Brazil Nuts: Origin, Health Benefits and Where to Buy Brazil Nuts

Brazil nuts

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Brazil nuts come from a tree that is grown in many parts of the Amazon, not just Brazil. They are large, in comparison to other nuts, and are often included in nut mixes. Just six nuts comprise a 1 ounce serving. Brazil nuts offer many nutrients, but are dense in calories and fat.

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Brazil nuts grow near the tops of 150-foot-tall trees in hard casings similar to coconuts, but they are never imported in this form. Inside the case, 20 to 30 nuts fit together like the sections of an orange. The case and its contents can weigh anything up to 4.5kg, and individual trees can produce as many as 450kg of nuts.

Botanically the Brazil is actually a seed, rather than a nut – the nut is the coconut-sized thing. The cases fall off the trees when ripe, and are easily heavy enough to kill a person. Fatal accidents are not uncommon among collectors – they stop work at once if the wind suddenly strengthens, because this can cause a bombardment.

The Brazil trees only grow wild, not cultivated, and their pollination depends on the presence of a particular bee. The presence of the bee, in turn, depends on the presence of a particular orchid…which doesn’t grow on the Brazil trees. As a result, trees which are removed from the forest simply stop fruiting.

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Brazil Nut Production

Around 20,000 tons of Brazil nuts are harvested each year, of which Bolivia accounts for about 50%, Brazil 40%, and Peru 10% (2000 estimates). In 1980, annual production was around 40,000 tons per year from Brazil alone, and in 1970, Brazil harvested a reported 104,487 tons of nuts.

Effects of Harvesting

Brazil nuts for international trade can come from wild collection rather than from plantations. This has been advanced as a model for generating income from a tropical forest without destroying it. The nuts are gathered by migrant workers known as castanheiros.

Analysis of tree ages in areas that are harvested show that moderate and intense gathering takes so many seeds, not enough are left to replace older trees as they die. Sites with light gathering activities had many young trees, while sites with intense gathering practices had hardly any young trees.

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Statistical tests were done to determine what environmental factors could be contributing to the lack of younger trees. The most consistent effect was found to be the level of gathering activity at a particular site. A computer model predicting the size of trees where people picked all the nuts matched the tree size data gathered from physical sites that had heavy harvesting.

Major Nutrients

One ounce of Brazil nuts contains 185 calories, 4 grams of protein and 3 grams of carbohydrates. Brazil nuts provide 2 grams of fiber per 1 ounce serving, which is 8 percent of the recommended daily allowance, or RDA, as per U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines based on a 2,000 calorie per day diet. They provide 5 percent of the RDA for calcium and 4 percent for iron.

Beneficial Fats

Most of the fat found in Brazil nuts is the healthy unsaturated varieties which — when used in lieu of saturated fat – can help to promote heart health, says the American Heart Association. Of the 19 grams of fat in 1 ounce 41 percent is monounsaturated and 34 percent is polyunsaturated. Keep in mind that Brazil nuts still contain the highest amount of saturated fat of any nut – one serving provides 21 percent of the RDA. Stick to just one serving of nuts daily to keep your daily calorie and fat intake under control.

Selenium

One ounce of Brazil nuts provides 774 percent of the daily recommended value of selenium. Selenium is a trace mineral essential to immune and thyroid function, explains the CIDPUSA Foundation which is dedicated to helping people who suffer from autoimmune disorders. While selenium deficiency does not often occur in Western countries, it may cause anxiety disorders, asthma, depression, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis and seizures.

Additional Nutritional Benefits

A 1-ounce serving of Brazil nuts contain 27 percent the RDA for magnesium which helps with the functioning of muscles, the production of protein and absorption of energy from food. They also offer 25 percent of the RDA for copper which can help the body use iron, maintain bone and connective tissue health, promote thyroid function, support the production of melanin and protect and repair tissues. With 20 percent of the RDA for phosphorous, Brazil nuts also support bone and teeth health. Brazil nuts also provide manganese, zinc, vitamin E, potassium and riboflavin.

Considerations

The high fat content of Brazil nuts means they go rancid easily. Store them in the refrigerator or freezer to maintain their freshness. Regularly eating multiple servings of Brazil nuts may cause negative health effects. The CIDPUSA Foundation notes that more than 10 times the RDA of selenium can cause brittle hair and fingernails, stimulate skin rashes, affect the nervous system, make you feel fatigued and disrupt digestion causing diarrhea.

