Brazil nuts facts and health benefits

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Brazil nuts facts and health benefits

Brazil nuts Quick Facts
Name: Brazil nuts
Scientific Name: Bertholletia excelsa
Origin Indigenous to tropical Amazonia – French Guiana, Surinam, Guyana, Bolivia, Venezuela, Brazil, Peru, and Amazonian Colombia.
Colors Dark brown
Shapes 8–24, 3-angled seeds (nut) 3.5–5 cm by 2.5–1.8 cm
Flesh colors Pale brownish-white
Taste Delicate buttery taste
Calories 876 Kcal./cup
Major nutrients Selenium (4635.64%)
Copper (257.56%)
Total Fat (254.97%)
Phosphorus (137.71%)
Magnesium (119.05%)
Health benefits Growth and Repair, Skin Health, Immune System, Reduces Signs of Aging, Digestive System, Nutrient Efficiency, Weight Loss, Hormone Function, Acne Treatment, Heart Health, Anticancer
More facts about Brazil nuts
With the scientific name of Bertholletia excelsa, Brazil nuts are a nutrient-dense and delicious type of nut that comes from Brazil nut tree in South America. The trees is actually native to South American countries such as Peru, Colombia, Brazil and Venezuela and are often found along the banks of major rivers. Botanically, brazil-nut tree belongs within the family of Lecythidaceae, in the genus Bertholletia. The genus is named after the French chemist Claude Louis Berthollet.  It’s quite a large tree, so the harvest of Brazil nuts is very large. It is a major exported nut from the South American continent, and can now be found throughout the world. Its lifespan is about 500 to 700 years. Brazil Nut, Brazil nuts Tree, Butternut, Cream nut, Para nut, Para Nut are few of the common names of Brazil nuts. Brazil nuts can either be eaten in whole form or their essential oil can be extracted and used for more direct remedies.

Plant

Brazil nut is a large, deciduous tree, 30–60 m tall and normally grows in hot wet, humid equatorial rainforests and thrives well in well drained clay or sandy clay soils. Brazil nuts plant has straight, greyish, cylindrical, smooth trunk about 1 to 2 m (3.3 to 6.6 ft.) in diameter. Bark of the tree is normally grayish and smooth. Leaves are alternate, simple, glabrous, coriaceous, large, entire or crenate, oblong, 20–35 cm (7.9–13.8 in) by 10–15 cm (3.9–5.9 in), venation pinnate, with 29–45 pairs of parallel lateral veins. Flowers are small, greenish-white, in panicles 5–10 cm (2.0–3.9 in) long; each flower has a two-parted, deciduous calyx, six unequal cream-colored petals, and numerous stamens united into a broad, hood-shaped mass.

Fruit

The hard-walled fruits are spherical pods, 10–15 cm (3.9–5.9 in) in diameter, that resemble large coconuts hanging at the ends of the tree’s thick branches. A typical 15-cm (6-inch) pod can weigh up to 2.3 kg (5 pounds) and consists of 12–24 nuts, or seeds, which are arranged like the sections of an orange. A mature tree will produce more than 300 pods, which ripen and fall to the ground from January to June. The pods are harvested from the forest floor, and the seeds are taken out, dried in the sun, and then washed and exported while still in their shells. The brown shell is very hard and has three sides. Pods are normally dark brown colored and rinds are hard, woody shell 8–12 mm thick.

Seed/Nut

Spherical pods of Brazil nuts consist of about 8–24, 3-angled seeds (nut) 3.5–5 cm by 2.5–1.8 cm. They are usually dark brown in color and the skin of the nuts is woody, thick, indurate and rugose that covers pale brownish-white flesh that are extremely delightful and delicious. Nuts have sweet nutty flavor and have delicate buttery taste and weigh about 5 g. They are either eaten in whole form or their essential oil can be extracted and used for more direct remedies. It is important to consume shelled Brazil nuts rapidly, as the high content of fat makes these nut varieties go badly quite quickly. The extracted oil, however, can remain viable for months when properly extracted and used for many of the following health benefits of Brazil nuts.

History

Brazil nuts scientifically known as Bertholletia excelsa is indigenous to tropical Amazonia  such as French Guiana, Surinam, Guyana, Bolivia, Venezuela, Brazil, Peru, and Amazonian Colombia. It forms large forests on the banks of the Amazons and Rio Negro, and similarly about Esmeraldas, on the Orinoco. It is most predominant in the Brazilian states of Marahao, Mato Grosso, Acre, Para, Rondonia, and the Amazonas. Brazil nuts are harvested almost entirely from wild trees. Brazil nuts have been harvested from plantations but production is low and it is currently not economically practical. Nowadays it can be found throughout the world due to its remarkable nutritional Value.

