Many exotic and unique plants, nuts and berries can be found deep in the heart of Brazil’s lush forests. Many of these jungle plants contain nutrients and other highly beneficial qualities. Brazil nuts come from the Brazil nut tree and are consumed and used in a variety of ways for their essential health-giving properties. They are in fact considered to be extremely important in maintaining high levels of health and contributing to a long life! Native people to the Amazon have long celebrated the life-giving qualities of Brazil nuts. Below we explore some of the most pertinent facts about Brazil nuts.
1. The Brazil Nut Tree
The Brazil nut tree is native not only to Brazil but also to other countries in South America, namely Bolivia, Venezuela, Eastern Colombia and Eastern Peru. In Brazil, the trees grow along the banks of the Amazon River in clusters. The trees are among the longest-living and tallest species that exist in the rain forests (it is thought the trees can live anywhere between 500 and 700 years!). They can grow as tall as 50 meters with long trunks or stems that then emerge into a wide canopy of foliage at the top.
2. The Fruit Pods
In season the trees can produce as many as 300 fruit pods. The fruit pods are a bit like coconuts, heavy and with a hard outer shell. Within the shell are between 10- 25 seeds or kernels laid out in segments like an orange. Once ripened, the pods fall to the earth from the trees. Each kernel has its own shell too, and nestling inside this dark brown shell, are the edible, creamy white brazil nuts.
3. Natural Habitat
An interesting fact is that in their natural habitat the Brazil nut trees must rely upon certain rodents (namely the agoutis) for germination. These rodents eat the seeds (they are able to gnaw open the larger fruit pods) and then bury the remaining seeds. Over time, these buried seeds will germinate and become new saplings.
4. Health Components
Brazil nuts have many incredible health benefits when used in moderation as part of a sensible diet. They are composed of 12% carbohydrate and 14% protein. The remainder is fat content, however, the fats to be found are mainly health-giving fatty acids. Mono-unsaturated and poly-unsaturated fats that can help lower cholesterol and prevent certain diseases.
5. Vitamin- E
Brazil nuts are a fantastic source of Vitamin- E, an important vitamin in fighting free radicals and the damage they can cause. It helps repair damaged cells and has even been included in studies for preventing cancer, cataracts and Alzheimers. Vitamin E is also crucial to skin health.
6. Source of Selenium
Brazil nuts are the densest and highest natural food sources of the mineral Selenium, an antioxidant with a long list of health-giving properties. Selenium is said to be of great benefit in the prevention of cancer and other diseases as well as playing some very important roles in assisting our bodies to be in optimum health.
7. How Selenium Can Benefit You
Consuming the selenium in Brazil nuts causes an interaction with proteins that then become selenoproteins. Selenium can help you maintain a healthy metabolism as it converts the inactive thyroid hormone into the active form. It protects against breast cancer in women (studies show that those who have a diet rich in selenium show fewer cases of cancer) and the same goes for Prostrate cancer in men. Selenium has also be proven to strengthen the immune system, boost sperm count in men and delay aging.
8. Brazil Nuts are Gluten Free
Brazil nuts are free from gluten, meaning they are a great addition to your diet if you are avoiding gluten-based products. People with celiac disease and wheat allergies can also rely on products made with Brazil nuts to substitute.
9. B-Complex Vitamins
Brazil nuts contain a high amount of other vitamins that are essential to a healthy body. The vitamins thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid and folates. All these vitamins are important in the reproduction of cells and are great for brain health.
10. Brazil Nut Oil
This oil is extracted from the Brazil nuts to become an important oil for many different uses. It is often used in massage oil an aromatherapy. It’s a good emollient for protecting skin and has some traditional medicinal properties too. It smells and tastes nice and sweet and can also be used in cooking or as salad dressing. (the high level of fatty acids making it a healthy choice of oil).
11. Brazil Nut Body Butter
Using Brazil nut oil extracts in the cosmetic and beauty industry is also common. The moisturizing effects of all those great vitamins, particularly E make Brazil nut body cream a very healthy choice for skin that gets dry easily or people who suffer from eczema.
12. Recipes with Brazil Nuts
Brazil nuts can be used in lots of different recipes or eaten raw, they are an important and healthy addition to any kitchen! They are great eaten alone or sprinkled or chopped on top of cereal an yoghurt. They can be incorporated into salads this way too or roasted and salted as a snack. Brazil nuts go really well with chocolate, and are often found in different desserts. The Brazil nut cake is a popular sweet treat made in Brazil using the nuts.
13. Don’t Eat Too Many!
It is also important to note that over-consumption of Brazil nuts can be harmful. This is due to the fact that too much Selenium can be dangerous and result in toxicity. The recommended daily amount is a handful of Brazil nuts (about 1.5 ounces or 2- 5 nuts). You should be sure to balance your diet with other mineral and selenium rich sources also and be aware of where all your nutrients are coming from.
14. Eat Brazil Nuts and Save the Environment
The fact is that Brazil nut trees can only successfully grow in their natural habitat of the rain forest. This means that as farmers and other commercial companies have been unable to grow them well in plantations, the very act of buying and consuming Brazil nuts means you are helping to sustain healthy rain forests in Brazil and other countries where these trees naturally grow. Not only that but your support also helps the local people who harvest the nuts and provide an incentive for everyone to keep the forests lush and pristine, protecting them from logging and mining.
15. Tradition in Indigenous Communities
There is a creation story among the indigenous Cinta Larga tribe that tells the tale that the people were born out of the fruit from the Brazil nut tree. The importance of the tree and its fruit has meant that a cooperative has been created in the area where this tribe lives helping the people to harvest the nuts, and sell them. This in turn has helped save large portions of rain forest from deforestation and helped generate income for the harvesters.
Have a good trip and travel!