That’s Nuts! The Health Benefits of Brazil Nuts

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In the recent Olympics in Rio, everyone’s eyes were on the games. We saw records broken, dreams achieved, and new ones born. In honor of the festivities and the opening ceremony, I bought myself about a ton Brazil nuts. That’s right. Well, not a literal ton, but you get the idea. There is a lot more to Brazil than athletics, carnivals, and street muggers. Brazil has some serious nuts, and those nuts have many health benefits – read on to learn the health benefits of Brazil Nuts!

How Do Brazil Nuts Grow?

How brazil nuts grow.

Brazil nuts.

The Brazil nut tree is one of the tallest and most unique in all of the Amazonian forests. It grows up to 160 feet or so, and the tree’s trunk goes about half way up before branching off. The think wooden pods which contain the kernels – the edible fruit – take 14 months to mature. When the fruit is ripe, it falls from the tree (no doubt with a resounding bonk!) and lands on the forest’s floor. 

The pod can survive that fall without breaking on contact, because of its special outer layer. That layer can be penetrated by small rodents and other animals, who gnaw it open and eat the nuts. The seeds which are left behind form the basis for future Brazil nut trees. The Brazil nut’s scientific name is Bertholletia excelsa, and it is kin to blueberries, cranberries, and tea (to name a few relatives). The Brazil nut tree is classified as vulnerable, which means that steps need to be taken before it is in danger of extinction.

To prevent that from happening, the three main growers and exporters of Brazil nuts – Brazil, Bolivia, and Peru – have made it illegal to chop down Brazil nut trees. The tree’s wood makes for excellent timber, which is why Brazil nut trees are always under the constant threat of illegal logging. Left untouched, the Brazil nut tree can live between 500 – 1000 years, according to researchers.

Pile of Brazil nuts.


So, what about the nut’s composition? The Brazil tree’s nuts are made up of 14% protein, 12% carbohydrate, and 66% fat by weight. Two-thirds fat is
the reason why this nut is so very creamy and delicious. A serving of 100 grams provides 656 total calories. There are a lot of polyunsaturated fats, in the form of Omega-6 fatty acids. That content of fat can cause the nut to fade quickly, after ripening. However, if you catch it while it is ripe, it is one of the most delicious nuts out there. That is why it is such a popular addition to any bag of mixed nuts.

Health Benefits of Brazil Nuts

Fun fact! – the “Brazil nut effect” is the name given to the phenomenon of larger objects rising to the top, within any kind of container. Named after the way in which Brazil nuts tend to rise to the surface of a bag of mixed nuts. Let’s talk more about nutrition: These nuts are high in calories (remember – creamy!), and they contain vitamins, antioxidants, fiber, and minerals of all kinds.

The tribes who have lived in the Amazonian regions for centuries have used the Brazi nut as a primary source of energy. It is part of their diet, and it keeps them in motion. This is still true today. Adding Brazil nuts to your diet can get great results.

Where To Find Brazil Nuts

Hand holding Brazil nuts.

Finding Brazil nuts.

Of course, because this is one of the rarest trees in the world, the price will probably be higher than your average bag of peanuts. In fact, scratch the probably – it will be more that that, but let me tell you something. If you find a bag of Brazil nuts which are priced the same as regular peanuts, I am not sure if you should be eating them to begin with. I love the way Brazil nuts just crack, break apart, and slightly melt in my mouth.

It is a real pleasure to be enjoying these delicacies, and I am certainly not taking it for granted. Heck, if I think they cost a lot now, they must have cost a small fortune in the early days. Brazil nuts can be bought or made in a variety of ways: with or without a shell, raw, salted, or even roasted. Brazil nut can only be made into an oil. These nuts produce a yellow-colored oil which has a fragrant, sweet, and nutty scent.

The oil can be used for cooking, for medicine, oil pulling, and even for cosmetics. It’s one of those rare oils that has great taste and offers great nutrition, like Argan Oil, Avocado Oil, and Sunflower Oil.

How To Eat Brazil Nuts

Bowl of salad on table.

Nutritious Brazil nuts.

Use the Brazil nuts in a salad, either whole or coarsely ground; place them in cakes and baked goods (did I hear chocolate-chip Brazil nut cookies?); add them to any soups or sauces, and see how it can lift them higher; use the oil for salad dressing. No matter how you eat em’, you’ll be prospering from the health benefits of Brazil nuts. As mentioned, the nuts are high in fats.

This means that they need to be stored properly, or else they will go bad. Too much air, sun, or humidity can cause the nut to rapidly lose its composition, and turn rancid. In order to avoid that, it is best to purchase nuts with their shells, and only shell them before being consumed. The unshelled nuts should be brown and heavy. Nuts which are already shelled can be stored up to several months, in a cool and dry location.

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Losing a bag of Brazil nuts due to poor storage is a veritable crime. Do yourself a favor and don’t forget to store them properly. I don’t know what all this talk of storage is, anyway. Whenever I get my hands on Brazil nuts, they don’t last two days, let alone a few months. But hey, if you can resist their siren song, I sincerely applaud you. They are too darn good to be left alone on some shelf in my pantry. 

As for allergies, it could go either way. The Brazil nut is actually not a nut, but a seed. However, because it is in the nut family, those who are sensitive to other allergens and who may have a history of nut allergies, would do best to avoid consuming them until getting clearance from their doctor.


Brazil Nuts are some of the tastiest and healthiest snacks you could possibly enjoy, and that’s saying a lot when you consider all of the other delicious and healthy snacks out there like Almonds, Pumpkin Seeds, Goji Berries, Macadamia Nuts, and more. Try some today!