Zel's Vegan NutGourmet

Zel Allen Goes Nuts for Good Health

BRAZIL NUTS: THE DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE OF THE NUT WORLD

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on April 30, 2010

For many years I’ve known that consuming one Brazil nut a day supplies the human body with its daily requirement for selenium, an important trace mineral high in antioxidants. But here’s what I recently learned that gave me a bit of a jolt. Recent studies show that while Brazil nuts have many positive attributes, they also have a hidden side that sparked researchers to express cautionary advice.

I turn to nature rather than food manufacturers to provide the most nourishing foods for human consumption. I’m also cognizant that we humans absorb our vitamins and minerals best from pure, natural foods rather than from synthetically manufactured supplements. Human nature is kind of funny, though. We often have a tendency to believe that if a small amount of a nutrient-dense food or supplement is good for us, wouldn’t gobbling down double, triple, or five times the amount be even better?

That theory works well for some foods, like dark leafy greens, but it doesn’t apply across the board. That mind-set is especially problematic when it comes to Brazil nuts.


The good news
On the positive side, Brazil nuts, like all nuts, are highly nutritious and densely packed with minerals like calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, and zinc. Brazil nuts also possess trace amounts of thiamine, riboflavin, and niacin in the B vitamin family, along with healthy levels of folate and vitamin E. Clearly, these nuts are remarkably nutritious.

Brazil nuts stand apart from all other nuts with their exceptionally high levels of selenium. The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for selenium for adults 19 years and up is 55 micrograms a day. According to the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, one Brazil nut delivers 95.8 micrograms of selenium, well over the daily requirement for the mineral.

In comparison, other nuts do not even come close to measuring up. Pine nuts contain the least selenium, registering only 0.2 micrograms for one ounce, while cashews weigh in with 5.6 micrograms per ounce, the highest quantity after Brazil nuts.

A randomized controlled study conducted at the University of Otago in New Zealand found that consuming two Brazil nuts daily is as effective in boosting selenium levels in the blood as taking selenomethionine, a synthetic selenium supplement. The group that ate two Brazil nuts a day also measured higher in antioxidant levels than those taking the supplement. Selenium, required only in small amounts, helps the body to produce antioxidant enzymes that protect the cells from free radical damage. Study authors also found that those with adequate levels of selenium in the blood have a reduced risk for breast and prostate cancer.

A double-blind, placebo-controlled study, known as the Nutritional Prevention of Cancer trial noted that in populations where selenium consumption was low, there was a rise in the incidence of cancer. The long-term trial involving 1312 individuals found supplementation with selenium reduced the total cancer incidence by 48% to 63%, especially prostate, colorectal, and lung cancer. Generally, the dietary selenium levels in the U.S. population are considered good. The trial was conducted where dietary levels were poor. Considering the results of the study conducted at the University of Otago, two Brazil nuts a day may have been equally as effective in this population as the selenium supplement.

Selenium is found in the soil where plant foods can absorb it through their root systems. Other plant-based foods high in natural selenium include most nuts, whole grains like corn, wheat, oats, and rice, along with foods of the legume family, including soybeans.

An exceptional plus for Brazil nuts is their high level of the antioxidant glutathione peroxidase (GPx), that may bestow benefits on our health in multiple ways:

• Boosting the immune system
• Protecting from cardiovascular disease
• Improving fertility
• Helping ward off the growth of cancerous cells
• Increasing thyroid metabolism

Not only does our immune function work best when selenium levels are adequate, but the mineral is an important component that prevents deficiencies that could impair thyroid function.

The bad news
In spite of their many positive qualities, Brazil nuts might be considered the bad boys of the nut family. Because Brazil nuts have an exceptionally high concentration of phytic acid, measuring 2% to 6% in their hulls, they might interfere with the absorption of some nutrients like iron, zinc, calcium, and magnesium. While their monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats may be beneficial in lowering cholesterol when ingested in small quantities, Brazil nuts high level of saturated fat (25%) could possibly raise cholesterol levels if the nuts are consumed in large quantities.

Overdosing on selenium can cause a toxic condition known as selenosis, leaving patients with a host of nasty symptoms like hair loss, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, sloughing of the fingernails, fatigue, irritability, and nerve damage. Less common are cirrhosis of the liver and kidney failure.

