What Are Brazil Nuts Good For?

Brazil Nuts’ Health Boost
Scientific name: Bertholletia excels

Brazil Nuts Nutrition Facts

If you ever find yourself walking through the Amazon rainforest, remember to not only watch your step turn your eyes to the skies, too. Why? Because if you’re not cautious, you can fall victim to a Brazil nut “cannonball” fruits of the Brazil nut tree that fall to the ground.

While it sounds like fun, beware: these pods can weigh as much as 5 pounds apiece, and when they fall, they do so at a speed of more than 50 miles per hour. If one hits your head, you can end up with a serious injury or possibly die!1

Nevertheless, Brazil nuts are a prized crop, and are now exported from the South American continent to various parts of the world. Keep reading to discover more interesting facts about this remarkable tree nut, and why it’s a great addition to your diet.

What Are Brazil Nuts?

Nutrient-rich and delicious, Brazil nuts (Bertholletia excelsa) are harvested from trees native to South American countries, such as Colombia, Venezuela, Peru and, obviously, Brazil.2 The trees are often found along the banks of major rivers, and are considered one of the Amazon’s giant trees.

Brazil nut trees can grow as high as 200 feet, with branches and flowers that provide shelter and flowers for various forest creatures.3 The edible nuts themselves are found inside the fruit of the tree these are round pods with a coconut-like shell. When cracked open, the nuts inside are found in orange-like segments. There are about 12 to 20 Brazil nuts in each pod.4 Each mature tree produces over 250 pounds of nuts per year.

For decades, biologists have been puzzled by Brazil nuts, particularly how they reproduce. Eventually, they discovered that Brazil nut trees rely on bees and other plants like orchids to thrive. The agouti, a guinea pig-like mammal (but much larger), also contributes to the Brazil nuts’ reproductive process. These creatures have small, chisel-like teeth capable of penetrating the pod, so they can eat the nuts, or drop them into the soil where they germinate and grow into new trees.5

Today, the Brazil nut industry is a global business that’s worth $50 million per year. Nut harvesters gather the fallen pods and chop them open using a sharp tool.6

Brazil nuts can be eaten raw or blanched. They can be added to different recipes or enjoyed as a snack, with a drizzle of salt. These nuts are very crunchy, but with an almost creamy flavor. Try salted Brazil nuts they’ll provide you with an interesting combination of textures and flavors.7

Benefits of Brazil Nuts

There’s a lot to love about Brazil nuts. For one, they are loaded with healthy fats, fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. They’re a great source of organic selenium, a powerful antioxidant-boosting mineral that offers potential for warding off cancer.8 When compared to pecans and macadamias, though, Brazil nuts are a bit lower in protein and fat yet they still provide wholesome benefits. In fact, Brazil nuts may:

 

  • Help manage blood pressure levels. Nutrients like calcium, sodium, magnesium and potassium are all necessary in blood pressure control, and Brazil nuts have high amounts of these heart healthy nutrients.9
  • Give your heart health a boost. The palmitoleic acid and oleic acid in Brazil nuts have been linked to balanced cholesterol profile and boosting heart health, through the elimination of dangerous omega-6 fatty acids from the body.10
  • Help improve thyroid function. Being deficient in selenium can actually affect thyroid metabolism. In fact, selenium acts as a catalyst for the production of active thyroid hormones. One study, for example, found improvement in the low thyroid levels of people who consumed Brazil nuts as a selenium supplement.11
  • Keep your skin healthy and help ward off acne. The selenium in the nuts not only helps improve skin elasticity, but gives it a healthy glow as well. This is because selenium stimulates glutathione activity. Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant compound that may help eliminate free radicals from the skin. What’s more, it may help protect against acne, thanks to the high zinc content in the nuts.12

Uses for Brazil Nuts

You will never run out of uses for Brazil nuts, because, like other types of tree nuts, they are incredibly flexible, and blend well with the food they’re added to. The nuts can be mixed into your morning porridge, drizzled all over salads, or added to trail mixes that you bring to the gym, as a pre- or post-workout snack.

These Brazil Nut Recipes Are Good Dairy Alternatives

If you’re lactose-intolerant, Brazil nut milk can be a great alternative to dairy, but without triggering unpleasant symptoms. Here’s an easy recipe from Dr. Oz:13

Brazil Nut Milk Recipe

Brazil Nut Milk Recipe

Ingredients:

2 cups Brazil nuts

1 vanilla bean

4 cups water

Procedure:

  1. Soak the Brazil nuts and vanilla bean in a large bowl of water for eight hours.
  2. Discard soaking water and rinse the nuts and vanilla bean.
  3. Blend nuts, 4 cups of water and vanilla bean in a blender.
  4. Strain pulp from the milk using a nut milk bag. You can save pulp for another use.
  5. Serve the milk or use in recipes.

