All About Brazil Nuts - From History To Health

Brazil nuts (Bertholletia Excelsa) are nutritional powerhouses!  They are smooth and creamy and rich in nutty flavor. Brazil nuts are native to South America, found predominantly in Brazil, Peru, Columbia, and Bolivia, and are the edible seed found within individual shells of the fruit upon the Brazil nut tree.  Brazil nut trees only grow in the amazon rain forest.  They rely on the symbiotic nature of the forest and the large-bodied Orchid Bees who pollinate their flowers, to bring their fruits to fruition - making them a 100% wild-harvested jungle nut.

Brazil nuts impressive nutrient density has many positive effects on our health and wellbeing.  Nutritionally speaking Brazil nuts are primarily a source of unsaturated essential healthful fats, are a good source of protein, fiber and packed with life-giving vitamins and minerals – notably their high concentration of selenium, in fact, Brazil nuts are the highest food source of Selenium.

They are rich in antioxidants, are anti-inflammatory and support healthy brain function.  Brazil nuts play a significant role in the health of our heart can help to lower blood sugar levels and support the hormone balance.

Vitamins and Minerals

Brazil nuts are highest in two key vitamins:

B1 (Thiamine)- a water-soluble vitamin that enables the body to use carbohydrates as energy. It is essential for glucose metabolism, and it plays a key role in nerve, muscle, and heart function (1)

Vitamin E– which is a group of fat-soluble vitamins with antioxidant effects.  Vitamin E supports heart health, immune function and lowers inflammation.  Noted for its wound healing, healthy skin, and anti-aging effects, Vitamin E also promotes eye health and helps lower the risk of cancer. (2)

Brazil Nuts are an excellent source of minerals which catalyze 100's of biochemical functions in the body from nerve transmission to the production of hormones and even the beating of our heart.  Minerals play an important role in building strong bones, are essential for maintaining the proper balance of water and play an important role in the overall growth, repair, and maintenance of our body.


Nutrition Facts

According to the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), Brazil nuts have a very low glycaemic load, are low in cholesterol and sodium and have a macronutrient ratio of 85% Fat, 8% protein and 7% carbohydrate (the majority of this being in the form of fiber).  They are a good source of Magnesium, Phosphorus, Copper and a very good source of Selenium. (3)  It is important to note that just one Brazil nut contains up to 96mcg of selenium thus providing us with 175% of the RDI (1)

The key nutrient values below are based on a standard serving of around 28g – around 6 nuts. (3)

Calories: 184 kcal

Protein: 4 grams

Fat: 18.6 grams

  • Saturated Fat 2g
  • Monounsaturated Fat 9g
  • Polyunsaturated Fat 8g
  • Omega-3 5mg
  • Omega-6 5758mg

Carbs: 3.4 grams (of which 2.1g is from Fibre)


Selenium: 537mcg (767% of the RDI)

Magnesium: 105mg (26%)

Copper: 0.5mg (24%)

Phosphorus: 203mg (20%)

Manganese: 0.3mg (17%)

Zinc: 1.1mg (8%)

Potassium: 184mg (5%)

Calcium: 44.8mg (4%)

Iron: 0.7mg (4%)

Vitamin E: 1.2mg (8%)

Vitamin B1: 0.2 mg (12%)

Folate (B9): 6.2 mcg (2%)


Antioxidant effect

Selenium is an antioxidant trace mineral, that in conjunction with Vitamin E improves the body's cellular defense system.  The antioxidant effect helps to repair cell damage, prevent the oxidation of lipids (fats) and prevents the formation of free radicals within the body. Evidence shows that consuming dietary sources would help to prevent cancer by reducing free radical damage.  Selenium is essential in the creation of Glutathione, your body’s master antioxidant (4)

The antioxidant properties of Brazil nuts help to lower inflammation throughout the body. Inflammation is linked to many of our modern-day chronic health conditions (5, 6, 7)

Antioxidants help keep the brain healthy and Brazil nuts powerful antioxidant effects have been shown to boost brain function. (5)

Thyroid Function

Your thyroid gland secretes several hormones that are essential for growth, metabolism, and body temperature regulation.  Thyroid tissue itself has the highest concentration of selenium and plays an essential role in hormone production and a deficiency can cause hormonal imbalances negatively affecting mood, sleep, concentration, and energy.

Low selenium intake can lead to cellular damage and reduced thyroid activity. It may also increase your risk of thyroid cancer (8, 9, 10)

The thyroid gland uses selenium to convert thyroxine hormone (T4) into its active form, triiodothyronine (T3).  These hormones have numerous crucial functions within the body and a regulating effect on the body’s metabolism.  They affect how our brain, cardiovascular, digestive, muscular, and nervous systems all work.  (11)

As well as supporting proper thyroid function, Selenium is shown to assist with those struggling with disorders of the thyroid.  In the case of Hashimoto's thyroiditis, increasing selenium intake has been shown to decreases anti-thyroid antibody levels and improve the structure of the thyroid gland. Selenium has also shown itself to be helpful during pregnancy-related thyroid problems like postpartum thyroiditis as well as Graves’ disease.  (12)

Heart Health

Brazil nuts contain healthful fats called polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids.  According to the American Heart Association (AHA), these fats help improve cholesterol levels lowering the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Brazil nuts are high in dietary fiber also, which helps to lower LDL cholesterol.

A small clinical study published in 2013 in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism found that eating a single serving of Brazil nuts can lower LDL (“bad” cholesterol) and raise HDL (“good cholesterol) in healthy subjects. (13)


Can you eat too many Brazil nuts?

Brazil nuts are best eaten in moderation and despite being incredibly healthy and nutritious you can have too much selenium.  Brazil nuts could cause selenium toxicity if a person regularly eats them in large amount (5, 14, 15,16)

The information in our articles is NOT intended to replace the one on one support of a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice.

By Linda Ross ICNT
Integrative Nutritionist
Body, Mind and Eating Coach
Wholefood Chef 





Linda is currently teaching and consulting Globally. Specializing in identifying the underlying factors of chronic stress and related conditions, using clinical and holistic techniques. Blending ancient wisdom that is backed up by the modern science of nutrition to nourish the body and support people of all ages in understanding and transforming their health and wellbeing.

Links to connect with Linda:
Instagram: @nourishing_ways