The health benefits of Brazil nuts

Are Brazil nuts good for you, and can you eat too many? Discover which nutrients they provide, including selenium, magnesium, vitamins and healthy fats.

A bowl of brazil nuts

What are Brazil nuts?

Brazil nuts are actually edible seeds from the Brazil nut tree, and they can be eaten raw or blanched. The nuts grow inside a round, coconut-like shell, in orange-like segments which, when split open, reveals around 12-20 Brazil nuts.

Nutritional benefits of Brazil nuts

Brazil nuts are largely a monounsaturated fat, which is a good fat, but they also contain some protein as well as being a good source of important nutrients including magnesium, zinc, calcium, vitamin E and some B vitamins.

Brazil nuts are most renowned, though, for their high selenium content, and are in fact the richest known food source of this important nutrient. Selenium is an essential mineral and antioxidant that is needed daily for a healthy immune system and it helps to prevent damage to our nerves and cells. In fact, just five-six Brazil nuts a day will provide your recommended daily allowance of selenium.

Are Brazil nuts good for the brain?

Nuts, including Brazil nuts, contain an antioxidant known as ellagic acid and a study last year by Neurochemical Research found that ellagic acid has an anti-inflammatory effect that could provide neuroprotective benefits, although research is ongoing.

Discover the 10 foods to eat to boost your brainpower.

Are Brazil nuts good for cholesterol?

Thanks to their low saturated fat and high unsaturated fat profile, nuts, including Brazil nuts, have been shown to reduce total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (known as ‘bad cholesterol’). In fact, just one serving of Brazil nuts (around six-10 nuts) is sufficient enough to improve lipid profiles in healthy adults.

Read more about how diet affects cholesterol.

A printed document about high blood cholesterol with a tape measure across it

Are Brazil nuts good for thyroid health?

Selenium is a key nutrient needed to help the thyroid function well and consuming Brazil nuts could improve thyroid hormone levels in some people. 

Could Brazil nuts help to prevent cancer?

While there are no single 'superfoods' that can prevent cancer and certain risk factors for cancer are unrelated to diet, there is evidence that eating a healthy diet can reduce the risk of cancer. A study published by the Journal of the National Cancer Institute also suggested that adequate selenium levels were linked with lower risks of certain cancers such oesophageal and stomach cancer.

Are Brazil nuts good for moods?

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

Are Brazil nuts safe for everyone to eat?

On the whole, Brazil nuts are safe for everyone to eat but be aware that if you eat too many, or eat them while taking selenium supplements, you could consume too much selenium, known as selenosis. This may then cause symptoms such as hair loss and brittle nails. See your GP if you are concerned.

Brazil nut recipes

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

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This article was published on 9th October 2017.

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.

All health content on bbcgoodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other healthcare professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local healthcare provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.

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