They come from the Brazil nut tree in the Amazon rainforest, and though they have brown, rigid shells, the nuts themselves are oblong and ivory colored. Though it has a relatively mild taste, the Brazil nut is mainly touted for its health benefits.
Even though they may not be particularly popular in the nut milk department, chowing down on just a few Brazil nuts a day is supposedly game-changing. So, is this true? Are Brazil nuts actually some sort of super food, or is this yet another trend that really really won't do anything for you? (We're looking at you, keto diet).
Are Brazil nuts healthy?
Like most nuts, Brazil nuts pack a punch in terms of healthy fats, vitamins, fiber, and — seeing as they are a type of nut — protein. But they're linked to a slew of other health benefits, as well.
According to Healthline, Brazil nuts also have high concentrations of magnesium, copper, and zinc. They also contain antioxidants, which can reduce inflammation, and may even stave off cancer-causing free radicals.
But Brazil nuts are becoming especially popular because they contain large amounts of the mineral selenium. In fact, according to Healthline, they are one of the largest natural dietary sources of selenium.
How much selenium does one Brazil nut contain? And what are the benefits of selenium?
As previously mentioned, Brazil nuts contain more selenium than almost any other food source. In fact, according to The National Institute of Health, just one Brazil nut can contain up to 91 micrograms of selenium — which is pretty significant in relation to the recommended daily intake.
Along with regulating your hormones and also reducing inflammation, per the National Institute of Health, low selenium levels can cause thyroid issues, particularly in women.
Low selenium levels are also linked to certain types of cancer , cardiovascular disease, and even cognitive decline among the elderly.
You can, however, consume too much selenium — if you eat too many Brazil nuts, you can exceed the healthy limit. Too much can cause nausea, brittle hair, bad breath, nervous system problems, indigestion, and even mood swings. So like anything else, don't overdo it. Per University Hospitals, you shouldn't consume more than two Brazil nuts per day.
Does harvesting Brazil nuts impact the environment?
Unlike harvesting oil palm trees for palm oil, or almonds, harvesting Brazil nuts is pretty low-impact.
According to Forest News, they can only really reproduce and grow in natural rainforests. Large bees have to transfer pollen between trees, and when deforestation occurs in their surroundings, they can no longer produce nuts. Many have tried to maintain Brazil nut tree plantations, but it hasn't proven to be successful.
“In a way it’s a product that promotes forest conservation, because to keep harvesting nuts on a commercial scale, you need to protect the forest,” environmental scientist Manuel Guariguata explained via Forest News.
So keep eating Brazil nuts, guilt-free — just don't eat too many.