Another dairy alternative you can try is Brazil nut cheese. This is a light and tasty vegan cheese, and although it takes a couple of days to make, the end product is certainly worth it. Check out this recipe from One Green Planet:14

Brazil Nut Cheese Recipe

Ingredients:

3/4 cups filtered water

1 tablespoon nutritional yeast

3 teaspoons raw apple cider vinegar

1 cup raw Brazil nuts, soaked for 5 to 8 hours

1/4 cup za’atar (a Middle Eastern spice mixture)

Salt, to taste

Procedure:

  1. Combine the soaked Brazil nuts, water, apple cider, nutritional yeast and salt in a blender and blitz until it has a smooth consistency.
  2. Strain the mixture using a nut milk bag, squeezing out as much moisture as possible. Once the mixture is slightly moist and crumbly, leave it in the bag and place in a ramekin.
  3. Let the cheese sit for two days on the counter. Make sure it’s fermenting safely. The smell should be slightly sour but not foul.
  4. After two days, gently remove from the ramekin and roll out of the nut milk bag. Place the cheese on a small plate, free standing and without the ramekin, and refrigerate for another day.
  5. Once it has set, pour the za’atar onto a flat surface and roll the cheese over it to cover completely.

Cooking With Brazil Nuts: Two Must-Try Recipes

As mentioned above, Brazil nuts, like other tree nuts, are highly versatile in the kitchen. Whether you’re making an appetizer, a main course or even dessert, you can count on these nuts to provide a delicious crunch to your meals.  If you want to incorporate Brazil nuts into a healthy salad, try this recipe from Yummly:15

Beef Salad With Blue Cheese Dressing

Ingredients:

3 ounces toasted Brazil nuts, chopped

1 bunch watercress, trimmed

1/2 pound cherry tomatoes, halved

2 grass fed rib eye steaks, cooked and thinly sliced

pears, cored and thickly sliced

 

Ingredients for blue cheese dressing:

1/4 pound blue cheese, crumbled

1/2 cup buttermilk

1/4 cup homemade mayonnaise

1 tablespoon whole grain mustard

Procedure:

  1. Combine steak, tomatoes, watercress, Brazil nuts and pears in a bowl.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine bleu cheese dressing ingredients and mix well. Season to taste.
  3. Drizzle the dressing over the salad before serving and toss well.

If a side dish is what you need, however, check out this creative way of infusing Brazil nuts into pesto, adapted from the website Food and Wine:16

Roasted Broccoli With Brazil Nut Pesto

Ingredients:

1/4 cup Brazil nuts, coarsely chopped

2 tablespoons water

1 large garlic clove, chopped

5 tablespoons coconut oil

1 tablespoon tarragon, chopped

1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1/4 cup Brazil nuts, coarsely chopped

3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

2 1/2 pounds broccoli, large stems discarded, cut into 4-inch-long florets

Procedure:

  1. Preheat your oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. In a food processor, add the parsley, Brazil nuts, tarragon, lemon zest, garlic and water, and pulse until it forms a coarse paste.
  2. Add 3 tablespoons of the coconut oil and parmesan cheese, and then process until it forms a slightly smooth paste. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Toss the broccoli florets with 2 tablespoons of coconut oil, and spread on a rimmed baking sheet in an even layer. Season with salt and pepper, and then roast for eight minutes or longer, until the florets have browned and are crisp-tender. Transfer to a platter, drizzle the pesto sauce and serve warm.

Brazil Nuts Nutrition Facts

Brazil Nuts

Serving Size: 133 grams
  Amt. Per
Serving
% Daily
Value*
Calories 872 44%
Calories from Fat 740  
Total Fat 88.4g 136%
Saturated Fat 20.1g 101%
Trans Fat 0 g  
Cholesterol 0.0mg 0%
Sodium 4.0mg 0%
Total Carbohydrates 16.3g 5%
Dietary Fiber 10.0g 40%
Sugar 3.1g  
Protein 19.0g 38%
Vitamin A 0.0IU 0%
Calcium 213mg 21%

*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

For Added Variety in Your Diet, Munch on Brazil Nuts

Brazil nuts travel a long way to reach your plate, which is why you should appreciate them more. In terms of flavor and versatility, they will not disappoint you because their creamy and nutty goodness can work for a wide variety of dishes.

Nutritionally speaking, these nuts are a powerhouse, too offering healthy fats, antioxidants, fiber, vitamins and minerals, particularly selenium. So stock up on Brazil nuts, and reach for them whenever you need something to munch on to keep you going through the day.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Brazil Nuts

Q. Where do Brazil nuts come from?

A. Brazil nuts come from the "fruit" of Brazil nut trees, which are native to South American countries. The edible nuts are found inside, in orange-like segments. There are 12 to 20 Brazil nuts in each pod. Each mature Brazil nut tree can produce over 250 pounds of nuts per year.

Q. Are Brazil nuts good for you?

A. Yes. Brazil nuts come with healthy fats, fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Selenium, a standout nutrient in these nuts, is known for helping protect against cancer.

Q. Where to buy Brazil nuts?

A. You can buy Brazil nuts from grocery stores or health stores. Make sure to look for high-quality, unprocessed Brazil nuts.