While a 12-week study of 60 volunteers published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, February 2008, found that study participants consuming two Brazil nuts a day had higher levels of selenium compared with those consuming a 100-microgram supplement or taking a placebo, the research concluded with a cautionary message.

Professor Christine Thomson, Department of Human Nutrition University of Otago, says, “People should be careful to limit themselves to no more than a few Brazil nuts per day, otherwise selenium could potentially accumulate to toxic levels in body tissues. Also, as the nuts can contain relatively high amounts of the elements barium and thorium, people should avoid eating too many as it is still unclear what intake of these elements might be harmful.”

Another study, prompted by the UK National Diet and Nutrition Survey, was conducted because of concern that the average selenium consumption in the UK is far below the recommended levels of 75 micrograms per day for men and 60 micrograms for women.

Several studies have shown an association of high levels of selenium in the blood and increased risk of type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and risk of heart disease. Researchers at the Warwick Medical School in Coventry, England, conducted an observational study involving 1,042 individuals, aged 19 to 64, to measure how selenium levels in the blood compared to their blood cholesterol status. In this UK National Diet and Nutrition Survey conducted 2000 to 2001, participants’ blood selenium was measured, and they were asked specific lifestyle questions about diet and alcohol consumption.

The findings revealed that participants with 1.20 micromols (about 94 micrograms) of selenium in the blood showed an average 8 percent rise in total cholesterol and a 10 percent rise in LDL cholesterol, the bad cholesterol associated with heart disease. Study authors noted that while these results raise concerns, they were unable to show positively that increased selenium levels in the blood were the cause of the jump in cholesterol levels or whether it was due to other factors. Those individuals who tested in the upper levels of selenium in the blood revealed they were regularly taking selenium supplements.

Lead author Dr. Saverio Stranges says, “The cholesterol increases we have identified may have important implications for public health. In fact, such a difference could translate into a large number of premature deaths from coronary heart disease.” Dr. Stranges expressed further concern, “We believe that the widespread use of selenium supplements, or of any other strategy that artificially increases selenium status above the level required, is unwarranted at the present time. Further research is needed to examine the full range of health effects of increased selenium, whether beneficial or detrimental.”

Study authors also examined the levels of the antioxidant glutathione peroxidase and found that those with the higher levels of selenium in their blood had an 8 to 10 percent increase in total cholesterol.

When published studies revealed that selenium may be able to fight off cancer, the news sparked interest in the mineral and created a demand for the supplements. However, there still remains no definitive evidence that the antioxidants in selenium can prevent such diseases.

While a handful-a-day of most nuts is beneficial in raising antioxidant levels and effective in lowering total and LDL cholesterol levels, the handful-a-day mantra is off the table for Brazil nuts. Stick with the recommended quantity of one or two Brazil nuts per day. A whole handful of the nuts could easily boost one’s blood selenium to unhealthy levels.

As much as I love nuts and consider them a healthy food source for my everyday diet, I have adopted the safe mantra that nut researchers conclude in study after study: A LITTLE BIT GOES A LONG WAY. In the case of Brazil nuts, eat one or two nuts a day, then, STOP.

References:
“Brazil Nuts Health Benefits.” Suite101.com.
http://food-facts.suite101.com/article.cfm/brazil_nuts_health_benefits

“Eating Just Two Brazil Nuts a Day Ensures Adequate Selenium Levels.” Health Freedom Alliance.
http://healthfreedoms.org/2009/05/27/eating-just-two-brazil-nuts-a-day-ensures-adequate-selenium-levels

Jackson, Malcolm J., Caroline S. Broome, and Francis McArdle. “Marginal Dietary Selenium Intakes in the UK: are There Functional Consequences?” The American Society for Nutritional Sciences. Supplement: 11th International Symposium on Trace Elements in Man and Animals. The Journal of Nutrition, 133:1557S-1559S, May 2003

“Selenium.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Selenium

Stranges, Saverio, Martin Laclaustra, Chen Ji, Francesco P. Cappuccio, Ana Navas-Acien, Jose M. Ordovas, Margaret Rayman, and Eliseo Guallar. “Higher Selenium Status is Associated with Adverse Blood Lipid Profile in British Adults.” Journal of Nutrition. doi:10.3945/jn.109.111252, November 11, 2009.

