Everything you need to know about Brazil nuts
Whether you have enjoyed Brazil nuts for years or are considering trying them for the first time, Brazil nuts can be a flavor packed and healthy addition to your diet. Here is everything you need to know about Brazil nuts.
Let’s take a little look into the background of this protein packed and nutritious nut from South America. Brazil nuts are very unique in the way that they are grown and harvested. Here’s some information on the Brazil nut, how they can help your health and well being, as well as how you can easily add them to your daily diet.
What are Brazil nuts?
Actually a seed, rather than a nut, Brazil nuts are known for their smooth texture, and creamy nutty taste. Grown in South America in non-flooded rainforest regions, Brazil nuts are an important part of daily diet in the Amazon region. One of the most valuable products from the Amazon, Brazil nuts have also been enjoyed and exported for hundreds of years and are particularly popular in Europe and North America. The Brazil nut industry plays an important role in protecting the rainforest, since the fruit are harvested from the forest floor and not by disturbing the trees. So it’s not just your body that will thank you for munching on these nutritious nuts, the Amazon rainforest will too!
If you’ve never googled a photograph of a Brazil nut tree before, I suggest you do so now, because they are awesome! Brazil nut trees, also known as Bertholletia excelsa are one of the tallest and longest living trees in the Amazon rainforest. They grow up to 50 meters in height and often live to be 800 to 1000 years old. When properly pollinated, the fruit of the Brazil nut takes about 14 months to mature and is similar in appearance to a wooden coconut, weighing up to 5 pounds. Inside the hard shell of the Brazil nut fruit are between 8 and 24 triangular seeds that are packed in together similar to orange segments. The seeds that are found inside are what is valued for dietary and nutritional purposes.
Check this out; in addition to being used as a food source, the oil extracted from Brazil nuts is used in the production of many health and beauty products as well as clock oil. (Who knew?) Brazil nut tree wood is also highly valued and used for a variety of purposes including flooring, furniture and instruments. Whether it’s used to make your kitchen table or your favourite vegan cheese, there’s no denying how versatile the Brazil nut really is!
Where do Brazil nuts come from?
Despite the name, Bolivia is actually the world’s larger producer of Brazil nuts. Grown in Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Brazil, these naturally harvested nuts come from trees native to the Amazon rainforest. Brazil nut trees grow best in the lowland rainforest and are often found in groups of 50 or more trees which are also known as stands.
How are Brazil nuts grown?
While a small amount of Brazil nuts are grown on plantations, most Brazil nuts are harvested directly from the rainforest because of the unique jungle ecosystem of pollination and regrowth.
To bear fruit, Brazil nut trees require that their flowers be pollinated by a specific species of bee. The orchid bee lives in the forest where the trees are found, and also requires the fragrance from a certain Amazon orchid in order to mate. If the orchid is not available, neither are the bees. With no bees to pollinate the flowers, Brazil nut trees fail to produce fruit, which is why they are usually only successful in forest areas instead of developed plantations.
Believe it or not, Brazil nuts trees rely on the help of a rodent to help with planting of new trees! The South American agouti is a small (super cute) animal that is able to break apart the hard and woody Brazil nut shells. After they eat their fill, the agouti buries the remaining seeds, allowing the Brazil nut trees to reproduce. Because the agouti often bury the seeds in shady areas due to the heavy canopy of the rainforest, many seeds will not start to germinate for many years, staying dormant until light is made available by a fallen tree. Once the Brazil nut tree starts to grow, it can take 15 to 30 years to start producing fruit.
How are Brazil nuts harvested?
Because the majority of Brazil nuts are found in the forest, the industry relies on migrant workers to collect the fruit. Known as castaneros, these brave farmers collect the Brazil nut fruit and help transport it to processing facilities. Below you’ll find out why these castaneros are so brave.
Brazil nuts start to fall between December and March. During this time, the castaneros move to the forest where they build camps and start their search for Brazil nuts. Using machetes, the castaneros open the fruit and place the nuts in bags until they can be taken out of the forest. They are then transported, usually via river, to the processing plants where they are peeled, dried, packaged and exported.
