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March 21, 2017
By L.Carr, Contributing Columnist
Cancer-fighting, heart disease-beating, inflammation-killers: Brazil nuts
can truly be named a superfood. Brazil nuts grow wild in several South
American countries including, predictably, Brazil. The trees can live up
to 800 years. In Brazil it’s illegal to cut down a Brazil nut tree – they’re
that valuable. These nuts are even said to positively affect your mood.
Did you know that, technically speaking, the Brazil nut is not actually a
nut but a seed? The nut as a whole resembles a coconut and can weigh
up to five pounds. The seeds are split from the fruit in orange-like
segments as they are harvested.
What are the benefits of including Brazil nuts in your diet? How many
health problems can Brazil nuts actually help to cure?
Nutritional Benefits of Brazil Nuts
The nutritional make-up of Brazil nuts is amazing for such a seemingly
simple seed. One ounce of Brazil nuts contains 4 grams of protein, 2.1
grams of fiber, 542 micrograms of selenium, 106 mg of magnesium, 0.5
mg of copper, 205 mg of phosphorous, 0.3 mg of manganese, plus
thiamine, vitamin E, zinc, calcium, potassium and iron.
The selenium content of Brazil nuts is particularly important when it
comes to curing health problems. Selenium is a trace element and it
forms an important part of the antioxidant protection in the body.
Studies show one ounce of Brazil nuts provides 544mcg of selenium,
which is 777 percent of the daily recommended value.
In a 2008 study from the University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand,
scientists compared the effectiveness of eating Brazil nuts with taking
selenium supplements. In the study, people ate two Brazil nuts a day,
took a selenium supplement totaling 100mcgs, or took a placebo pill.
By the end of 12 weeks, blood levels of selenium had increased the
most in the Brazil nut group. Eating just one Brazil nut a day was as
effective as taking a selenium supplement. Two Brazil nuts was more
Are There Any Dangers Associated with Brazil Nuts?
This high selenium content is a potential problem. You can indeed have
too much of a good thing. Excessively high intakes of selenium can
result in diarrhea, nausea, hair loss, brittle nails, coughing, and a
metallic taste in the mouth.
Scientists recommend limiting yourself to one or two Brazil nuts a day
at most to get the required levels of selenium without experiencing any
of the potential problems.
And of course, be careful if you suspect you have a nut allergy.
Eating Brazil Nuts Is Good for Your Health
Several studies have shown that people who eat tree nuts like Brazil
nuts, in moderation, have better health.
One study by the Louisiana State University Agricultural Center looked
at 14,386 people in the 2005-2010 National Health and Nutrition
Examination Surveys (NHANES).
People who regularly ate an average of one ounce of nuts a day had
average higher intakes of fiber; potassium; magnesium; and
monounsaturated fats, but lower intakes of sugars, saturated fats, and
sodium. They also had lower weight, lower BMI, and lower waist
circumference. In addition, tree nut consumers had lower blood
pressure, and higher “good” cholesterol. These factors could translate
to better overall health in practice.
While this study looked at all kinds of tree nuts, there are many other
studies that show specifically the benefits of Brazil nuts.
We looked at the latest research to find out.
1. Brazil Nuts Help Protect Against Breast Cancer
Brazil nuts are extremely high in selenium, and this can help women
from developing breast cancer, experts say. A 2003 study from the
University of Illinois demonstrates that selenium offers the body
protection from dangerous cell changes.
The study looked at 500 women without breast cancer, and compared
their DNA with samples from breast cancer tissue. They searched for
the genes which were responsible for producing a cancer-fighting
enzyme. In the case of certain women with a particular genetic
makeup, scientists found that extra selenium helped make sure this
enzyme was working properly.
Scientists did not recommend selenium supplements as they say that
they need to do more research in order to be certain about this, but a
few Brazil nuts a day could in theory help certain women who are at
risk of breast cancer.
