Description and history
Fruit with a shell with an elongated shape and rounded corners, the Brazil nut is native to Brazil and Paraguay. The Brazil nut tree can grow up to 45 m in height and up to 2 m in diameter. It grows wild in the rainforests of Amazonia, Bolivia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru and Venezuela. This tree produces nuts only after 12 to 15 years.
The Brazil nut contains a yellowish almond covered with a thin brownish film. The shell is rough, fibrous and reddish brown in color. It has the shape of an orange quarter. Between 12 and 20 of these shells are crammed into a coconut-like capsule. When ready, these capsules fall to the ground. They are then picked up by the workers and then opened with a machete or an ax. The Brazil nuts are then soaked in water for 24 hours, boiled for 3 to 5 minutes and then drained.
Nutritional value of Brazil nuts
|Dried Brazil nuts||35g|
Source: Canadian Food File, 2009.
The all-around champion in selenium is the Brazil nut, as a single nut provides the recommended daily intake of selenium . Selenium is a trace element (that is to say that the body needs it only in very small quantities) essential to the human body. It is present in traces in food. Like most trace elements, selenium plays a key role throughout the body. On the intracellular level, it has an antioxidant effect , because it allows the body to produce glutathione peroxidase. This enzyme works in concert with vitamin Eto protect cell membranes from oxidation caused by free radicals. In excess, these cause early aging and contribute to the appearance of certain types of cancer, cardiovascular disease and the formation of cataracts. Selenium also plays an essential role in the functioning of the immune system and the thyroid gland.
In addition, the Brazil nut contains a good amount of vitamin E whose antioxidant activity is added to that of selenium. Vitamin E plays an essential role in protecting the membrane of all cells in the body. It is antioxidant, that is to say it contributes to the neutralization of free radicals in the body. In addition, it prevents or reduces the oxidation of low density lipoproteins (LDL). This oxidation of LDL is associated with the onset of atherosclerosis and therefore with cardiovascular disease. Vitamin E also has anti-inflammatory, antiplatelet and vasodilatory properties.
Like most nuts, Brazil nuts contain a significant amount of fiber. Fibers have different roles to play at the physiological level including the regulation of gastrointestinal function, the reduction of cholesterol levels as well as the management of glycemia (blood sugar level). They also contribute to the feeling of satiety which can help in weight management by reducing energy intake. There are also many, but not all, studies that claim that adequate fiber intake would protect against colon cancer.
This nut is also rich in phosphorus, the second most abundant mineral in the human body. It is an important component of bones and teeth. Phosphorus also plays a role in blood pH (acidity level) by neutralizing excess acids or alkalis. It is used to store and produce the energy that the body needs. Phosphorus is also present in DNA and RNA molecules and is therefore necessary for growth.
The Brazil nut also provides magnesium and zinc . Zinc plays an important role in growth, immune response, neurological and reproductive functions. It is necessary for more than a hundred vital enzymatic processes in the body. It participates in the synthesis of DNA, RNA and proteins, in the immune and wound healing processes, in reproduction and growth. Zinc also plays a role in mood modulation and learning, as well as vision, taste and smell. It is involved in the process of blood clotting, in the functions of the thyroid hormone, as well as in the metabolism of insulin.
Magnesium is a mineral essential for the proper functioning of the human body. It takes part in more than 300 metabolic reactions in the body. It works in close association with sodium, potassium and calcium, with which it must remain in balance in the body. About half of the body’s magnesium is found in bones and teeth, while the rest is located in muscles, liver, and other soft tissues. It is eliminated by the kidneys. Magnesium contributes in particular to nerve transmission and muscle relaxation after contraction, which is vital for heart function. It is essential for maintaining a regular heart rate, lipid metabolism, as well as regulating blood sugar and blood pressure.
The Brazil nut is the nut that contains the most fat after the macadamia nut and pecan. It is also the one with the highest proportion of saturated fat. However, since it also contains mono and polyunsaturated acids, this does not make it a less good choice.
The Brazil nut is eaten whole as an appetizer, sliced, chopped or ground. It can be added to fruit cake, cookies, ice cream, stuffing and salad. It can also be coated with chocolate in confectionery.
As it resembles coconut and macadamia nuts in texture and flavor, it can easily replace them.
As it goes rancid quickly, because of its high fat content, prefer nuts sold in glass jars, vacuum or canned to keep the maximum freshness. Nuts that have retained their brown skin will go rancid less quickly. It is better to shell them yourself or buy them in small quantities, in bulk, in a store where inventory turnover is rapid. Store the peeled nuts in the refrigerator in an airtight container. Unshelled ones can be kept in a cool, dry place for about 2 months . They can also be stored in the freezer.
What does science say?
Consuming 30g of nuts per day can help optimize weight loss in the context of a low-calorie diet . The mechanisms by which the consumption of nuts would have beneficial effects on weight are a decrease in the energy intake from other foods (increase in satiety) and the increase in energy expenditure either by physical effort, increased basal metabolism or loss in fecal residue. The effects of eating nuts on the regulation of energy intake are attributable to their high fiber and protein content as well as their low glycemic index.
In terms of cardiovascular health , several clinical studies have demonstrated the effects of the consumption of nuts on the decrease in blood cholesterol concentration, in particular on LDL cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol). According to epidemiological data, a daily consumption of 30 g of nuts could reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by 45%, when these foods replace foods rich in saturated fat. These benefits could be attributed to the high content of nuts and oil seeds in different components known for their cholesterol-lowering action such as phytosterols, monounsaturated fatty acids, vegetable proteins and soluble fibers.
A word from the nutritionist
The Brazil nut is a nut to integrate into our diet on a weekly basis. A portion of maximum 30 g is recommended.