Brazil Nuts: 5 Health Benefits, 7 Traditional Recipes, Medicinal Use

Brazil nut earns its nickname “meat vegetable” due to its very high content of vitamins A, B-complex, C, and protein. It contains essential amino acids which is valuable sources of energy for optimum brain function. Brazil nuts are not actually nuts. These seeds come from the tropical rain forests of Brazil. The edible part comprises one of two dozen seeds enclosed in a hard, brown three-sided shell.

History and Origin

The Brazil nut tree originates from the vast Amazon rainforest, spanning countries like Brazil, Bolivia, and Peru. Indigenous communities in these regions have relied on Brazil nuts for centuries, valuing their taste and health benefits. Traditionally harvested and traded, European colonists in the 16th century recognized their value. During the colonial period, explorers introduced Brazil nuts to the world, and they gained popularity in Europe and beyond, thus establishing their association with Brazil.

Ecological Importance

The Brazil nut tree is a keystone species in the Amazon rainforest ecosystem. It relies on a unique pollination system, where large orchid bees (Euglossini) are essential for its reproduction. These bees collect the tree’s pollen, and without their specific pollination behavior, Brazil nut trees would struggle to reproduce. This interdependence between the trees and bees highlights the ecological importance of Brazil nut trees. Local communities primarily harvest Brazil nuts from wild trees, making them a critical source of income. Harvesting involves collecting the large spherical seed pods that fall from the tall Brazil nut trees. These pods contain the hard-shelled Brazil nuts inside. The process is labor-intensive and often requires local knowledge and skills.

The Story of the Squirrel Monkey

One of the most well-known indigenous legends involves the relationship between the Brazil nut tree and the squirrel monkey. People say that most animals find the fruit of the Brazil nut tree too hard to open. However, the squirrel monkey, with its sharp teeth, is able to crack open the fruit and eat the nuts inside. In return, people believe that the monkey helps disperse the seeds, allowing new Brazil nut trees to grow. This story symbolizes the interdependence of species in the rainforest ecosystem.

Traditional Beliefs

Traditional healers and shamans in the Amazon rainforest have long utilized the properties of Brazil nuts for their healing and mystical qualities. Some believe that these nuts can ward off evil spirits, provide energy, and enhance spiritual experiences. Many indigenous cultures of the Amazon regard the Brazil nut tree as a guardian or sacred tree. They believe it embodies powerful spirits that protect the rainforest and its inhabitants. They treat the nuts themselves as gifts from the tree and respect them greatly.

Brazil Nuts Nutritional Values and Calories Chart

Brazil nuts are rich in healthy fats. They contain a good amount of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which can help reduce your risk of heart disease. They also have a high level of omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential to brain health and can help reduce inflammation. Brazil nuts are a great source of protein. They contain a good amount of essential amino acids, which can help build and repair muscle tissue. They also contain a decent amount of fiber, which can help keep you feeling full for longer. Brazil nuts are a good source of vitamins and minerals. They are rich in magnesium, selenium, and zinc, which can help boost your immune system and keep your bones strong. They also contain copper, which can help your body produce red blood cells. Nutritional value per 100 g brazil nuts:

  • Biotin: 3 µg
  • Calcium: 64 mg
  • Carbohydrates (Carbs): 13.7 g
  • Chloride: 37 mg
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg
  • Choline: 22.2 mg
  • Chromium: 11.8 µg
  • Copper: 1.1 mg
  • Dietary Fiber: 3.6 g
  • Energy (Calories): 656 kcal
  • Fat: 66.2 g
  • Iodine: 4.7 µg
  • Iron: 4.2 mg
  • Magnesium: 336 mg
  • Manganese: 1.8 mg
  • Molybdenum: 25.9 µg
  • Pantothenic Acid: 0.7 mg
  • Phosphorus: 590 mg
  • Potassium: 680 mg
  • Protein: 14.3 g
  • Saturated fat: 6.5 g
  • Selenium: 190.5 µg
  • Sodium: 10 mg
  • Sugars: 1.6 g
  • Vitamin A: 0 IU
  • Vitamin B1 (Thiamin): 0.3 mg
  • Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin): 0.2 mg
  • Vitamin B3 (Niacin): 0.8 mg
  • Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid): 0.7 mg
  • Vitamin B6: 0.2 mg
  • Vitamin B9 (Folate / Folic Acid): 30 µg
  • Vitamin B12: 0 µg
  • Vitamin C: 0 mg
  • Vitamin D: 0 IU
  • Vitamin E: 2.3 mg
  • Vitamin K: 0.2 µg
  • Water: 4.7 g
  • Zinc: 2.5 mg