Nutritional Value

Apart from their sweet nutty flavor and delicate buttery taste, Brazil nut is a good source of nutrients, vitamins and minerals. Consuming 133 gram of Brazil nut offers 2549.6 µg of Selenium, 2.318 mg of Copper, 89.24 g of Total Fat, 964 mg of Phosphorus, 500 mg of Magnesium, 1.627 mg of Manganese, 0.821 mg of Vitamin B1 and 7.51 mg of Vitamin E. Moreover many Amino acids 0.18 g of Tryptophan, 0.485 g of Threonine, 0.689 g of Isoleucine, 1.583 g of Leucine, 0.652 g of Lysine and 1.495 g of Methionine are also found in 133 gram of Brazil nuts.

Health Benefits of Brazil Nuts

The nutrients, vitamins and minerals found in Brazil nuts make them a nutritional powerhouse capable of helping you protect your body from serious disease. These nuts are a good source of protein and contain several amino acids with important functions. Listed belo are some of the popular health benefits of Brazil nuts

1. Anticancer

Brazil nuts are on the list of cancer-fighting foods due to their high ellagic acid and selenium levels. Ellagic acid is also ant mutagenic and anticancer.

Apart from that selenium, an essential biological trace element has been shown to reduce and prevent the occurrence of cancer. A five-year, randomized nutritional research took place in China where esophageal cancer rates are extremely high and selenium intake is low. The results, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, found highly significant inverse associations of serum selenium levels with the incidence of esophageal cancer.(1). (2)

2. Heart Health

Brazil nuts consist of high content of healthy unsaturated fats, also known as “good” forms of cholesterol or omega-3 fatty acids. This includes oleic acid and palmitoleic acid. These unsaturated fats have been connected with balancing the cholesterol profile of the body and improving general heart health, mostly by removing dangerous omega-6 fatty acids from the body as well as cardiovascular system. Cholesterol balance helps to prevent atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and strokes. However, Brazil nuts consist the highest content of dangerous saturated fats, so be careful not to overdue, as Brazil nuts are also high in calories. Six average-sized nuts is in fact the suggested serving size for this beneficial snack.(3)

3. Acne Treatment

Though this falls under the category of “skin health”, the high zinc content in Brazil nuts has been shown to protect against acne or lessen its appearance. This can be achieved through normal consumption of the nuts or by application of Brazil nut oil on the affected area. The rich vitamin and antioxidant content of the oil is actually the main cause behind this protective quality.(4)

4. Hormone Function

Selenium which is found considerably in Brazil nuts plays a major role in the proper functioning of your thyroid gland. The thyroid gland is where some of the most essential hormones in the body are produced, distributed, and regulated from. By ensuring proper functioning of your thyroid gland (and the production of thyroid itself) the high concentration of selenium will ensure that your bodily processes are maintained and your metabolism remains strong.(5)

5. Weight Loss

Brazil nut consists of high fiber concentration, overall nutrient density which makes it quite filling, meaning that you are less inclined to snack incessantly and tack on those extra calories with unhealthy snacks. However, one ounce of Brazil nuts consists of nearly 200 calories, so be careful about your intake, but moderate consumption can really boost weight loss efforts.(6)

6. Nutrient Efficiency

Brazil nuts consists of high magnesium levels  which help to encourage efficient nutrient uptake in the digestive system, which means that we get as many benefits as possible from our food. Zinc is also one of the hardest elements to intake through food, and Brazil nuts natural high levels and facilitation of nutrient uptake helps to balance that common deficiency.

7. Digestive System

Brazil nuts consist of good amount of fiber that makes them great for tuning up your digestive system. Fiber enables peristaltic motion in the gastrointestinal system, moving food through the body and extracting as many nutrients as possible. This can help you prevent gastric ulcers, constipation, bloating, cramps, and other serious conditions like colon cancer. This can also increase energy levels and improve weight loss by keeping your system clean and running efficiently.(7)

8. Reduces Signs of Aging

Wrinkles are caused due to exposure to the sun and with the advancement of age. Since Brazil nuts are loaded with antioxidants, it helps to reduce the occurrence of wrinkles significantly. Apart from that vitamins E found in Brazil nuts help to increase skin collagen, resulting in a smoother complexion. Oil extracted from these nuts can be directly applied on the skin once or twice a day. This will not only smooth out minor infections, but also add a healthy shine to your complexion.

