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Grain of the Month: Brazil Nuts! PDF Print E-mail

By Chris Ellis, Staff Nutritionist
August 2016

Our Grain of the Month has been so successful we decided to feature something different. Learn about the benefits of adding the Brazil nut to your diet, and be sure to include them on your next shopping trip...

I have always been intrigued by Brazil nuts because of their unique name, shape, flavor, and size compared to other nuts. I never gave much thought as to where they came from and their amazing nutritional profile. You might assume, as I did, that they come from Brazil but they are found in other South American countries as well: Columbia, Venezuela, Bolivia, and Peru. In fact Bolivia is the largest exporter of Brazil nuts.

Botanically speaking, Brazil nuts are not nuts but rather seeds from the fruit of enormous trees in the Amazon rain forest that often reach up to 160 feet in height. These trees are found nowhere else on this planet. They are among the largest trees in the forest and play an essential role in the ecology of the rain forest. Brazil nut production has declined over the last several years, and Brazil declared it illegal to cut down these magnificent trees in their country.

Brazil nuts have much to offer nutritionally and have a taste like no other nut. Biting into a Brazil nut, you find a rich creamy flavor, and the high fat content is responsible for that. They contains an abundance of all kinds of fats including both omega-3 and omega-6 essential fats, which are beneficial for supporting a healthy heart. Another particular nutrient attributed to these nuts’ health benefits is selenium. They are actually one of the richest food sources of selenium and this was the reason I originally became aware of Brazil nuts. Selenium is a powerful plant compound that protects the body from the harmful effects of free radicals, those unstable particles that damage cells and tissues of the body. Selenium therefore protects the body. Research studies have shown that selenium can support normal cell growth and support particular parts of the body, such as prostate and colon. Selenium also assists with the proper functioning of the thyroid gland, which is instrumental in producing and regulating hormones for normal body operations. It helps with the immune system and keeps your skin healthy too. 

Brazil nuts contain a good amount of fiber, which helps to maintain a healthy digestive system by keeping food moving through the body. Brazil nuts contain generous amounts of other essential nutrients including thiamin,
magnesium, phosphorus, copper, zinc, and manganese. Brazil nuts should be stored in your refrigerator or freezer since their high fat content makes them susceptible to rancidity, and rancid fats of any type are not healthy at all for the body. 

Brazil nuts can be toxic if consumed in excess due to their concentrated amount of selenium. This essential mineral is beneficial and eating 2 - 3 Brazil nuts daily will provide you with the recommended daily intake of selenium.

Use the very special Brazil nut chopped into your cereal, yogurt, or baked goods. Add it to your own energy trail mix with other nuts, seeds, and dried fruits. Or try something different and add chopped Brazil nuts to your
favorite pasta dish with vegetables or salad, or try the delicious pesto recipe we included with this article (Click here fro Brazil Nut Cilantro Pesto).

Enjoy this magnificent treasure from the rain forest—eat it slowly and mindfully, appreciating the wealth of nutrition benefits with every bite!