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Unique and Delectable Ways to Use Brazil Nuts

While almonds, cashews and peanuts are most typically sought after, Brazil nuts are incredibly delicious and nutritious nuts that are often overlooked. Brazil nuts are rich and creamy in flavor, making them easily adaptable for many different dishes. All nuts are great for you, but Brazil nuts contain higher amounts of a certain nutrient than other common nuts. Brazil nuts contain all your dietary recommendations for selenium, which is necessary mineral for a thriving thyroid and healthy hormone function. Selenium also contributes to a healthy scalp and hair.

Though not as high as almonds, Brazil nuts also contain protein. Their healthy fats will keep your skin healthy and also improve your mood too. Brazil nuts are tasty to mix into trail mixes or add on top of your morning oatmeal or granola. They’re also easy to eat on the go and have more uses than just snacking.

Here are some unique ways to use Brazil nuts in any dish that will surely provide a sustainable and scrumptious addiction to a snack or meal.

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Milk

Put that almond milk on the back burner (at least for a little bit while you give this a try!). Once you try a sip of Brazil nut milk, it’s hard to ever go back. Nut milk can be made on your own and although the process can seem complex, the outcome is well worth it. The texture of Brazil nut milk is ultra creamy, making it perfect to put in your coffee, make chia seed pudding with, or even just to drink alone. Because of its richness, Brazil nut milk is a great milk to try out in place of soy or almond milk in baking (though those are still great options).

Plant-based milks differ in calories and neither almond or Brazil nut protein is incredibly rich in protein or fats since the water used to make the milk decreases the calories per cup. However, Brazil nuts have around 30-40 more calories than almonds do per cup, with 5 grams less of protein. Since they’re a highly nutritious nut rich in minerals, Brazil nuts have a place in your diet just like all nuts and seeds.

Give Brazil nut milk a try in these Vegan Cinnamon Latte Cupcakes, or try it in a savory dish such as Curry With Tofu and Grilled Vegetables. If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, try making flavored Brazil nut milk such as chocolate or coffee by using a little chilled coffee in your blend, or mixing with some raw cacao powder.

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Cheese

Vegan cheese is making headway in the artisan cheese world. Cashews are famous for making vegan, plant-based cheeses because they lend a creamy, mild taste that’s incredibly easy to use in many dishes. Although cashews are delicious, Brazil nuts are just as versatile to satisfy that craving for creamy foods, such as dairy-based cheeses and spreads. Because of the nut’s silky texture, Brazil nut cheese adds sultry flavors to pasta dishes, burritos or as a dip. Make this Brazil Nut Vegan Parmesan to sprinkle onto nearly anything. Not only will it taste great, but it will provide you with a plant-based healthy fats and fiber that can’t be found in typical dairy cheese.

Desserts

Think dessert always has to be an indulgence? Think again. Many plant-based desserts can actually be extremely beneficial towards your health. Whether you go for cheesecakes, dessert crusts, or pies and cakes, Brazil nuts can help take your dishes to a whole new level. Because of their smooth texture, they blend beautifully and also act as a binding agent that even gives off a little crunch. This Double Chocolate Cake uses blended Brazil nuts for its crust and can easily be used as a base for any dessert. On the other hand, this Lemon, Coconut and Vanilla Tart uses Brazil Nuts in the filling, making it extremely rich and decadent. Yum!

Salads

Salad and Brazil nuts are a dynamic duo because they are both exceptionally versatile. If you’re trying to stick to a raw food diet, Brazil nuts are a great go-to food due to their flavor and mineral composition. Combine Brazil nuts with a kale salad, and your thyroid will be in tip-top shape, not to mention your heart and mood health too. Chop up Brazil nuts to sprinkle on green salads, or even try adding them to a mason jar salad for a quick lunch. This Vegan Kale Waldorf Salad would be great with Brazil nuts in place of walnuts. For an Asian salad twist, use Brazil nuts in this Scented and Crunchy Asian Black Rice Salad for an ample amount of protein, antioxidants and fiber.

Brazil nuts make awesome alternatives to almonds, cashews, walnuts or peanuts. Besides milk, cheese, dessert and salad, Brazil nuts can be used in smoothies, power bars, or simply eaten alone. Do you have a favorite way to use Brazil nuts?