It’s no secret that nuts are amazing for health. After all, they offer a key source of healthy fats and a range of nutrients as well.
At the same time, there are many different types of nuts, each of which has their advantages and benefits.
This post takes a look at once such option, the humble Brazil nut. In particular, why are Brazil nuts good for you and what makes them stand out?
After all, most lists focus on options like almonds as being powerful for health (which they are). But, Brazil nuts are also worth considering both for their taste and their health implications.
Besides, why not diversify your nut intake?
What are Brazil Nuts?
Brazil nuts come from an Amazonian tree that grows 200 feet or more and has the scientific name Bertholletia excelsa. The tree produces large and heavy fruit, which contain multiple seeds.
As with some other ‘nuts’, Brazil nuts are technically a seed, rather than a nut. Nevertheless, this doesn’t affect the nutrients provided or the advantages of Brazil nuts.
Brazil nuts are larger than many other types of nuts and are often less popular as well. They tend to be somewhat crunchy and also very creamy because of the high fat and saturated fat content.
Opinions of the nut vary, with some people loving it and others preferring other options instead (1). But, even if you’re not a fan, the nuts are still worth trying for their benefits.
Brazil Nut Nutrition
As you may already expect, Brazil nuts are relatively high in calories and in fat. For example, a one ounce (28 g) serving contains 184 calories and includes around 18 grams of fat, 4 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber (2).
These figures mean that Brazil nuts can contribute to weight gain – but only if you eat them excessively. If you use them prudently, then they can promote a range of health benefits and even weight loss.
At the same time, Brazil nuts also contain a range of other important nutrients. For example, they are a source of magnesium, phosphorous and manganese, while also offering a wide range of amino acids.
But, by far, the most significant nutritional component of Brazil nuts is selenium. In fact, that one ounce serving size contains more than 700% of your recommended daily intake (3).
That’s exceptional, especially as selenium does offer a range of health benefits. A post over at Dr. Axe talks about many of these in detail.
Protein and Fat in Brazil Nuts
Two particularly relevant aspects of nuts are the protein content and fat profile. Both areas are extremely relevant for health overall and also for weight loss. This happens because the nutrients play a wide range of different roles within the body.
For one thing, protein is significant because it helps build and maintain muscle. So, getting enough protein is critical for avoiding age-related muscle loss. Likewise, protein helps promote health benefits and many people aren’t consuming enough.
Protein is also very relevant for weight loss. In particular, it helps people to feel full, which often reduces the tendency to snack (4). For that matter, high protein snacks may help promote more consistent weight loss, particularly for people who struggle with being hungry.
In the case of Brazil nuts, the protein content is 4 grams for a 28-gram serving (1 ounce) (5). This is less than many other types of nuts but it is still a significant amount. It’s easy to see how this would help you feel less hungry overall.
As for fat, Brazil nuts offer 19 grams of fat for that same serving size (6). That may seem like a lot but the fat is also satisfying. Research is also continuing to show that fat isn’t actually bad for health.
Indeed, low fat diets may even be worse for health and weight loss than high fat ones. I’ve covered this topic elsewhere and you can find out more about current research in a post from Authority Nutrition.
So, the fat content itself isn’t bad, but what about the fat profile?
Well, Brazil nuts get around 20% of their fat from saturated fat. But, again, research suggests that saturated fat isn’t unhealthy. Likewise, reducing it often has no significant impacts on health or heart disease risk (7,8).
For that matter, the fat content and profile of Brazil nuts is actually extremely healthy, especially for anybody interested in a low carb diet for weight loss.
Nevertheless, there is one less appealing aspect of the fat profile to consider, which is the ratio of omega fatty acids.
When it comes to health, omega-3 and omega-6 are particularly important. Omega-3 is the type of fat that you find in fish oil and it is associated with no shortage of benefits. In fact, this is the reason that so many people take fish oil supplements.
However, most people don’t get enough omega-3 and instead get large amounts of omega-6. This creates a skewed ratio, which can strongly contribute to inflammation. In contrast, consuming higher levels of omega-3 and less omega-6 can lower inflammation and improve health (9,10).
Like many other nuts, Brazil nuts contain a high ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. In particular, a one ounce serving has 5 mg of omega-3 and around 5,700 mg of omega-6 (11).
That ratio is far from ideal but it isn’t all bad news either. In particular, you aren’t getting a large amount of omega-6 (a little over half a gram).
So, the impacts on health aren’t likely to be dramatic. As long as you don’t eat an excessive amount of the nuts, they will offer far more benefits than disadvantages.
Besides that, if you do want to cut down on omega-6 intake, there are better ways to do so. Reducing your reliance on processed vegetable oils and turning to olive oil and avocado oil instead is a more effective approach.
Why Are Brazil Nuts Good for You?
As you can probably guess, the key reason Brazil nuts are so significant is the nutrients that they contain. Yet, Brazil nuts are often skipped over in lists of the best nuts. Instead, options like almonds tend to be favored much more highly.
