Top 5 Health Benefits of Brazil Nuts + Nutrition Info and Fun Facts

The Brazil nut tree grows mainly in the wilds of the Amazon rainforest through Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Peru and can reach more than 160 feet in height. Its fruit is similar in size to a baseball and contains multiple ‘nuts’ (in fact, seeds) organized in a similar fashion to the flesh of an orange (1).

Brazil nuts are energy dense and rich in thiamine, phosphorus, selenium, magnesium, copper, manganese, protein and fatty acids. As a bonus, they also have a low glycemic load (2).

Here are five great health benefits of the Brazil nut.

Brazil Nut Health Benefits

1. Brazil nuts are rich in selenium, which may prevent cancer

Brazil nuts contain very high levels of selenium with six kernels — or 28 grams — containing 544.43μg, or 778% of the daily value. Brazil nuts have been shown to prevent breast cancers in a rat model, and according to a review article by Schrauzer, “selenium remains the key cancer-protective trace element.” (3)

2. Brazil nuts can improve your lipid profile and protect heart health

Brazil nuts have been shown to increase ‘good’ cholesterol levels (HDL) and lower ‘bad’ cholesterol levels (LDL) when consumed both over time and as a 20 gram or 50-gram single serve. These Amazonian nuts may also prevent the dangerous oxidization of cholesterol, inhibit clot formation and reduce inflammation; all key in protecting against coronary heart and cardiovascular disease (4)


3. Brazil nuts can enhance brain function in older adults

Incredibly, consumption of a single Brazil nut per day over a six-month period has been shown to improve verbal fluency and the ability to build or draw objects. This in a group with an average age of 78 years! A regular intake of Brazil nuts might be just what the doctor ordered to assist with mild cognitive impairment (5).

4. Brazil nuts can improve thyroid health

The thyroid gland sits at the base of the neck and is critical for metabolism and energy creation. The selenium within these nuts is needed to convert the inactive form of the thyroid hormone, T4, into the active form, T3. This is important for optimal thyroid function and the profound impacts this gland has on our body and mind. 

Brazil nut consumption of one nut per day for three months has been associated with improvement in thyroid hormone levels (6).

5. Brazil nuts can reduce oxidative stress and levels of inflammation

Increased levels of oxidative stress and inflammation are linked to common illnesses like diabetes, cardiovascular disease and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. A single Brazil nut, consumed each day, can reduce both oxidative stress and inflammation (7, 8).

Nutrient Info For Brazil Nut

Serving size: 1 oz handful (~6 nuts)

Top 10 Nutrients by %DV
  • Selenium767% DV
  • Fat29% DV
  • Magnesium26% DV
  • Copper24% DV
  • Saturated Fat23% DV
  • Phosphorus20% DV
  • Manganese17% DV
  • Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)12% DV
  • Calories9% DV
  • Fiber8% DV
Table for Common Nutrients
Calories 185 calories 9%
Fat 18.8g 29%
Protein 4g 8%
Carbohydrate 3.3g 1%
Sugars 0.7g 1%
Fiber 2.1g 8%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Saturated Fats 4.5g 23%
Calcium, Ca 44.8mg 3%
Iron, Fe 0.7mg 4%
Potassium, K 184.5mg 4%
Magnesium, Mg 105.3mg 25%
Vitamin A, RAE 0μg 0%
Vitamin C 0.2mg 0%
Vitamin B-12 0μg 0%

Source: USDA National Nutrient Database - Release 28.
See the complete nutrition facts with over 150 nutrients, or the nutrition facts comparison of Brazil Nut vs other foods.

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Brazil Nut Fun Facts

  1. It is illegal to cut down a Brazil nut tree in Brazil
  2. 250 pounds of Brazil nuts can be produced by a single adult tree each year
  3. In Brazil, these nuts are called castanhas (or chestnuts)
  4. Brazil nuts are not actually nuts, but rather seeds
  5. Brazil nuts are heavy and rigid and can damage a passing vehicle, or hurt a person or animal
  6. Brazil nut oil is used as a lubricant in clocks
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Data Sources and References

  1. Rainforest Alliance on Brazil Nuts
  2. Nutrition Facts for 1oz of Brazil Nuts
  3. Selenium and selenium-antagonistic elements in nutritional cancer prevention
  4. A Single Consumption of High Amounts of the Brazil Nuts Improves Lipid Profile of Healthy Volunteers
  5. Effects of Brazil nut consumption on selenium status and cognitive performance in older adults with mild cognitive impairment: a randomized controlled pilot trial.
  6. Effect Of Selenium Supplementation Via Brazil Nut (Bertholletia Excelsa, Hbk) On Thyroid Hormones Levels In Hemodialysis Patients: A Pilot Study.
  7. Brazilian nut consumption by healthy volunteers improves inflammatory parameters.
  8. Brazil nut (Bertholletia excelsa, H.B.K.) improves oxidative stress and inflammation biomarkers in hemodialysis patients.