Brazil Nuts In India

Very few commercially available nuts are never cultivated, and this is one of them. It grows wild in the dense South American Amazon rain forest, the trees often towering up to 150 feet or higher. The pod, similar in shape to a coconut, contains 12-30 of the nuts. When ripe these pods fall with such force they can bury themselves under the ground. After removing them from the pod, workers dry the nuts and subject them to heavy brushing to remove their rough brown skin.

  • Scientific Binomial: Bertholletia excelsa
  • Common English: Jungle walnuts / Amazon nuts
  • Ayurvedic
  • Unani
  • Sanskrit
  • Hindi / Urdu: Trikonaphala
  • Bengali
  • Marathi
  • Telugu: Amazon Badam / Jungle Badam
  • Tamil
  • Gujarati
  • Kannada
  • Malayalam
  • Oriya
  • Punjabi / Sindhi
  • Assamese
  • Kashmiri
  • Konkani
  • Manipuri
  • Dogri
  • Bhojpuri

Brazil Nuts Health Benefits

Brazil nut is rich source of methionine, vitamin E, zinc and selenium. Methionine is a vital sulphur bearing compound which helps dissolve cholesterol and assimilates fat. It is required by hemoglobin, the pancreas, the lymph and the spleen. It is necessary to maintain normal body weight and also helps maintain the proper nitrogen balance in the body. Selenium is an antioxidant that works against inflammation and contributes to normal brain functions. Scientists have linked higher selenium levels in the body with a lower risk of depression. Zinc is essential for skin and hair health and for balancing hormones.

1. Rich Source of Selenium

One of the richest food sources of selenium, a crucial mineral with antioxidant properties. Selenium plays a vital role in protecting your body from oxidative stress, reducing the risk of chronic diseases, and supporting a healthy immune system. Improved cognitive function is associated with selenium and other nutrients. Regular consumption may help enhance memory and cognitive abilities. Consuming a few Brazil nuts daily may also help ease anxiety and promote a sense of calm. Selenium is essential for maintaining proper thyroid function. Brazil nuts can provide the selenium your thyroid needs for optimal performance, helping to regulate metabolism and energy levels.

2. Heart Health and Weight Management

Including in your diet may help improve heart health. The healthy fats, fiber, and antioxidants in these nuts can lower bad cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease. The combination of healthy fats and fiber can help you feel full and satisfied, making them a valuable addition to a weight management plan.

3. Antioxidant Defense For Young Looking Skin

The antioxidants, including selenium, vitamin E, and other minerals, help neutralize harmful free radicals in the body, protecting your cells from damage and reducing the risk of chronic diseases and premature aging. The antioxidants can contribute to healthier and more youthful-looking skin. They combat free radicals and promote a radiant complexion. Brazil nuts are a convenient and nutrient-dense snack option. They offer a quick and easy way to boost your energy and nutrition levels.

4. Bone Health

The calcium and magnesium content supports strong and healthy bones. Including them in your diet can help maintain bone density. The natural compounds found in it may have anti-inflammatory effects, which can help reduce the risk of chronic inflammatory conditions. Some traditional practices involve using Brazil nut oil to massage sore or inflamed joints. The oil’s anti-inflammatory properties are believed to provide relief from joint pain and discomfort.

