It may come as a surprise to some readers, but Brazil nuts, which are often consumed as snacks, are not actually nuts at all. Instead they are seeds, rich in healthy proteins and fats. These highly nutritious items, encased within a set of protective brown shells, have been part of the global diet for centuries, both as a snack and as an ingredient in various health remedies, beauty treatments and medicines.
What are Brazil Nuts?
Brazil nuts are off-white seeds, usually about 1-1.5 inches long. They contain a hard, woody outer shell, which encloses a thin pale membrane. Inside this thin layer is the nut’s edible section. This edible section is where the majority of its health benefits can be found, due to its high content of essential fatty acids, dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals and proteins.
Where Do Brazil Nuts Grow?
Over the centuries, the primary source of these highly nutritious seeds has been the South American region of the Amazon rainforest. While they are believed to originally come from Brazil, they are now grown in several other countries in South America, including Bolivia and Peru. Depending on the region of production, the size, shape and taste of the nut may vary.
Health Benefits of Eating Brazil Nuts
Studies have revealed that eating regular portions of Brazil nuts, regardless of the region of production, can be very beneficial for our health.
Regular consumption of Brazil nuts can benefit us in a number of ways. Firstly, they are rich in protein and help to provide the body with much needed energy. Research has found that Brazil nuts can help lower cholesterol levels, which can in turn protect against heart disease.
Brazil nuts have an abundance of minerals, including selenium, magnesium and zinc, which are thought to help protect against oxidative stress and keep cellular damage to a minimum. Additionally, they are an excellent source of monounsaturated fats and omega-6 fatty acids, which help to reduce inflammation and keep blood pressure under control.
Medicinal and Cosmetic Uses
The high content of minerals and proteins makes Brazil nuts a popular choice for medicinal and cosmetic products. Latin American cultures have been using the nut’s inner shell as a form of treatment for various ailments and conditions, such as headaches, arthritis and joint pain.
Their beneficial oils can also be used to promote healthy looking skin and hair. Applying oil from Brazil nuts to the scalp helps to improve the overall growth of hair. Additionally, when consumed as part of a regular diet, the flavonoids found in the seed can improve skin complexion and reduce wrinkles.
Taste and Recipes
Despite their numerous health benefits, the taste of Brazil nuts see them remain a firm favorite for snacking for people all around the world. They have a creamy, nutty, slightly sweet taste, and are best consumed when their shells are cracked and the nuts are eaten raw.
They also provide a tasty addition to dishes and desserts. Brazil nuts can be used in lieu of other nut varieties, added to creamy porridges or used to make snack bars, such as energy balls. This tasty nut can also be used as a topping for salads.
As evidenced throughout this article, Brazil nuts are more than just a snack, but one which offers numerous health benefits and can help us to reach our nutritional goals. Rich in proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals, the addition of this seed to our diet can help to protect against a range of health problems and can provide us with a tasty snack for on the go.