Brazil nuts grow naturally in the Amazon forest. These large brown nuts may have a funny shape, but they come with a host of health benefits, which make eating a few a day well worth it.
Brazil nuts are a good source of healthy fat. High in calories and rich in monounsaturated fats, they help to lower bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol in the blood. They are also a great source of vitamin E, which is good for the skin and for the healthy maintenance of mucous membranes. These gluten-free nuts are also a great source of complex B vitamins and folates and contain healthy levels of other minerals, including copper, magnesium, manganese, potassium, iron, calcium, zinc and phosphorous. Copper protects against anemia and osteoporosis. Calcium and magnesium are essential for healthy bones and teeth. Iron and manganese assist with hemoglobin production, which helps the blood transport oxygen to the body’s cells. And, zinc is important for the body’s immune function.
Clearly, Brazil nuts are very healthy, but the key thing to remember is that a little goes a long way. It is important not to consume too many of these tasty snacks. Brazil nuts contain the highest source of selenium of any raw food. Selenium is a trace mineral that the body requires only in very small amounts. It is often used with proteins to make selenoproteins, which are antioxidant enzymes important for preventing cancer, disease and cellular damage from free radicals. Selenoproteins also regulate thyroid function and immune function. Selenium has been shown to prevent prostate cancer and liver cirrhosis, and may even induce the self-destruction of cancer cells.
With so many health benefits, why is it important to only consume selenium in very small amounts? Most people in the U.S. are not selenium deficient. In fact, selenium deficiencies are associated with severe gastrointestinal disorders, which may hinder selenium absorption. Unless you have a severe gastrointestinal disorder, chances are you don’t require selenium supplementation. Too much of this mineral may be toxic, and there is only a very small difference between an optimal dose and a toxic dose. The absolute upper limit for adults is 400 micrograms a day. One thousand or more micrograms a day can cause nausea, vomiting, hair loss and a host of other health problems. The optimal dose is 200 micrograms a day – the equivalent of eating only 1-3 raw Brazil nuts.
Brazil nuts are consumed in a variety of ways. You can buy them raw, with or without the shells, and they may also come roasted and salted. They deteriorate faster if exposed to air, humidity and sunlight, so whole, unshelled nuts are better as they will not go rancid quite as quickly. Brazil nuts are often pressed into oil, which can be used in massage therapy or in cooking. It is also used as a base oil in aromatherapy, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics.
Use Brazil nuts to garnish fruit salads, vegetable salads, cakes and desserts, soup, or meat and vegetable dishes, or for maximum health benefits, consume a few plain Brazil nuts per day to get your optimal daily dose of selenium.