5. Fertility and Libido

In some regions, people consider Brazil nuts an aphrodisiac and fertility-enhancing food, believing they support sexual health and promote reproductive vitality, particularly in men. This belief stems from their nutrient content, especially selenium and healthy fats. While there’s no scientific evidence to conclusively support their role in fertility and libido enhancement, incorporating Brazil nuts into your diet can still be a delicious and nutritious way to promote overall health and well-being. However, remember that fertility and libido are complex issues influenced by numerous factors, and no single food can guarantee results. While Brazil nuts may offer some nutritional benefits, consider them as part of a broader strategy for promoting overall health and well-being. It’s always a good idea to consult with a healthcare provider or specialist for personalized guidance if you have fertility or libido concerns.

Traditional Folk Home Remedies

  • Hair and Scalp Nourishment: To create a homemade hair mask, blend a few Brazil nuts to extract the oil, and then massage it into your hair and scalp. Leave it on for about 30 minutes before washing your hair for lustrous and healthy locks.
  • Skin Exfoliation: Make a natural exfoliating skin scrub. Mix finely ground powder with honey or yogurt to create a gentle facial scrub. This can help remove dead skin cells, leaving your skin smoother and rejuvenated.
  • Selenium-Rich Face Mask: Create a face mask by blending Brazil nuts with a bit of water to form a paste. Apply it to your face, leave it on for 15-20 minutes, and then rinse off to promote healthy skin and reduce inflammation.
  • Sore Throat Relief: Tea made with it can help soothe a sore throat. Boil crushed Brazil nuts in water, strain, and drink the tea. The natural oils and nutrients in the nuts can provide relief from throat discomfort.
  • Homemade Brazil Nut Milk: Create a creamy and nutrient-rich non-dairy milk by blending it with water. This homemade Brazil nut milk can be a great lactose-free alternative for those with dairy allergies or intolerances.
  • Nail Strengthener: Include Brazil nuts in your diet or crush them into a fine powder and mix with a little coconut oil. Apply this paste to your nails to promote strength and healthy nail growth.
  • Cough and Cold Remedy: Brazil nut tea can help alleviate symptoms of coughs and colds. Combine crushed Brazil nuts with warm water and honey for a soothing and nourishing drink.
  • Digestive Aid: Some South American cultures have used Brazil nuts to alleviate digestive discomfort. They believe that chewing a few Brazil nuts or consuming a tea made from the crushed nuts can help soothe indigestion and upset stomachs.

Amazing Interesting Facts

  • Not Just from Brazil: Despite their name, these are not exclusive to Brazil. They are native to several South American countries, including Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, and Bolivia. However, Brazil is the world’s largest exporter of these nuts.
  • Gigantic Trees: The tree is one of the giants of the rainforest. It can reach towering heights of over 160 feet (50 meters) and can live for centuries, making it one of the largest and oldest trees in the Amazon.
  • Slow Growers: These impressive trees are slow growers, taking up to 15 years to produce their first fruit. Full production capacity is reached at around 30 years.
  • Wild Harvesting: They are primarily harvested from the wild. Collectors use long poles to dislodge the large, heavy fruit capsules from the treetops. This labor-intensive process requires expert knowledge and skills.
  • Symbiotic Relationships: Trees rely on a unique relationship with native orchid bees for pollination. The bees gather nectar from the tree’s flowers and inadvertently transfer pollen between them, enabling the production of Brazil nuts.
  • Radioactive Nuts: They are naturally radioactive due to the presence of radium in the soil where they grow. Despite this, the radioactivity levels are not harmful to human health and are within safe limits.
  • Ethnobotanical Traditions: Indigenous peoples of the Amazon rainforest have revered Brazil nuts for their cultural and spiritual significance. They are often included in rituals and offerings to appease forest spirits.
  • Sustainable Harvesting: Efforts are being made to promote sustainable and fair-trade practices in the Brazil nut industry. Supporting these initiatives helps preserve the Amazon rainforest and its invaluable biodiversity.
  • Cosmic Connections: In certain indigenous Amazonian beliefs, the pattern on the Brazil nut shell is said to resemble a star or cosmic map, linking the nut to spiritual and cosmic dimensions.