But, despite this, there are some powerful benefits that Brazil nuts offer, which make them so significant for health. Many of these are related to the benefits that selenium offers.
Heart Health Benefits. As with other types of nuts, Brazil nuts offer benefits to heart health, particularly because they contain a range of healthy fats.
Weight Loss. The protein and fat content of Brazil nuts strongly contribute to weight loss, making it easier to avoid overeating. Likewise, the nuts are a valuable addition to specific weight loss diets, particularly low carb approaches.
Anti-Inflammatory. Brazil nuts do also have an anti-inflammatory impact due to the presence of ellagic acid (13), along with similar impacts from the selenium (14). These aspects may help to balance any negative impacts from the omega-6 content.
Fighting Cancer. Some people claim that Brazil nuts can help to decrease cancer risk, an outcome that has been supported by early research into selenium (15). Likewise, the ellagic acid may help to reduce cancer risk as well (16).
Improved Mood and Mental Health. Selenium has also been linked to improvements in mood, lower anxiety and a reduced risk of depression (17). Likewise, nuts in general are associated with mood improvements (18).
Thyroid Control. Some research suggests that being deficient in selenium could result in thyroid problems (19,20). Likewise, selenium may help promote thyroid health (21). As a result, Brazil nuts offer an important way to protect your thyroid.
Getting the Most Out of Brazil Nuts
Brazil nuts do offer some fairly powerful benefits but there are also some things to consider if you want to get the most out of them.
The first area is serving size.
As with other nuts, Brazil nuts are fairly dense sources of calories. Likewise, it’s easy to eat too much of them, often without even meaning to.
So, to get the most benefits from Brazil nuts, it’s critical to limit your intake. One way to do so is to simply portion the nuts out. By doing so, you can make sure you only have a single serving in front of you.
Another area to consider is storage. If they’re still in the shell, Brazil nuts will keep for around 4 to 6 months, as long as they are in a cool and dry place.
However, the storage time decreases considerably once they have been shelled. In the pantry, they will last for 2 to 4 weeks. However, they may be stored for 9 months in the fridge or up to a year in the freezer (22). In all those cases, the Brazil nuts need to be in an airtight container.
When Brazil nuts do go rancid, they tend to have a noticeable bitter taste. If this happens, they need to be thrown out.
On a side note, the high fat content of Brazil nuts means that they go rancid faster than other types of nuts. This can be a significant problem and means you have to pay close attention to how old the nuts are.
One final consideration is safety. As a general rule, nuts are safe to consume and are a common component of the human diet.
Nevertheless, some people do have allergies to tree nuts, which includes Brazil nuts. Some people are also allergic to some nuts and not to others (23). This means that you should pay close attention to the way that your body responds to make sure you don’t have any allergic reactions.
Additionally, allergic reactions can develop over time, especially if you are already allergic to another type of tree nut. This doesn’t mean that you should avoid nuts. Instead, it simply means that you should be aware of your responses when consuming them.
That’s a good general approach for any food and is how people discover they are sensitive to other ingredients, like milk or gluten.
Thankfully, Brazil nuts are also easy to find. In particular, you should be able to get them at your local grocery store. But, if not, there are also some good online options, such as the one below.
Nuts and Health
For the most part, nuts tend to be healthy regardless of the specific type you choose. In particular, each option offers a range of healthy fats and other beneficial nutrients. For that matter, research suggests that the most important decision for health is the amount of nuts you consume, rather than the type (24).
So, if you can maintain a decent serving size (such as a few nuts or an ounce at a time), nuts can be a good option for boosting your health.
This post has focused on Brazil nuts, which truly do offer considerable implications for health. But, other nuts also contain beneficial nutrients and can be equally valuable for your health.
Some of the main options and their differences can be seen in the table below, and more detailed discussions of each nut have been conducted elsewhere on this site.
Swipe left to view more columns
Data is for 1 ounce of nuts and sourced from SELF Nutrition Data
As you can see, nuts do vary in all of the major macronutrients, along with calorie content. But, they can all be healthy, especially as part of a balanced diet.
For that matter, the healthiest approach you can take is to vary which nuts you consume. Doing so gives you access to the widest range of nutrients and offers the highest potential for health benefits overall.
Nevertheless, which nuts you choose will strongly depend on the diet that you are following. For example, some paleo dieters avoid cashews, claiming that it is a legume. However, other people (like Paleo Magazine) refute that perspective. Likewise, peanuts are avoided on the paleo diet, as they are a legume.
Nuts are not all equal when it comes to a ketosis diet. Instead, some have higher levels of carbs than others. This is a particularly significant issue for both cashews and pistachios. On the other hand, Brazil nuts are a good choice for ketosis, especially as their net carb levels are very low and most of the calories come from fat.
Overall then, nuts can be powerful for health and Brazil nuts are one clear example of this.
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