Here’s what shocked us- The tall height of Brazil nut trees and the large size of the Brazil nut fruit can make collection a dangerous job. When the nuts fall from the trees, the five pound shells fall at nearly 50 miles per hour and have been known to damage vehicles or even cause death when falling on individuals. Brazil nut harvesters keep this danger in mind while working, and often wear wide wooden hats for protection and do not collect fruit on windy days. The pods of fruit fall to the forest floor where they are collected. An established Brazil nut tree can produce as many as 300 fruits, which can harvest up to 6000 nuts per tree. Crazy right?
Brazil nut collection and the related business around it,is an important source of income for many forest communities. The Brazil nut business also encourages communities to conserve the existing forest. As long as Brazil nuts are in demand, there is an incentive to keep the forest preserved. It’s a win-win!
What are the health benefits of Brazil nuts?
Okay now that you know all about where they come from and how they’re harvested, let's jump ahead and talk about what these dense little powerhouses can do for you! In addition to being delicious and nutritious, Brazil nuts also have many heath health benefits. Here are some of the ways Brazil nuts help your health.
Brazil nuts can lower cholesterol
Several different studies have shown that regular Brazil nut consumption can help lower bad cholesterol. Brazil nuts are also high in heart healthy fats including omega-3 fatty acids, including palmitoleic acid and oleic acid. These unsaturated fats as well as the other vital nutrients in Brazil nuts such as vitamin E and magnesium can help balance cholesterol.
Brazil nuts are good for heart health
Loaded with magnesium, potassium, and calcium, Brazil nuts are great for the heart. These nutrients help maintain blood pressure and Brazil nuts are also robust in good fats which can lower the risks for developing cardiovascular disease when eaten as part of a healthy diet.
Brazil nuts are high in selenium
Brazil nuts are probably most famous for being an excellent dietary source of selenium. Did you know that just one or two Brazil nuts daily can provide you with the daily recommended amount of this important trace mineral? Vital for the body, selenium has antioxidant benefits and can assist with inflammation. Since as many as 1 billion people worldwide have selenium deficiency, Brazil nuts can be a beneficial addition to the daily diets of many individuals.
Brazil nuts help with inflammation
Because of their high amounts of selenium, zinc and ellagic acid, Brazil nuts are a valuable dietary food source to help inflammation. Selenium can also reduce inflammation by fighting free radicals and increasing antioxidant activity. This can help reduce that nasty swelling, stiffness and pain from inflammation!
Brazil nuts can help improve your skin
When I say that there’s beauty in Brazil nuts, I mean it literally! The vitamins and minerals in Brazil nuts such as selenium, Omega 3-fatty acids, vitamin C and vitamin E are beneficial in improving your skin. These combined nutrients along with the powerful antioxidants in Brazil nuts help remove free radicals, which can reduce fine lines, wrinkles and improve your skin’s appearance.
The oil in Brazil nuts is also an amazing moisturizer. It can aid in healing dry and damaged skin as well as help treat psoriasis and eczema. For this reason, Brazil nut oil is often used in skin care products and anti-wrinkle treatments. The zinc in Brazil nuts can help treat acne, as well as reduce its appearance and also combat skin redness.
Brazil nuts can improve your hair
Not only are they good for your skin, Brazil nuts are kind to your hair as well! One of the amino acids in Brazil nuts, L-arginine not only helps hair grow thicker, stronger, and healthier, but it is also known to prevent hair loss. This amino acid is often used to treat baldness and alopecia because it stimulates new hair follicles and improves blood circulation.
Brazil nuts can help build stronger muscles
Packed with protein, the essential amino acids in Brazil nuts can help strengthen muscles. Magnesium, also found in Brazil nuts, can aid in preventing sore muscles, making them an ideal snack to consume with workouts.
Brazil nuts can help with weight loss
High in dietary fiber and protein, Brazil nuts are dense in nutrients and provide a sense of fullness which can assist in a weight loss plan when eaten in moderation. Brazil nuts are also low in carbohydrates and can be incorporated as part of a keto diet. The B-vitamins in Brazil nuts can help boost metabolism.