Thompson Christine .D., Alexandra Chisholm, Sarah K. McLachlan, and Jennifer M. Campbell. “Brazil nuts: an effective way to improve selenium status.” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 87, No 2, 379-384, February 2008

USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference
http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp/search

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78 Responses to “BRAZIL NUTS: THE DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE OF THE NUT WORLD”

  1. hekowelve said

    Just want to say what a great blog you got here!
    I’ve been around for quite a lot of time, but finally decided to show my appreciation of your work!

    Thumbs up, and keep it going!

    Cheers
    Christian, iwspo.net

    • nutgourmet said

      Christian, Thanks a million for the great support. Feels good. And thanks for taking the time to express your appreciation. I appreciate that. Please do pass the word on the blog. I’m anxious to have more people discover the many benefits of nuts.

      Zel

  2. anardana said

    Thank you for the scientific testing info! Great post.

    • nutgourmet said

      Hi Ardana, Thanks so much for the kind words. Checked out your website and found myself salivating over the asparagus ideas and your homemade rye bread.
      Zel

  3. justin said

    Good stuff, I knew a little about brazil nuts but this helps out. That was really in depth, I think as long as you don’t go overboard and consume too much brazil nuts would be benificial.

    • nutgourmet said

      Hi Justin, Thanks for the positive feedback on the Brazil nut article. I felt the information was so important, it needed to be shared. The best way to live with Brazil nuts healthfully, is to limit yourself to 1 or 2 Brazil nuts a day, while other nuts can bring health benefits by consuming a handful or two a day.
      Zel

  4. Audrey said

    Thank you for sharing this information! I found it really interesting and helpful. It sounds like if I eat one brazil nut every other day I should be okay, right? I’m assuming that would fill in the selenium gap not covered by other grains, nuts, and legumes but still not be too much that it would be dangerous. Such a fine balance in the nutrition world!

    • nutgourmet said

      Hi Audrey,

      I think it’s safe to enjoy a couple of Brazil nuts a day without causing health problems. You could even occasionally eat a handful without concern. The major issue is when people overdose on Brazil nuts on a daily basis. Over time, that can possibly become a health issue. Brazil nuts are awesome! Enjoy them in moderation.

      Zel

  5. Excellent write-up on brasil nuts!! :) Thank you for this precious piece of information.
    The Jaminet couple>/a> speaks highly of suplementation with brasil nuts because of the selenium, but I wasn’t aware of the need for a limit. So thanks for that.
    Meanwhile, you might eventually want to review your position on saturated fat and the outdated belief that cholesterol is linked to heart disease; not only it is not true (there are no valid scientific studies that prove it), it is also a red herring the size of the moon.
    Watch
    all 5 parts of the lecture, you won’t regret it. And this is merely the tip of the iceberg, if you follow the references and names he gives there, you will discover an entire new universe of reality.
    Obviously, I’m on a Paleo/Primal lifestyle and haven’t found one single bad thing to say about it.
    Cheers!

    • nutgourmet said

      Hi Vasco, So glad you found the brazil nut article informative. I really enjoy the research process and love to discover the many health studies that show the benefits of including nuts in the diet on a regular basis. Of course, not too many nuts at one time. Please do visit often.

  6. Sorry, forgot to close the link tag on that last comment… oops. :)

  7. Pam Doughty said

    Thank you so much for the great information on the Brazil nut. I am not one to stop at one so this is going to help me out a lot.

    • Zel Allen's nutgourmet said

      Hi Pam, So glad my Brazil nut post was helpful to you. Do visit often for lots of other nutty postings. Zel

  8. Jason Scott said

    Great blog, thanks for all the wealth of nut info!

    Any idea how long on average from harvest until a Brazil nut (in shell) goes bad? I was wondering in cases of ‘stocking up’ in bulk

    Thanks again!

