Brazil nut facts
Brazil nuts are actually a seed, and they’re more often imported from Bolivia than Brazil. As well as eating them raw or cooked, they can be pressed to make brazil nut oil, or ground to make a kind of flour for use in cake making. Even the shell can be used – though it can’t be eaten it is very hard, so it’s often ground into a fine powder used for polishing jewellery. Brazil nuts themselves are also very slightly radioactive, but don’t worry: almost all foods are. Though the amount of radium found in brazil nuts is higher than in some other foods, they are still perfectly safe to eat.
Here we look at a number of common questions including how many brazil nuts a day should you eat, how that quantity is good for you, and whether there are any brazil nuts side effects. If you’ve ever wanted to know more about brazil nuts, then read on!
What’s in a brazil nut?
Brazil nuts, just like other nuts, are full of fats and proteins. If you’re vegan or vegetarian it’s a good idea to eat lots of nuts and seeds as they will provide you with the protein that you aren’t getting from meat or fish. Nuts contain mostly unsaturated fats, which are much better for you than the fats contained in meat and dairy. Don’t let the fat content worry you, however – eating nuts has been shown to help you lose weight, rather than put it on. As well as fat and protein, brazil nuts provide the following nutrients:
• dietary fibre
• vitamin E
All of these are essential nutrients for a healthy body, and eating brazil nuts is one of the many ways you can make sure you’re getting enough of them. Now, when you hear about certain foods containing huge amounts of necessary nutrients, it doesn’t always follow that your body will be able to actually use them. Sometimes you can consume a lot of one type of nutrient that simply gets flushed out, meaning that you’ve wasted your time and money. Fortunately with selenium in brazil nuts this is not the case, as this study shows.
Why are they good for you?
There are many health benefits associated with eating brazil nuts. The main reason to include them in your diet is for selenium, which is extremely important for a number of reasons.
One of the most important functions of selenium in the body is as a thyroid regulator. To get a bit technical, it removes iodine from one hormone called thyroxine, or T4, to convert it to the active version, T3. T3 is the version that the body uses. Not enough T3 will cause hyperthyroidism, so it’s important to make sure you have enough selenium in your diet.
Selenium is also an antioxidant that can help promote tissue repair and more rapid wound healing, and reduce inflammation by reducing the damage caused by free radicals. It is also important for boosting the immune system, with several studies showing that it can even play a role in slowing the progression of viruses like HIV, and in cancer prevention.
You can also eat brazil nuts for fertility, as they contain both selenium and vitamin E; studies have shown that these two seem to work together to promote healthy sperm in men. And as if all this weren’t enough, selenium has also been shown to improve mood and help prevent depression and anxiety.
Who should not eat brazil nuts?
Brazil nuts are safe to eat for almost everyone. Obviously, if you have a nut allergy, they’re best avoided! Small children should be supervised when eating nuts as they can be a choking hazard, but aside from that brazil nuts are as good for children as they are for anyone else. As we’ll see below, if you have a thyroid problem like Hashimoto’s, then it would be best to speak to your doctor before you start eating brazil nuts to treat it.
How many brazil nuts per day for thyroid conditions?
The answer to this is not straightforward. While eating brazil nuts to increase selenium intake can be good for promoting thyroid health generally, if you already have a thyroid condition it would be best to speak to your doctor first. Brazil nuts contain a huge amount of selenium, and even for a healthy person it’s easy to eat too many.
While there are studies that have shown that, at least in the short term, selenium supplements can have beneficial effects in some thyroid conditions, it has also been suggested that increasing selenium intake can actually make those types of conditions worse. As well as that, if your doctor has put you on a selenium supplement to treat such a condition, if you eat brazil nuts on top it will be very easy to end up taking too much. If you want to make sure your healthy thyroid stays that way then by all means, snack away along with everyone else! Just make sure you are only eating one or two a day.
So, how many brazil nuts a day should you eat?
Experts recommend no more than two. Not a lot, right? Brazil nuts contain a huge amount of selenium, much more than other selenium-rich foods: one brazil nut can contain as much as 95.9 micrograms of selenium – while the daily requirement of selenium is only 55 micrograms. But how many brazil nuts in a serving? A one ounce serving is about 6-8 nuts, which contains ten times the amount of selenium recommended. Eating more than two a day regularly can lead to an overdose of selenium.
Why not to eat too many brazil nuts
Selenium toxicity can cause bad breath, weak nails, hair loss, tiredness and irritability, and an upset stomach. That said, unless you’re eating handfuls of brazil nuts daily or taking too much of a selenium supplement, selenium toxicity is rare in humans. You’re far more likely to suffer from selenium deficiency which can cause fatigue, infertility (in men), chronic colds and flu, and slow healing wounds. However, all of these symptoms can be caused by other issues as well, so suffering one or two – or even all – of them is not necessarily a sign of selenium deficiency. Check with your doctor.
What’s the take-away?
Brazil nuts are great for you – in moderation. Only eat one or two a day if you have them regularly, and if you’re suffering from an under- or overactive thyroid, speak to your doctor before you use them to increase your selenium intake.