Popular Traditional Healthy Recipes

Brazil nuts are not only a nutritious and flavorful snack but can also be a versatile ingredient in various culinary creations. Here are some popular recipes that showcase the delicious and unique flavor of Brazil nuts. These recipes offer a glimpse into the versatility of Brazil nuts in the kitchen. Whether you’re looking for a savory dish, a sweet treat, or a healthy snack, Brazil nuts can add a unique and delicious twist to your culinary creations. Enjoy exploring the flavors and textures of this remarkable nut.

1. Brazil Nut Pesto
  • Ingredients:
    • 1 cup Brazil nuts
    • 2 cups fresh basil leaves
    • 2-3 cloves garlic
    • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
    • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
    • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Instructions: Combine Brazil nuts, basil, garlic, and Parmesan cheese in a food processor. Pulse until well blended. With the processor running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until the pesto reaches your desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper. Toss with pasta or use as a flavorful spread.
2. Honey Roasted Carrots and Brazil Nut
  • Ingredients:
    • 1 pound carrots, peeled and sliced
    • 1/2 cup Brazil nuts, roughly chopped
    • 2 tablespoons honey
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Instructions: Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C). Toss the sliced carrots, Brazil nuts, honey, and olive oil together in a baking dish. Season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for about 25-30 minutes or until the carrots are tender and lightly caramelized.
3. Chocolate Truffles with Brazil Nuts
  • Ingredients:
    • 1 cup Brazil nuts
    • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
    • 1/4 cup pitted dates
    • 2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • Pinch of salt
    • Cocoa powder or shredded coconut for rolling
  • Instructions: In a food processor, combine Brazil nuts, cocoa powder, pitted dates, honey or maple syrup, vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt. Blend until the mixture forms a sticky dough. Roll the mixture into small truffle-sized balls and coat them with cocoa powder or shredded coconut. Chill in the refrigerator before serving.
4. Brazil Nut and Banana Smoothie
  • Ingredients:
    • 1 ripe banana
    • 1/4 cup Brazil nuts
    • 1 cup milk (dairy or plant-based)
    • 1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup
    • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
    • Ice cubes (optional)
  • Instructions: In a blender, combine the ripe banana, Brazil nuts, milk, honey or maple syrup, and cinnamon. Blend until smooth. If desired, add ice cubes and blend again for a refreshing, creamy smoothie.
5. Brazil Nut and Quinoa Salad
  • Ingredients:
    • 1 cup cooked quinoa
    • 1/2 cup Brazil nuts, chopped
    • 1 cup diced cucumber
    • 1 cup diced bell peppers
    • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
    • Zest and juice of 1 lime
    • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Instructions: In a large bowl, combine cooked quinoa, Brazil nuts, diced cucumber, bell peppers, and chopped cilantro. Drizzle with the lime zest and juice. Season with salt and pepper. Toss well and serve as a refreshing and nutritious salad.
6. Amazonian Brazil Nut Soup (Sopa de Castanha-do-Pará)
  • Ingredients:
    • 1 cup Brazil nuts, shelled and ground
    • 2 cups water
    • 1 onion, finely chopped
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 cup yam or sweet potato, diced
    • 1 cup cassava (yuca), peeled and chopped
    • 4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
    • 1 cup coconut milk
    • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
    • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Instructions:
    • In a large pot, sauté the chopped onion and minced garlic in vegetable oil until translucent.
    • Add the ground Brazil nuts and continue to cook for a few minutes, stirring constantly to avoid burning.
    • Stir in the yam, cassava, and broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the vegetables are tender.
    • Use a blender or immersion blender to puree the soup until smooth.
    • Return the soup to the pot, add coconut milk, and season with salt and pepper. Simmer for an additional 10-15 minutes.
    • Serve hot and garnish with chopped Brazil nuts for added texture and flavor.
7. Manioc (Cassava) Flour with Farofa de Castanha-do-Pará
  • Ingredients:
    • 2 cups manioc (cassava) flour
    • 1/2 cup Brazil nuts, finely chopped
    • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
    • 1 small onion, finely chopped
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Instructions:
    • Heat the vegetable oil in a pan over medium heat.
    • Add the finely chopped Brazil nuts and stir-fry until they become fragrant and slightly toasted. Remove and set aside.
    • In the same pan, add the chopped onion and minced garlic. Sauté until the onion is translucent.
    • Return the toasted Brazil nuts to the pan and mix well with the onion and garlic.
    • Gradually add the manioc flour while stirring continuously to ensure even coating.
    • Continue to cook and stir until the flour is lightly toasted and the mixture is well combined.
    • Season with salt and pepper to taste.
    • Serve the Farofa de Castanha-do-Pará as a side dish with meat, fish, or other traditional Amazonian dishes.