    • Zel Allen's nutgourmet said

      Hi Jason, Thanks for the kind words on my nutgourmet blog. Once harvested, nuts have impressive longevity, but that longevity depends on how they are stored. In the shell, they can keep at room temperature for 6 to 9 months. You can stretch their lives by refrigerating them. Once shelled, most nuts keep at room temperature for about one month. If you refrigerate shelled nuts, you’ll be able to keep them fresh for about 6 to 8 months. Freezing nuts in the shell or out of the shell will allow you to keep them for up to 1 year. You may be able to stretch that a few months, but you’ll find variations, depending on when they were harvested. Hope this helps. Zel

  9. Nina said

    Hello Zel,
    Thank you soooooooo much for all the data, I have just found this link! Brilliant and very helpful ! I have just discovered the benefits of Brazilian nuts and had my first two (: Will keep on reading and discovering !!! :::::Thanks you again:::::

  10. wow, this is one of the best- researched, most informative blogs I have ever seen. Thanks for the wonderful information!

    • Zel Allen's nutgourmet said

      Hi Dr. Siegel, Thanks so much for those very kind words. They’re so appreciated. Hope you’ll return for more visits. I’m the author of The Nut Gourmet, a cookbook that features nuts in a host of delicious plant-based recipes. My new cookbook, Vegan for the Holidays will be coming out this summer. Zel

  11. Laura said

    Hi Doc,
    For the last three years I would eat 10-15 a day with a day or two in between. I do have hair falling out and nails splitting etc.. If I did overdose on selenium, can the damage be permanent on the organs?
    Is there a test I can do?
    Thank very much for this info!!!!

    • Zel Allen's nutgourmet said

      Hi Laura, So sorry to hear about your health challenges. I’m not a medical practitioner, but my suggestion is to consult one. You may have overdosed, but I don’t have the expertise to say for sure. Meanwhile, discontinue eating Brazil nuts and do not take any selenium supplements. As for what else you can do, consider consulting a registered dietitian. I’ll send my best wishes for quick healing. Zel

      • Nodyah said

        He stated the Brazil nuts have an exceptionally high concentration of phytic acid, measuring 2% to 6% in their hulls. Phytic acid is hard on the pancreas over time and could lead to problems as well as interfering with the absorption of some nutrients like iron, zinc, calcium, and magnesium. .The hull would include the dark skin around the Brazil nut, but not the white meat of the nut. It seems if you peel off the dark brown skin, you would not have so much of an issue with phytic acid and solve a few problems.

      • Zel Allen's nutgourmet said

        Hello Nodyah, Thanks so much for your interest in my blog article on Brazil nuts. It has always been my instinct that when nuts are consumed in moderation, they are healthful. Unless one has a nut allergy, consuming 1 Brazil nut a day ought to keep one safe from the problems caused by consuming an excess. That 1 Brazil nut contains more than the daily requirement of selenium, so there is no need for more than one Brazil nut a day. Phytic acid in small doses is usually not a problem for most people, but it’s easy to remove the hulls to avoid it completely. I also recognize that variety is important to prevent unpleasant reactions from eating only a single variety of nut day after day that may lead to allergic reactions. – Zel

  12. Lyn Flores said

    I love Brazil nuts, and since December I have been eating 6 to 8 nuts almost every day.
    . My cholesterol has always been very low, until my blood test this week when it was so high my Dr. thought about putting me on a low level of medication. He asked me what had changed in my diet and the only thing that had was my consumption of Brazil nuts. Now after reading this article, I know why my cholesterol has gone so high. Thanks for the information. I will immediately cut down on the nuts. In 2 months I will have another blood test and I bet my count will be normal again. Who Knew? ( I will also make sure the hull is removed.) LYN

    • Zel Allen's nutgourmet said

      Hi Lyn,

      I’m so glad to hear my Brazil nut article was helpful to you. Nuts of all varieties are a bit sneaky. They make you fall in love with them instantly, making it tempting to overeat them. Brazil nuts, with their very buttery flavor, are especially enchanting. But they are troublesome as well. Usually, studies show that 1 ounce of nuts per day helps to lower cholesterol, but Brazil nuts are higher in saturated fat (about 22%) than, say almonds, pecans, and walnuts (8%).For now, you may want to kick it back to 1 or 2 a week, until your cholesterol comes down. Usually 1 Brazil nut a day is all anyone would need. That single Brazil nut actually provides more than the daily requirement for selenium. Here’s to a normal cholesterol reading on your next test.

