graciously Nourished. Specifically, according to the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, selenium helps transform the thyroid hormone into its active form, ensuring that the body can use it properly. “Selenium too [protects] the thyroid gland from oxidative stress, âadds Lorencz. This is essential because oxidative stress is linked to thyroid problems, including hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) or hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid), according to a journal article. Inflammation mediators.
Brazil nuts can support the heart, which is due in part (surprise!) To their selenium. As mentioned above, oxidative stress can contribute to heart disease, but the antioxidant properties of selenium can help reduce the risk. Brazil nuts also offer nutrients that lower high cholesterol and blood pressure, two major risk factors for heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Here’s the deal: Brazil nuts contain monounsaturated (“good”) fats, which can help lower blood levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, says Lorencz. This is essential because, when present in high amounts, LDL cholesterol can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, notes Lorencz. In fact, in a 2015 study, a daily intake of 13 grams of Brazil nuts (about two nuts) improved cholesterol. and blood pressure in people with high levels of both.
But wait, there’s more: Brazil nuts also contain soluble fiber, a type of fiber that also lowers LDL cholesterol, Skovran explains. Soluble fiber is not absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract, so instead it binds to cholesterol, according to a 2019 article. Then, when the fiber leaves your body through poop, it brings in the bad things, ultimately preventing cholesterol. to build up in the blood. (And that’s not just a benefit of Brazil nuts, in particular. You can also lower your LDL by eating avocado, strawberries, and those other cholesterol-lowering foods.)
Brazil nuts contain calcium, which is necessary for healthy bones, as well as magnesium, according to Skovran, is “an unsung hero of bone health, [as it contributes] to bone density. âAdditionally,â the selenium in Brazil nuts activates enzymes that protect bone-building cells called osteoblasts, âshares Megan Wong, RD, dietitian at AlgaeCal, a supplement company.â Selenium helps. also reduce to the activity of osteoclasts, “which are cells that dissolve bone. (Related: Best Sources of Calcium for Vegans)
The health benefits of Brazil nuts extend to your brain as well. The antioxidant effects of selenium may protect brain cells from oxidative damage, according to Wong. This is important because oxidative stress can contribute to age-related cognitive decline, according to a 2020 article in the Frontiers in molecular neuroscience. It may also play a role in neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, according to a 2019 review article. In fact, according to this review, Alzheimer’s disease is associated with low levels of selenium in the brain. , suggesting a link between the antioxidant properties of selenium and oxidative stress in Alzheimer’s disease.
Since Brazil nuts are so high in selenium, you’ll want to avoid eating them on a regular basis, recommends Lorencz. This could lead to an excessive build-up of selenium in the body, resulting in selenium toxicity. The first signs of this include a metallic taste in the mouth, bad breath, nausea, diarrhea, hair loss, brittle nails, rashes and fatigue, according to Harvard TH Chan School of Public. Health. So how much is too much? The NIH postulates that the maximum amount you can consume in a day without negative side effects is 400 micrograms for adult men and women. This equates to about four Brazil nuts, which together contain about 384 micrograms of selenium, according to the USDA. Meanwhile, research suggests selenium toxicity occurs at around 1,200 micrograms – the equivalent of consuming 13 Brazil nuts (~ 1,248 micrograms of selenium). In light of all this, Wong recommends eating no more than two Brazil nuts per day to stay within safe limits while still getting the benefits of selenium.
It’s also possible to be allergic to Brazil nuts, which, by the way, are a type of nut just like almonds and cashews. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, nuts are among the most common food allergens, and Brazil nuts are no exception. So if you are new to Brazil nuts and have a history of nut allergies, consult your doctor before adding the crescent-shaped snack to your diet. Of course, having an allergy to a nut does not necessarily mean that you will be allergic to it. all nuts, according to the AAAAI – but prevention is better than cure. (See also: What You Should Know About Allergy Testing)
Brazil nuts are available at supermarkets, specialty health food stores, and online retailers, where “you can find [them] raw, toasted, covered with chocolate or as a spread, âexplains Lorencz. Try Sunfood Superfoods Raw Organic Brazil Nuts (Buy Them, $ 18, vitaminshoppe.com). They’re also commonly found in nut mixes, like Food to Live Nut Mix (Buy it, $ 10, amazon.com), adds Lorencz. (Related: The 10 Healthiest Nuts and Seeds)
When shopping for Brazil nuts, there are a few things to consider. Skovran recommends looking for trans fats, which are fats that raise LDL cholesterol levels. âIt is not always enough to verify that there are no trans fats listed in the Nutrition Facts, [so] read the label and avoid articles that contain the words âhydrogenatedâ or âpartially hydrogenatedâ, âshe explains. are often roasted in oil.) It’s also a good idea to check the label for added sugars and salts, especially if you have a health condition that requires limiting these ingredients (for example, type 2 diabetes or hypertension, respectively). allergic to some nuts (but not all), be very careful when purchasing nut mixes, as each mix can be different (that said, you can always make your own healthy trail mix at home to ensure you get the best sugary snack -salted for you.)
Brazil nuts, like other nuts, are very versatile. You can eat them as is, in moderation! – or add them to main dishes, snacks and more. Here are some tips to get you started:
With pesto. Pine nuts shouldn’t have all the fun. Change up your usual pesto sauce by adding Brazil nuts to the mixture. Try this creamy Brazil nut pesto pasta by food blog Cup of kale.
In energy balls. Chop a Brazil nut or two and add them to your next batch of Energy Balls. (They would undoubtedly taste delicious in these almond-apricots.)
Like vegan parmesan. Yes, you read that right. When combined with nutritional yeast and turmeric, Brazil nuts can easily turn into a plant-based cheese. Try this Brazil Nut Parmesan Recipe by the Vegan Blog namely Marly.