Growing and Cultivation

The Brazil nut tree is an impressive and towering species that can reach heights of over 160 feet (50 meters). It has a straight, columnar trunk and large, lush foliage. These majestic trees are not typically cultivated in plantations but are primarily found in their natural rainforest habitat. Brazil nuts are unique in that they are primarily harvested from wild trees. The trees can live for centuries and produce nuts year-round. Harvesting is a labor-intensive and often dangerous process. Collectors use long poles to dislodge the heavy fruit capsules from the treetops, allowing them to fall to the forest floor. The capsules are large, woody pods that can contain 10-25 seeds, or Brazil nuts.

The Role of Indigenous Communities

Indigenous communities have been the primary stewards of Brazil nut trees and their harvest for generations. They have a deep understanding of the trees, their ecological importance, and their cultural significance. Many organizations and initiatives aim to support and empower these communities in the sustainable management of Brazil nut resources. After collection, the hard outer shells of the Brazil nuts are cracked open to reveal the seeds. The seeds are then shelled, revealing the edible nuts. The nuts are packed and exported to international markets.

Side Effects and Potential Dangers

  • Selenium Overdose: One of the most significant concerns is their exceptionally high selenium content. While selenium is an essential mineral for our health, excessive consumption can lead to selenium toxicity.
  • Allergic Reactions: Some individuals may be allergic, which can cause symptoms ranging from mild itching and hives to severe anaphylaxis. If you’re uncertain about any potential allergies, it’s advisable to consult an allergist before including Brazil nuts in your diet.
  • High Calorie and Fat Content: Calorie-dense and contain a significant amount of fat, although much of it is healthy, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat. If you’re watching your calorie or fat intake, it’s essential to be mindful of portion sizes when consuming Brazil nuts.
  • Allergic Cross-Contamination: Cross-contamination can occur when processed and packaged alongside other nuts. If you have a severe Brazil nut allergy, be cautious when purchasing pre-packaged nuts, and check the label for potential allergen warnings.
  • Radioactivity Concerns: Known to have naturally occurring radioactive isotopes, primarily radium-226, due to the minerals in the soil where they grow. While the levels are generally low and not considered a health risk, individuals who are highly sensitive to radiation may want to limit their consumption.
  • Interference with Medications: In some cases, selenium supplements may interact with certain medications or medical conditions. If you are taking selenium supplements or have a medical condition, it’s wise to consult your healthcare provider to ensure that consuming Brazil nuts won’t interfere with your treatment.
  • Allergic Cross-Reactivity: Individuals with tree nut allergies may be more likely to cross-react to Brazil nuts, although this is not common. Cross-reactivity means that the immune system can mistake Brazil nuts for other tree nuts, potentially triggering an allergic reaction.


Q. What are Brazil nuts?

These are large edible seeds from the Bertholletia excelsa tree, which is native to the Amazon rainforest in Brazil. These nuts are known for their rich, creamy flavor and high nutritional value.

Q. Are “Brazil nuts” referred to as “Brazil nuts” in Brazil?

In Brazil, these nuts are called “Castanha-do-Pará” or simply “Castanha-do-Brasil,” which translates to “Chestnuts from Pará” or “Chestnuts from Brazil.”

Q. How many Brazil nuts increase testosterone?

These are often associated with boosting testosterone due to their high selenium content. Eating just a few Brazil nuts can provide your daily recommended intake of selenium, which may have a positive impact on testosterone levels.

Q. Why do Brazil nuts taste moldy?

They have a distinctive taste, which some describe as slightly “moldy” or earthy. This taste is due to the high selenium content in the nuts.

