Brazil Nuts, which are tree nuts grown in the Amazon, are not only delicious but also offer some very interesting health and disease management benefits as part of a healthy diet. An excellent source of nutrients, including healthy fats, protein, and fiber, Brazil Nuts also contain selenium, which is integral in improving health. It is a natural antioxidant, may serve as a protective mineral against cancer and other diseases, and is showing promise in improving brain function and reducing cholesterol. These are definitely a worthy addition to healthy diets, packing big benefits in a small serving.
Brazil Nuts Nutrition
Brazil nuts are a great addition to healthy diets as you can see the nutrients in the chart below.
Serving Size 1 cup, whole (133 g)
|Amount Per Serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 88g||135%|
|Saturated Fat 20g||100%|
|Total Carbohydrate 16g||5%|
|Dietary Fiber 10g||40%|
|Total Sugars 3.1g|
|* The % Daily Values (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a serving of food contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|
Selenium content: Brazil nuts contain approximately 544 Micrograms (mcg) of selenium content per serving (about 6-8 nuts) which accounts for 989% of the recommended daily allowance. This is also why the recommended amount per day is closer to one to three nuts.
Brazil nuts appear to be high in fat, but the majority of the fat is in unsaturated fat, which is considered to be heart-friendly, not only in cell protection but also in the balance of LDL and HDL cholesterol.
Low in cholesterol and high in proteins, fiber, calcium make this a truly healthy snack that is good for you, but as always, make sure you eat them in moderation.
Brazil Nuts and Selenium
One of the truly remarkable benefits of Brazil nuts is that they are a huge source of selenium, having a high selenium content in just a few nuts. According to the NIH, the benefits of selenium play a critical role in "reproduction, thyroid hormone metabolism, DNA synthesis, and protection from oxidative damage and infection."
A single Brazil nut provides about 70 mcg of selenium intake, which is enough to meet the daily recommended intake. Even the USDA recommends eating just two Brazil nuts a week as a source of nutrition.
"Selenium is an essential trace mineral that supports many bodily processes. It can help improve cognition, immune system function, and fertility." Read more - Selenium: What it does and how much you need
There's more to Brazil nuts than just Selenium
While selenium is the power health ingredient in Brazil Nuts, it's not the only source of health benefits they offer. Combined with it, Brazil nuts may help prevent oxidative damage to cells, which is a key factor in whole body health. Here are some of the health conditions that benefit from the consumption of Brazil nuts as part of healthy diets.
Antioxidants & anti-inflammatories
Yes, it's true, selenium is a natural antioxidant and anti-inflammatory but brazil nuts also contain vitamin E and phenols such as gallic and ellagic acid, all of which prevent oxidative damage to cells. Antioxidants serve as the cleaners of the body, helping remove waste. The antioxidant effects not only include cleansing but also reduction of oxidative stress. The anti-inflammatory benefits have been shown to be significant and reliable, serving as short and long term solutions in the management of inflammation and associated pain.
Brazil Nuts for Heart Health
Brazil nuts are loaded with heart-healthy fatty acids, antioxidants, a high fiber content, and more, all of which help reduce the risk of heart disease and heart attack. They have been showing success in lowering LDL (bad cholesterol) and raising HDL (good cholesterol). They are also great for preventing or improving cardiovascular disease through the oxidative stress reduction and protection they offer, especially for lipids.
Brazil Nuts for Cancer Protection
In 2003, the FDA allowed a qualified health claim on foods and dietary supplements containing selenium to state that while “some scientific evidence suggests that consumption of selenium may reduce the risk of certain forms of cancer… FDA has determined that this evidence is limited and not conclusive”. More research is needed to confirm the relationship between selenium concentrations and cancer risk and to determine whether selenium supplements can help prevent any form of cancer. Source:
National Institute of Health
The protection against oxidative stress for cell protection not only offers a health benefit for the prevention of cancer and for heart health but also provides a health benefit for other body systems.
Do Brazil Nuts Help Thyroid Function?
The thyroid gland and tissue have the largest concentration of selenium as it's critical to the proper thyroid function, so maintaining a proper balance of selenium can help ward against thyroid diseases, including hypothyroidism, thyroiditis, cancer, Grave's Disease, and Hashimoto's. For those with these conditions, selenium-rich Brazil nut consumption may also help in the progression and worsening of the disorders, while providing other health benefits. The main means that selenium is effective for healthy thyroid function and overall thyroid health is through the reduction and protection against oxidative stress on the cells.
Cognition and Brain Function
Brazil nuts offer a double benefit of ingredients for brain health, selenium and ellagic acid. Ellagic acid has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory that not only improve physical connections and decrease degradation of cells, also known as oxidative stress, it also may be involved in improving mood and decreasing depression often associated with the aging brain and other neurodegenerative diseases. Selenium has also been shown through scientific evidence to improve memory and verbal function in older adults, including those with age-related memory loss and decreased cognitive function, although further studies are ongoing. (source: Effects of Brazil nut consumption on selenium status and cognitive performance in older adults with mild cognitive impairment: a randomized controlled pilot trial). Other studies have shown a commonality in both Parkinson's and Alzheimer's and decreased selenium, so increasing selenium may have benefits in decreasing the progression or even possibly delaying the onset or preventing these and other cognitive disorders.
Mood & Mental Health
As mentioned earlier, protection from oxidative stress leading to improved cognition and brain function can result in better moods, but there's more to it than that. Low levels of selenium has been linked to anxiety and depression, and some studies have shown that within several weeks of eating just a couple Brazil nuts a day, which are loaded with selenium, depression and anxiety improved, regardless of underlying brain function conditions.
Are Brazil Nuts Good for Diabetics?
Unsaturated fats have long been shown to be an effective tool in slowing the progression of diabetes and helping lower the A1C blood sugar levels. Because of their sweet taste and heavily packed proteins, Brazil nuts offer a fresh and easy healthy diet alternative to other risky options for cravings, while providing additional health benefits to those with diabetes.
These little health powerhouses are close to magic bullets since aside from all the above-noted benefits, they also are packed with calcium and magnesium, which are great for bone health and development.
Sure Brazil nuts are a power food for health and offer many beneficial effects, but as with any food or nutritional supplement, it's always best to take them in moderation, to avoid selenium toxicity. While rare, selenium toxicity can occur with overconsumption or chronic consumption of foods high in the mineral, in addition to additional intake from supplements.
Some symptoms of selenium toxicity include:
- garlic odor in the breath metallic taste in the mouth
- hair loss
- brittle nails
- lesions of the skin
The recommended daily portion size is no more than three brazil nuts a day. They are high in calories, but also filling. So eat a couple, with confidence, or use them as additional flavoring in your favorite recipes and healthy diets.
Brazil nuts aren't actually nuts, they're considered seeds, but despite the name confusion, they are power foods for health and nutrition, offering up great taste in a small package that will have beneficial effects on nearly your entire body.
From heart health and cholesterol, to cognition and mood disorders, bone density and thyroid disease, these nuts are the bomb. And because they're technically seeds, even those who have known nut allergies or allergic reaction to nuts may be able to consume them safely (always check with your health professional first!)
Of course, the usual disclaimers apply - eat them in moderation and as part of an overall regimen of a healthy diet and exercise, particularly due to their highly packed vitamins and minerals, you don't want to overdo it. Be attuned to regular consumption, but not chronic consumption.