      Zel

  13. jane lisle said

    Thanks so much for the info. I’ve been eating 3-5 brazil nuts a day for approx 6 mths now. And, as it happens, for approx 6 mths now i’ve been losing “distressing” amounts of hair and my fingernails have been terribly weak and pealing, “a lot” :( So i’ll change my brazil nut eating habits posthaste and see if my hair and fingernails return to a healthy state. Thanks again :)

    • Zel Allen's nutgourmet said

      Hi Jane,

      So sorry to hear about your distressing Brazil nut experience. Nuts, a very healthful category of food, would seem like benign, friendly foods, but not so Brazil nuts. Because of their very high content of selenium, they ought to be eaten sparingly. Even 1 Brazil nut contains much more than the daily requirement for selenium and too much selenium can cause a host of health problems. For now, I would suggest you stop consuming Brazil nuts altogether and give your body an opportunity to recover. A little extra calcium in the form of daily kale salads and smoothies may help with the fingernails. Concentrate on eating lots of fresh fruits and veggies, both raw and lightly steamed. Wishing you success in recovery.

      Zel

  14. David Marino said

    Soak the Brazil nuts (and all nuts and seeds) to greatly reduce phytic acid levels.

    • Zel Allen's nutgourmet said

      Hi David,

      That’s good advice. Thanks for sharing. You may want to see my post “To soak or not to soak–it’s a nutty question.”

      Zel

  15. honore said

    So sad. I’m a vegan and LOVE LOVE LOVE brazilian nuts. I’ve been eating way too many, as I can see after reading this! I usually eat about 5 a day. Sniff…. gotto give ‘em up :(

    • Hello Honore,

      Everyone’s body has a different chemistry. It could be that 5 Brazil nuts a day have not been problematic. But I must agree that it’s better to be safe than sorry. It’s much much easier to prevent overdoes than to cure the various effects of of consuming too many. If you feel you cannot live without Brazil nuts, stick with one a day. If you eat a few once in a while, that’s not likely to cause the effect of eating too many every day. I’m so glad you dropped into visit my NutGourmet Blog. Come on by often. There’s always something new!

      Zel

  16. honore said

    PS: I’ve been eating them regularly for about a year and have had no symptoms at all, though! But better safe than sorry…

  17. Aunt Jennie said

    Wow! Found your articles just after popping 5 brazil nuts. Expecting lots of good news, so what a surprise.

    I’m trying to find a way to bring down my prediabetic blood sugar… Just trial an error I find I’ve had to cut out most starchy foods completely… So I was using nuts much more – but seemed like a handful of most nuts raised my blood sugar a lot, not so much brazil nuts, and they are so satisfying; so a meal on the go for me now included 4-6 brazil nuts. So all I can say is … Darn!

    I like that I can do 1-2 a day, at least that’s something.

    • Hi Aunt Jennie,

      Thanks for your comment. I’m not a health practitioner but I have seen many people shed their prediabetic high blood sugar levels by going vegan and eating whole foods rather than refined, processed foods – foods from Mother Nature rather than stuff that comes packaged from a manufacturing plant. Try eating lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and a handful of nuts every day and you may be able to return to normal blood sugar in a short time. As for the Brazil nuts, do approach them with caution. They’re certainly not a problem for everybody, but it’s best to go for moderation.

      Zel

      • honore said

        I second that! Especially avoiding the processed foods. About the nuts: I grew up in Germany and as tradition on the 6th of december for St Nick day, we would get our boots filled with nuts and mandarins, a lot of them Brazilian nuts. All through the advent weeks and until Newyears, as is tradition, you eat plenty of nuts, dried fruits and citrus fruits. But the nuts were never already peeled and ready to eat. It seems that nature has a way of making sure we don’t eat too many Brazilian nuts. Have you ever tried to peel one yourself? They are by far the hardest to crack and to get out of the shell! So naturally after 2 or 3 you’re tired of cracking and pass on them :) We have it too easy nowadays, with everything pre-prepared and ready to pop into the mouth. By the time you would crack and peel 6 Brazilian nuts (I remember struggling with the shell AND the annoying peel) your hands are sore…
        Ah Brazilian nuts…. the buttery, smokey yumminess, why, why!!! :)

  18. Shiban.Zutshi said

    Reading all those blogs i fail to understand that should i eat Brazil nuts or not it may be even one a day ?

    • Hi Shiban,

      Thanks for visiting my blog. Everyone has different body chemistry.The important thing to keep in mind is that some foods can be problematic if eaten in large quantities. Brazil nuts seem to cause unique problems for some people when eaten to excess. In some cases, excess can mean anything more than 1 Brazil nut. Ultimately, you must use your own judgement. I vote for consuming a variety of foods, including a variety of nuts.