Q. How radioactive are Brazil nuts?

The radioactivity can vary, but they typically have higher levels of radioactivity compared to other foods. It contains naturally occurring radioactive isotopes, primarily radium-226. This is because they grow in soil rich in minerals like radium, which gets absorbed by the trees. However, the amount is not considered dangerous to human health. The levels are relatively low, and the radioisotopes are not highly harmful when ingested in typical dietary quantities.

Q. Why do Brazil nuts bind selenium?

Brazil nuts accumulate high levels of selenium because they have a unique ability to absorb and store this mineral from the soil. Selenium is an essential nutrient for the trees’ growth.

Q. Why are Brazil nuts so expensive?

They are relatively expensive due to their labor-intensive harvesting process, the remote rainforest locations where they grow, and the fact that they are a seasonal, wild-harvested product.

Q. How many Brazil nuts can I eat daily?

Consuming 1-3 numbers a day is generally sufficient to meet your daily selenium needs. Eating too many can lead to selenium overdose, so moderation is key.

Q. Are Brazil nuts harmful to dogs?

While these are not toxic to dogs in small quantities, they are high in fat and can be difficult for dogs to digest. Feeding them to your dog is not recommended.

Q. How do I shell Brazil nuts?
They have a hard shell that can be challenging to crack. One common method is to place them in the oven for a few minutes to soften the shell, then use a nutcracker or a vise to crack them open.

Q. Are Brazil nuts carcinogenic?

Not known to be carcinogenic. In fact, their selenium content is believed to have potential anti-cancer properties, although more research is needed.

Q. Can Brazil nuts increase estrogen?

There is no evidence to suggest that it increase estrogen levels. Their impact on hormonal balance is generally related to their effect on selenium, which can have various health benefits.

Q. Which countries producing most Brazil nuts?

The production is primarily concentrated in a few countries in South America. The top three countries known for producing it most are – Brazil, Peru and Bolivia. These three countries, all part of the Amazon basin, account for the majority of the world’s production. The harvesting in the rainforest plays a crucial role in supporting the livelihoods of indigenous communities and contributes to the conservation of the Amazon ecosystem.

  • Brazil: As the name suggests, Brazil is the largest producer in the world. The nuts are primarily harvested from the Amazon rainforest in the northern regions of Brazil, including the states of Amazonas, Acre, Amapá, and Pará.
  • Peru: Peru is the second-largest producer. The Madre de Dios region in southeastern Peru is a significant contributor to the production. The nuts are collected from the Peruvian Amazon, which shares the same rainforest as Brazil.
  • Bolivia: Bolivia is the third-largest producer. The Pando and Beni departments in northern Bolivia are known for their production. These areas are also part of the Amazon basin.
Q. What is the best way to incorporate Brazil nuts into my diet?

These can be added to your diet in various ways. You can eat them as a healthy snack, chop and sprinkle them on salads, blend them into smoothies, or use them in recipes like pesto, nut butter, or as a crunchy topping for dishes.

Q. How are Brazil nuts processed and prepared for consumption?

They are harvested from their pods in the Amazon rainforest. After collection, the outer shells are cracked open to reveal the edible seeds. The nuts are then shelled, cleaned, and packaged for consumption.

Q Do Brazil nuts have any environmental or conservation concerns?

Yes, there are environmental and conservation concerns associated with harvesting. Ensuring sustainable practices and protecting the Amazon rainforest, where they are primarily found, is vital. Efforts are made to support fair trade and protect the trees and their natural habitat.

Q. What are the differences between Brazil nuts and other nuts like almonds or walnuts?

These nuts differ from almonds and walnuts in several ways. They are larger and have a creamier texture with a unique, rich flavor. Unlike almonds and walnuts, they are particularly known for their exceptionally high selenium content.

Q. Can I grow a Brazil nut tree in my garden?

Growing this tree in your garden can be challenging. These trees are large, slow-growing, and require specific conditions found in the Amazon rainforest. Unless you have a rainforest-like environment in your garden, cultivating this tree may not be feasible. It’s best to appreciate them as a unique rainforest species.

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