Brazil Nut Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Brazil nuts, annotated

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman 

The Brazil nut (Bertholletia excelsa) is a large nut that's loaded with healthy fats and powerful micronutrients. While the name implies otherwise, the majority of Brazil nuts in the United States are actually imported from Bolivia. If you don't typically eat Brazil nuts, here are some interesting facts that might encourage you to give them a try.

Brazil Nuts Nutrition Facts

The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for 1 ounce (28g) of dried Brazil nuts (about 6 nuts).

  • Calories: 187
  • Fat: 19g
  • Sodium: 0.9mg
  • Carbohydrates: 3.3g
  • Fiber: 2.1g
  • Sugars: 0.7g
  • Protein: 4g

Carbs

Brazil nuts provide 3.3 grams of carbohydrates per serving. The majority of this comes from fiber (2.1 grams) with less than 1 gram of natural sugar.

Fats

Most of the calories in Brazil nuts come from fat with about 19 grams per serving. The majority of fatty acids in Brazil nuts are heart-healthy. Of the 19 grams, there are about 7 grams of monounsaturated fats, 7 grams of polyunsaturated fats, and 4.6 grams of saturated fats.

Protein

Brazil nuts have 4 grams of protein per serving.

Vitamins and Minerals

Brazil nuts are an excellent source of selenium, providing almost 1,000% of the daily value in just 6–8 nuts. Brazil nuts also provide calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, and vitamin E.

Health Benefits

Brazil nuts provide many of the same health benefits that are associated with other tree nuts, along with specific effects related to their unique nutritional profile.

Aids Diabetes Management

The unsaturated fat content of Brazil nuts is protective against the progression of diabetes. A meta-analysis of 102 randomized controlled trials found that replacing carbohydrates and saturated fats with polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fats lowers hemoglobin A1c levels (a key indicator of glycemic control). Instead of high-fat meats and cheeses or sugary baked goods, Brazil nuts are a healthy alternative to satisfy cravings between meals.

Promotes Heart Health

Higher plasma selenium levels are associated with a lower risk of coronary heart disease. A recent study demonstrated that within 3 hours of ingesting Brazil nuts, plasma selenium levels increase. This effect lasts for up to 24 hours.

Furthermore, serum LDL levels went down and HDL levels increased when tested nine hours post-ingestion of Brazil nuts. In general, tree nuts have been shown to provide several heart health benefits. This study shows that Brazil nuts may be especially effective in matters of the heart.

Aids Immunity

An ounce of Brazil nuts provides just over 1 milligram of zinc. The average adult requires 8–11 milligrams per day, so Brazil nuts can easily cover 10% of this requirement. Zinc deficiencies cause immune system impairments because zinc is required for the activation of T-lymphocytes.

Poor zinc status is associated with higher rates of pneumonia and other infections. Brazil nuts are a beneficial source of zinc, especially for vegetarians who don't consume zinc through animal foods.

Supports Thyroid Function

Selenium concentrates in the thyroid gland where it assists with hormone synthesis. Studies have shown that for women, serum selenium reduces the risk of goiters despite the presence of an iodine deficiency. Other studies suggest that selenium slows the progression of thyroid disease, producing a higher reported quality of life. While there are no official recommendations for supplementation, eating Brazil nuts can help keep selenium levels from dipping.

Maintains Strong Bones

Along with calcium, Brazil nuts are a good source of magnesium, an essential mineral for bone density. In a serving of Brazil nuts, you get 105 milligrams of magnesium. This equates to 25%–33% of the recommended dietary allowance for most adults.

Magnesium is known to be involved with bone formation and the behavior of bone-regulating cells. Studies on both men and women have indicated that higher magnesium intakes lead to greater bone mineral densities.

Allergies

Brazil nut allergies have been reported and may or may not be associated with other tree nut allergies depending on the individual. Brazil nut allergies can be severe and life-threatening and usually first appear at a young age. More mild symptoms of Brazil nut allergies can include rhinitis, rash, or asthma. If you suspect that you or your child has an allergy to Brazil nuts, see an allergist for an evaluation.

Adverse Effects

Although the selenium in Brazil nuts is beneficial in moderation, it is easy to exceed the tolerable upper intake level of 400 micrograms with a single serving. Dietary supplements are more often result in toxicity than food, however, regular consumption of Brazil nuts may also lead to these undesired effects. Symptoms of too much selenium include brittle hair and nails, or more seriously, neurological symptoms, respiratory distress, kidney failure, or tremors. 

Varieties

Brazil nuts can be found in most grocery stores sold as dry-roasted, sliced, raw (in-shell or shelled), blanched or roasted, and with or without added salt. Purchase Brazil nuts on their own or as part of mixed nuts.

When It's Best

While roasted Brazil nuts can be found year-round, fresh Brazil nuts in the shell are best during the fall and early winter. Shake Brazil nut shells to determine their condition. If you hear rattling, the nut inside is shriveled and dried out.

Storage and Food Safety

Brazil nuts can be stored in or out of the shell. They last longer in the refrigerator or freezer when kept in an airtight container. Avoid nuts that have started to smell rancid or become soft. Roasted, salted nuts have a longer storage life than fresh but also contain more sodium.

How to Prepare

Brazil nuts can be eaten raw or roasted. Many people describe them as having a texture that is similar to coconut. You can roast Brazil nuts on the stovetop or in the oven.

  • If you use the stovetop method, put a layer of nuts in a heavy skillet and roast over medium heat for 5–10 minutes making sure to keep the pan moving so the nuts don't burn. 
  • To roast Brazil nuts in the oven, preheat it to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast for 5–10 minutes.

Sprinkle roasted or raw Brazil nuts on a salad for a boost of protein and healthy fats. You can also substitute the pine nuts in pesto for Brazil nuts or blend and strain them to make Brazil nut milk.

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Article Sources
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