Brazil nuts can help your immune system
High in zinc and other nutrients, Brazil nuts can supplement your immune system to help fight flu, colds and other illnesses.
Brazil nuts can boost testosterone
Trying for a baby? Brazil nuts may be able to help! The high amounts of selenium can help improve testosterone levels, increase the quality of sperm, sperm volume and motility. Brazil nuts also contain L-arginine which is beneficial in the treatment for erectile dysfunction.
Brazil nuts can help with pregnancy
Because of their high amounts of selenium, Brazil nuts can help with fertility, preventing birth defects and pregnancy. Low amounts of selenium have also been linked to low birth weight, miscarriages and preeclampsia.
Brazil nuts can help thyroid health
Selenium rich Brazil nuts can assist thyroid levels and functioning since the nutrient plays an important part in thyroid health. Selenium also protects the body from antibodies that can lead to thyroid disease.
Brazil nuts can help mood and depression
Studies have linked low levels of selenium to stress, anxiety and low levels of energy. Selenium rich nuts, such as Brazil nuts can improve these mood symptoms. Eating nuts also increases the metabolism of serotonin which controls mood, sleep and appetite.
Brazil nuts can help with mental function
In addition to selenium, Brazil nuts contain ellagic acid and thiamine which can help improve mental function and acuity, and improve mood. Studies have shown that regular consumption of Brazil nuts can help reduce cognitive decline and can
also aid in memory loss, particularly in older individuals when consumed regularly.
Brazil nuts are good for digestion
High in fiber, Brazil nuts are also good for the digestive system. A diet rich in fiber can help reduce chances of type-2 diabetes, colon cancer and cardiovascular disease. Brazil nuts can also help with other digestive issues including constipation, gastric ulcers and bloating.
Brazil nuts are good for your bones
High in copper, Brazil nuts can play an important part in aiding bone strength and health. Copper deficiency has also been known to be a contributor to osteoporosis. Brazil nuts also contain calcium, potassium and magnesium which can help keep bones strong.
How do you eat Brazil nuts?
Brazil nuts can be enjoyed whole, chopped, blended or grated. They are often eaten raw, roasted or cooked into recipes. There are endless recipe possibilities for this nutritious nut that can be used and eaten in many different ways. Check out how we roast our Brazil nuts here!
Delicious eaten alone or in recipes, Brazil nuts are a versatile food addition to many different diets and meal plans. Grind up Brazil nuts to add crunch on pastas, salads, yogurt, vegetables or ice cream and desserts. An excellent partner with chocolate, Brazil nuts can be used in many dessert recipes, including cakes, muffins and cookies or as a delicious dessert topping. Bake Brazil nuts in casseroles or add to soups or smoothies for a protein boost. Brazil nuts can be added to granola, or mix with dried fruit for a delicious trail mix. A valuable part of a vegan diet, Brazil nuts can also be used to make vegan milk, butters and cheese.
Do Brazil nuts spoil?
The high fat content in Brazil nuts can cause them to spoil, so be sure to store properly to keep them fresh. To prevent Brazil nuts from becoming rancid, be sure to store them in a tightly sealed container in a cool, dry place and avoid exposure to moisture and sunlight. Brazil nuts can also be refrigerated or frozen to help preserve them longer. Brazil nuts can be stored for 4 to 6 weeks in a pantry or cupboard and up to 9 months when refrigerated.
Are there any side effects of Brazil nuts?
While Brazil nuts are packed with protein, fiber and valuable nutrients, over consumption can also lead to weight gain due to the high amount of fats. The high amount of selenium in Brazil nuts can also lead to selenium poisoning if over consumed on a regular basis. Known as selenosis, symptoms can include hair loss as well as discolored hair and nails.
The bottom line is that Brazil nuts are the perfect addition to your pantry. Packed with antioxidants and many vitamins and nutrients, you really can’t go wrong with adding these to your weekly shop. So what are you waiting for? Stash up on premium Brazil nuts here!