Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Article # 122. Brazil Nuts Benefits

Brazil Nuts

Brazil nuts are large seeds that grow in the tropical rain forests of South American countries such as Bolivia, Brazil, Columbia, Peru, Venezuela and the Guianas. Even though they are called 'Brazil nuts', their largest producer and exporter is Bolivia and not Brazil.

Brazil nuts are said to be like macadamia nuts. They grow on a tree that is botanically called Bertholletia excelsa. They can be used in cooking instead of coconuts or macadamia nuts, due to their similarity. There are many health benefits of dried fruits, such as walnuts, almonds, raisins, and cashews. There is no doubt that these nuts are high in calories, but they also contain good amounts of minerals, anti-oxidants and vitamins. Similarly, there are many health benefits of Brazil nuts because of their high selenium, magnesium and thiamine content. The flavonoids present in these nuts combat against development of cancer. Selenium present in Brazil nuts prevents cellular damage caused by free radicals in the body.

Brazil Nuts Nutritional Facts

Nutritional information about Brazil nuts is mentioned below.
  • Brazil nuts, 100 grams, constitute 687 calories approximately, out of which the total fat content is 68 to 69 percent. The highest fat percentage is of mono-saturated fat which is a heart healthy fat. The mono-saturated fatty acids help to control the bad or LDL cholesterol and increase the good or HDL cholesterol in the body. The two essential fatty acids that they contain are oleic acid and palmitoleic acid. These nuts are, however, said to be relatively fattening and therefore, should be consumed in control.
  • Health benefits packed in Brazil nuts are known to the world, due to the fact that the nuts are the richest source of the mineral selenium. Just an ounce of these nuts contains 544 mcg. Selenium is not itself an antioxidant but works with vitamin E and is also a part of antioxidant enzymes - glutathione and glutathione peroxidase.
  • Medical research has proved that selenium in Brazil nuts aids in protection from heart disease. This powerful mineral is found in the soil in which these trees are grown. People who live in such areas are hence known to have lower cases of heart disease. Selenium activates the enzymes that help in the detoxification of the rancid fat present in the membranes. Blood clotting can be prevented if a considerable amount of selenium is consumed.
  • Selenium is also effective in reducing the risk of breast cancer, prostate cancer and other cancers. It also helps to maintain the proper functioning of the thyroid and is good for building the immune system.
  • A lot of common protein food that we consume does not contain an important amino acid called Methionine, which is present only in Brazil nuts. Methionine is essential in fighting against chronic illnesses, liver cirrhosis, coronary artery disease, and premature senescence.
  • Brazil nuts also contain healthy minerals like calcium, manganese, phosphorous, copper, potassium, zinc and iron. They also contain some amount of the essential omega 6 fatty acid.
  • Like other nutritious dried fruits, Brazil nuts are high in protein, fiber and vitamins. Vegetarians should make it a point it in their diet, as an added source of protein.

Are Brazil Nuts Bad for You?

It is a well-known fact that dried fruits could be fattening if eaten too much. Therefore, there are certain factors that need to be considered before consuming Brazil nuts in large quantities, as researches have proved, there are certain pitfalls of these nuts.
  • Our body requires very little selenium. The Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences advises a maximum limit of 45 mcg of selenium for kids and 400 mcg for adults daily. An overdose of selenium can be toxic and can cause brittle and white nails, hair fall, fatigue, rash, irritability and stomach upset.
  • They have been found to consist high amounts of aflatoxins, which are carcinogenic, hence European Union has placed strict restrictions on import of Brazil nuts.
  • Small amounts of radioactive radium is also found in Brazil nuts because of its vast root system. It is a thousand times more than that is found in other foods but is not believed to be absorbed into the body.
  • In order to start consuming nuts in a healthy way, it is a great idea to combine small quantities of various types of nuts and dried fruits while eating. For example, instead of having a handful of Brazil nuts on Monday, a handful of walnuts on Tuesday and a handful of almonds on Wednesday, you could have 2 of each of the above daily or 4 times a week. It may be a good option to look for organic Brazil nuts as these are naturally produced and less processed.
People allergic to nuts should refrain from consuming them. The relatively high percentage of polyunsaturated fats in these nuts (34 percent) causes the shelled ones to turn rancid fast. So, it is best to store them in the refrigerator. Nuts roasted in oil and salted nuts are high in calories and should be avoided. To gain maximum benefits of consuming Brazil nuts, it is good to consume them unsalted. Shelled Brazil nuts in their basic natural form are safer and healthier. You can also use chopped nuts in cookies, cakes and other desserts.

It is a very good habit to consume all food items in moderation and same goes with Brazil nuts. Well, there are a number of health benefits of eating Brazil nuts, but remember to have just a few of them on a day as over consumption can lead to toxicity and obesity. It is recommended to have a few Brazil nuts twice or thrice per week and not deprive yourself of this wonderful nut.

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