9. Immune System

As mentioned before Brazil nuts consist of high concentration of nutrients and minerals that are helpful for the immune system. Apart from that antioxidants and organic compounds present in this unassuming nut makes it a strong contender for one of the most immune-boosting nuts around. Vitamin C pairs wonderfully along with selenium and zinc to encourage the production of white blood cells and encouraging antioxidant compounds throughout the body to neutralize free radicals, thus preventing many chronic illnesses like cancer and coronary heart disease.(8)

10. Skin Health

Important vitamins and nutrients contained in Brazil nuts make it wonderful for protecting skin health. Selenium present in Brazil nuts is often the most appreciated aspect of this nut and is great for giving the skin a healthy glow and improves the elasticity of the skin, thus preventing premature aging. It is because selenium stimulates the activity of glutathione, a powerful antioxidant compound that can remove free radicals from the skin cells that cause wrinkles and even skin cancer.(9)

11. Growth and Repair

Many of us forget about the importance of protein in our diet, mainly when we are on a restricted diet or are a vegetarian. Protein is also an essential part of health, mainly because it is necessary for muscle growth, energy, cellular growth, repair, and wound healing. Brazil nuts are actually major source of protein, comparatively speaking, so they can be a helpful boost to keep your protein levels up! Vitamin C is also a major component of collagen, another essential part of human growth and repair of blood vessels, tissues, and cells.(10)

How to Eat

  • Brazil nut kernel is consumed fresh or roasted as a snack, dessert nut and is used in confectionery and as food by the locals in its native range and as edible cooking oil.
  • Oil can also be used for salad dressing.
  • Indigenous tribes eat the nuts raw or grate them and mix them into gruels.
  • Nuts are grated with the thorny stilt roots of Socratea palms into a white mush known as leite de castanha and then stirred into manioc flour in the Brazilian Amazon.
  • Residue of oil extraction gives high protein flour that can be mixed with common bread flour or used in animal feeding.
  • Due to its rich taste, Brazil nuts can often substitute for macadamia nuts or even coconuts in food recipes.
  • Brazil nuts can be eaten all alone. Additionally, they can also be enjoyed roasted, salted, or sweetened.
  • They are also used in fudge, puddings, pesto, chocolates-bars and crunchy-bar preparations.
  • Coarsely ground Brazil nuts can be sprinkled over fruit/vegetable salads.
  • They are also used in desserts, particularly in fruitcakes.
  • They can also be added to soup as well as meat and vegetable dishes.
  • Brazil nut oil is used in salad dressing and in cooking.
  • Brazil nut pieces also add a nice crunch to salads.
  • Brazil nut milk is an extremely nutritious and tasty alternative to almond, soy or regular dairy milk.

Other Traditional Uses and benefits of Brazil Nuts

  • Woody husks of Brazil seed pods are used in Brazilian folk medicine to brew into tea to treat stomach aches
  • Tree bark is brewed into tea to treat liver ailments.
  • Brazil nut oil is used as an emollient.

Other Facts

  • Indigenous people in the Amazon basin used the empty fruit shell, to carry around small smoky fires to discourage attacks of black flies, as cups to collect rubber latex from tapped trees, and as drinking cups.
  • Fruit shell is also used for the production of handicrafts.
  • Brazil nut oil is used as cooking oil by the rural people and lamp oil.
  • Oil is used in the cosmetic industry as a cosmetic ingredient in soaps, shampoos and hair conditioning/repair products and skin care products such creams, lotion, ointments.
  • Brazil nut oil is also used as a lubricant in clocks, for making artists’ paints, and in the cosmetics industry.
  • Brazil nut is used as insect repellent and livestock feed.
  • The tree also furnishes an excellent high quality timber.
  • Research showed that Brazil nut shells may be useful as adsorbent either for basic or acid dyes such as methylene blue and indigo carmine respectively.
  • Brazil nut’s shell is often pulverized and used as an abrasive to polish materials such as metals and even ceramics.

Precautions

  • Excess consumption of these nuts may result in selenium toxicity and may cause diarrhea, a metallic taste in the mouth, nausea, brittle nails, hair loss, coughing and more.

Brazil nut Storage

Brazil nuts can be stored in a cool, dry place like pantry for up to one month. For longer-term storage, keep them in the refrigerator for up to 9 months, or transfer them to the freezer where they can be kept for up to a year. When freezing Brazil nuts, the original package should be placed inside a re-sealable freezer bag.

References:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brazil_nut

https://nuts.com/nuts/brazilnuts/

https://www.movenourishbelieve.com/nourish/benefits-of-the-brazil-nut/

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