What are Brazil nuts?

Brazil nuts are actually edible seeds from the Brazil nut tree – they can be eaten raw or blanched. The nuts grow inside a round, coconut-like shell in segments of about 12-20 Brazil nuts.


Health benefits of Brazil nuts include:

  • Rich in the mineral selenium
  • Source of mono-unsaturated fat
  • Good for the brain
  • May support healthy cholesterol levels
  • Good for thyroid health
  • Strong anti-inflammatory properties
  • May support mood balance
  • May support the immune system

Discover our full range of health benefit guides and find out more about the health benefits of nuts including the 10 healthiest nuts to eat. Also check out some of our delicious brazil nut recipes, from burritos to banana bread.

Nutritional profile of Brazil nuts

A 28g serving (about six nuts) contains approximately:

  • 186 calories
  • 4.1g protein
  • 2.1g fibre
  • 19g fat
  • 420mg selenium
  • 112mg magnesium
  • 198mg potassium
  • 48mg calcium
  • 1.22mg zinc
  • 7.2mg iron
Brazil nuts in shells

What are the 8 main health benefits of Brazil nuts?

1. Rich in the mineral selenium

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Brazil nuts are known for their high selenium content, they are actually the richest food source of this vital nutrient. Selenium is an essential mineral that is required to support a healthy immune system. In fact, a single Brazil nut may contain 68-91mcg of selenium, easily meeting the recommended daily allowance of between 60-75mcg.

2. Source of mono-unsaturated fat

Brazil nuts have a high proportion of monounsaturated fat (MUFA). Replacing saturated fats with these unsaturated ones has been shown to support blood flow and blood pressure, while those eating a MUFA-rich diet also report feeling more physically energised.

3. Good for the brain

Brazil nuts contain a plant chemical or polyphenol known as ellagic acid which has both protective and anti-inflammatory properties and may offer neuroprotective and anti-depressant effects on the brain. Further research has shown that selenium is involved in supporting key brain signalling pathways such as GABA and dopamine signalling within the central nervous system, which is of particular importance in conditions such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.

Discover the 10 foods to eat to boost your brainpower.

4. May support healthy cholesterol levels

Thanks to their heart-healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acid profile, high fibre and mineral rich content, Brazil nuts have been shown to reduce total and LDL cholesterol levels (known as ‘bad cholesterol’). In fact, just one serving of Brazil nuts is sufficient enough to improve lipid profiles in healthy adults.

Read more about how diet affects cholesterol.

5. Good for thyroid health

Selenium is a key nutrient for supporting healthy thyroid function, with studies showing that Brazil nut consumption may improve thyroid hormone levels in those who were deficient. While little research has been done to look at the direct effect of Brazil nuts on specific thyroid conditions such as Hashimoto's thyroiditis and Graves' disease, some evidence has shown improvements in mood and immune function, following selenium supplementation.

6. Strong anti-inflammatory properties

Brazil nuts are rich in protective antioxidants which may help to protect your cells from a process called oxidative damage. As well as this, selenium increases levels of glutathione peroxidase, an enzyme which helps to reduce inflammation and protect the body from oxidative damage.

7. May support mood balance

Low selenium levels have also been linked with several mood-related disorders including anxiety and depression. One study demonstrated that these symptoms decreased after just five weeks of taking 100mcg selenium a day (which would be the equivalent of about 1- 1.5 Brazil nuts).

8. May support the immune system

The mineral selenium acts as a protective antioxidant, it also supports immunity and helps wounds to heal. Brazil nuts contain vitamin E and the polyphenols ellagic and gallic acid, so may enhance our defence mechanisms.

Are Brazil nuts safe for everyone to eat?

On the whole, Brazil nuts are a safe and healthy inclusion for most people, however, they are one of the six tree nuts which may cause allergy for some people.

In order to get your daily requirement for selenium you only need one to three Brazil nuts a day, because we only need this mineral in very small (trace) amounts. If you eat too many, or consume them in addition to selenium supplements, you may ingest too much selenium. This may result in selenosis which may cause symptoms such as hair loss and brittle nails in some individuals.

In most cases, consuming 350mcg of selenium or less per day is unlikely to cause an issue, however it is always advisable to speak to your GP or dietician before making any major dietary changes.

Overall, are Brazil nuts healthy?

As long as you do not have an allergy to them, Brazil nuts are a healthy inclusion to a varied, balanced diet. They offer numerous health benefits and are a good source of nutrients including unsaturated fats, as well as many vitamins and minerals, including selenium. As with all nuts, they are best eaten in moderation as part of a balanced diet.

Brazil nut recipes

Chicken with pomegranate & Brazil nuts
Sweet & spicy nuts
Tropical treat muesli
Nutty watercress pesto

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This article was reviewed on 24 April 2024 by Kerry Torrens

Nicola Shubrook is a nutritional therapist and works with both private clients and the corporate sector. She is an accredited member of the British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT) and the Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC). Find out more at urbanwellness.co.uk.


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