2. Brazil Nuts Fight Obesity
A 2014 study from Loma Linda University investigated how eating tree
nuts like Brazil nuts, pecans, pine nuts etc. affected obesity and
The researchers looked at 803 people from the Seventh-day Adventist
church and assessed intake of nuts while measuring markers of
metabolic syndrome and obesity. They found that one serving (one
ounce) of Brazil nuts or other nuts per week was linked with 7 percent
less metabolic syndrome risk.
Metabolic syndrome is a collection of risk factors including obesity that
are associated with early death, including a greater risk of
cardiovascular disease and diabetes. The researchers also found that
the people who ate the most tree nuts had a significantly lower risk of
obesity compared to people who ate very few nuts.
3. Brazil Nuts Help Prevent Cardiovascular Disease
Researchers also looked at Brazil nuts and the link between nut
consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease.
A 2011 study from the University of Toronto and St. Michael's Hospital
in Toronto, Canada demonstrated that eating nuts helped improve
glycemic control in people with Type 2 diabetes They also found that
eating nuts was linked to an increase of monosaturated fatty acids
(good fats) in the blood, which led to a lower total cholesterol level and
lower levels of bad cholesterol (LDL) , lower blood pressure, and lower
risk of heart disease.
The study clearly shows that consuming nuts like Brazil nuts is linked to
an overall improvement in heart health.
4. Can Brazil Nuts Help Cure Depression?
Experts believe that the selenium in Brazil nuts is linked with a positive
change in mood. There is limited research data to conclusively back this
up, but some small studies show a correlation. A 2008 study from the
University of Reading in the UK found that nursing home residents with
low selenium levels suffered most from depression. They also found
that after eight weeks of selenium supplementation, mood tended to
improve. The researchers did not find the same with the other two
micronutrients they investigated, vitamin C and folate. So, eating one of
two Brazil nuts a day could make a difference to your mental wellbeing.
5. Eating Brazil Nuts to Increase Male Fertility
It seems far-fetched, but the selenium in Brazil nuts provides a potent
boost for men, and may help improve testosterone levels, sperm
production, and sperm motility.
Again, there is limited scientific data on this issue but some studies do
show this link. A 1998 study from Glasgow Royal Infirmary in the UK
looked at 69 subfertile men and found that treatment with selenium
significantly increased sperm motility.
Five men, 11 percent, of the treated group became parents during the
study, compared to none in the placebo group. The results show that
supplementation with selenium in men with low selenium status can
increase the chance of successful conception. However, not all men
responded to the selenium supplementation --- 56 percent showed a
6. Brazil Nuts Actually Can Help You Live Longer
It is known that the selenium content in Brazil nuts can improve the
function of vitamin E and vitamin C in the body resulting in decreased
skin ageing. But can eating Brazil nuts actually make you live longer? A
handful of nuts could be the answer to longevity, according to a 2013
study from the Harvard School of Public Health. The researchers found
that “people who ate nuts every day lived longer, healthier lives than
people who didn’t eat nuts.”
The report showed that Brazil nut-eaters were less likely to suffer from
and die from cancer, respiratory diseases, or heart disease. The people
who ate nuts were actually 20 percent less likely to die during the
course of the long study than those who ate no nuts.
The report looked at information from almost 120,000 people in the
Nurses’ Health Study and the Physician’s Health Study. The people
answered questions about their diet at the beginning of the 1980s, and
over the course of 30 years. The more often people ate nuts, the lower
their chances of dying early.
7. Eating Brazil Nuts Helps With Thyroid Control
The selenium in Brazil nuts helps promote thyroid function by
converting T4 thyroid hormone into the T3 form, which results in a
healthier thyroid and better metabolism.
A 2015 study from Fluminense Federal University in Brazil showed that
people who suffered from low levels of the thyroid hormone T3 could
increase their levels by consuming more selenium, which came from
Brazil nuts. This was then linked to an improvement in thyroid hormone
levels and better health.
And what’s more, scientists say that a poorly functioning thyroid gland
is linked to an increased risk of prematurely gray hair. So eating Brazil
nuts could – in theory! – help you keep your colorful locks for longer.
What are you waiting for?
Even if eating Brazil nuts doesn’t cure cancer, there are enough simple
benefits to be gained from the consumption of just a couple of Brazil
nuts a day.
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