      Zel

  19. debfrance said

    The size of brazil nuts varies greatly – is it possible to have the measurements in grams? 2 brazil nuts came up to 7 grams/.2oz. Thanks for this article.

    • Hi Deb,

      I don’t have a gram scale, but when it comes to Brazil nuts it’s best to keep in mind that less is best. Since 1 Brazil nut contains more than a day’s RDA, I rarely eat more than 1 at a time. Variety is the key to almost everything when it comes to eating healthy. We all have our favorites, but eat a variety of nuts to benefit from their different nutritional qualities.

      Thanks for visiting. Please do drop in often.

      Zel

  20. Pam Pearce said

    If I eat one brazil, . Can I eat more walnuts daily along with the one Braziil for it to be sufficient for my daily needs?

    • Hi Pam,

      I’m not a nutrition expert or a registered dietitian, I get my nutritional profile from the U.S.D.A. Nutrient Data Base that’s available to anyone. One Brazil nut a day seems fine, but you can also get selenium from other natural sources like beans and whole grains. You don’t have to make 1 Brazil nut a day a necessary regimen. As for the walnuts, they offer a healthy quantity of Omega 3 fatty acids along with protein, fiber, plenty of vitamin E, and folate. Walnuts also have calcium, potassium, and zinc. I always stress variety. Each variety of nuts offers different quantities of these same nutrients. I would suggest changing off–when you finish your bag of walnuts, buy some almonds, or pecans, pistachios, etc. And remember, 1 to 2 ounces a day of nuts is plenty.

      Thanks for visiting my blog. Hope you’ll return often for lots of tasty recipes I’ll be posting soon.

      Zel

  21. […] Thankfully my almonds and brazil nuts have arrived, so I am back to my delicious almond blend.  I’ve been popping a couple of brazil nuts in each batch of almond milk to get selenium but only a couple, to avoid selenosis. […]

  22. sabish said

    thank you for the kind information about the brazil nuts consumption

  23. Thank you for the info. I heard from Tim Ferriss that he tripled his testosterone levels by adding Brazil nuts to his diet…so assuming MORE IS A GOOD THING. I have been downing these things by the handful or more. I have checked this out from a number of different sources and you are right on with this info. I am going to start treating Brazil nuts like a 1-2 a day vitamin and not a meal. Glad I came across your blog.

    • Hi Grass Fed,

      I’m delighted my Brazil nut article has been helpful. Many people have discovered my blog article and are practicing a bit of caution when it comes to Brazil nuts. They truly are a two-faced food item–highly nutritious on one hand, but problematic on the other. Everyone has different body chemistry and not everyone would encounter the same problems or experience problems at the same level. Because selenium is toxic at high levels, it’s always best to be moderate when eating Brazil nuts–considering that 1 Brazil nut contains more than the daily requirement for selenium.

      Thanks so much for visiting my blog. Please do drop in often for more nutty adventures and non-nutty ones, too.

      Zel

  24. zimjoyzy said

    Thank you so much for your very informative and educational article on Brazil nuts – my favourite of all nuts! We live in Zimbabwe, and only have access to brazil nuts when we visit the organic market in South Africa once or twice a year. (I do store my nuts in the freezer to extend their shelf life.) When we get there I stock up on Brazil nuts, including cashews, almonds and all my essential seeds. My husband and I munch on 7 Brazil nuts during our daily walk, and so they run out pretty quickly… so cutting down to just one or two a day will make them last longer… one consolation for sure :)

    My husband and I definitely suffer from the belief that “if it is good for you, then eat more of it!!” Thank you for your precautionary advice, which we will heed from now on. We also get a tablespoon of fresh ground flax, sunflower, pumpkin and sesame seeds in our breakfast most mornings, so we are getting selenium from that source as well. (Do you happen to know approximately how much selenium there is in one Tsp?)

    Fortunately I do not have excessive hair loss, just the normal daily amount (at least I hope it is normal!) but I have always had brittle nails. So it is hard to know if my Brazil nut consumption has affected that.

    I will be making your website a favourite for sure, and will visit often to find out more about my other favourite nut… cashews! One of your bloggers made the very relevant point that if you buy unshelled brazil nuts, that will be a very good way of limiting your intake as they are so hard to crack and peal, plus it extends the shelf life of the nut. Nature’s safeguard for sure.

    Thank you again… and i will be back and soon. To good health…

    • Hi Zimjoyzy, I’m so glad the article about Brazil nuts was helpful. I’ve always believed as you do that if something natural is good for you, then more is better. BUT, NOT SO WITH BRAZIL NUTS! Sometimes, just a little bit does wonders, while overdosing can cause serious problems for some people. And nuts of all sorts are so delicious it’s easy to overdo and consume more than is good for us.

      I consulted the USDA Nutrient Database to find the nutritional profile on ground flaxseeds. Seems they have plenty of vitamins and minerals, but selenium is not one of them. You’ll find selenium in legumes and whole grains, and of course, Brazil nuts.

      Please do drop in the this blog for more nutty adventures and non-nut recipes, too. You might also enjoy visiting my other website, Vegetarians in Paradise, a vegan online magazine at http://www.vegparadise.com It’s packed with tons of recipes, articles, and good resources for the veg community.

      To excellent health,

      Zel

      • zimjoyzy said

        Hi Zel, thank you for your quick response to my comment – you are obviously very invested in this whole process of great health and nutrition!

        I took your advice and went to the website that you mentioned above. Whilst reading your article on Vegetarian Basics 101, I came upon this fact about seeds that you will be interested to read, and I quote your words: “Flaxseeds are one of the best plant sources of Omega 3 fatty acids and have high levels of magnesium, selenium, zinc and iron.”

        Interesting that the USDA Nutrient Database is incorrect. I have just done some further research and discovered the answer to my own question that I posed to you in the first place: one Tablespoon of raw flaxseed contains 2.6 mcg of selenium. The internet can indeed be a wonderful tool…

        Right, back to my studies on VB 101 :) Thanks again for sharing your knowledge with us all… it is much appreciated.

        To continuing education and growth and health,

        Joy

  25. Amanda Paang said

    Thanks for sharing with informative on benefits and cons of Brazil nuts, without this info, we will still consume it like a normal peanut volume.

    Thanks so much!!

  26. barb said

    I just heard about the danger of eating Brazil nuts.(After consuming 4-5 at lunch for maybe 6 months). If they are that dangerous, why isn’t it common knowledge? If you can OD on them, the public should be aware.

    • Hi Barb,

      You’re right. It is a concern that ought to be made more public. When I get back from vacation in February, I plan to do some deeper research and share my findings not only on my blog, but also in articles in other publications. Nut allergies, especially to Brazil nuts can be pretty nasty and scary, too. Thanks for writing and making your suggestion about making the public more aware. It gave me the motivation to research.

      Zel

  27. Peter said

    In view of the high fat content in brazils,and currently being on a diet in the vain hope of losing at least half a stone, should I resist the nut,even at only two a day?

    • Hi Peter,

      Nuts actually are a healthy fat and could be included in your daily diet, even if dieting to lose weight. I would suggest nuts with a lower fat content and especially lower in saturated fat, such as almonds, pistachios, walnuts, and hazelnuts (filberts). You might also benefit from increasing your intake of foods with a high fiber content that helps to burn the calories.

      • Peter said

        Hi Zel almost exactly one year since I wrote to you, I’m maintaining my weight at 12st 7lbs,still eating Brazil’s 2_3 a day also Almonds Pecans and Hazel nuts, don’t really know what they all contain, but enjoy them anyway.Best Wishes Peter x

  28. Liz said

    Thank you for the info above. Do you have a good source for organic Brazil nuts?

  29. George Tweedale said

    What I need to know is, if Brazil nuts are so high in phytic acid, and this bog tells me that phytic acid locks up minerals, then why do you say that Brazil nuts are a good source of selenium? Isn’t selenium a mineral, and dos’t the phytic acid in the Brazil nut make it impossible for humans to dijest it?

    • Hi George,

      Thanks so much for your comment about phytic acid in Brazil nuts. On the surface it would seem like the high phytic acid content in Brazil nuts would make it impossible for us to absorb minerals. Fortunately, that’s not the case. First, humans don’t make an entire diet of Brazil nuts. We eat a wide variety of foods, often apart from eating nuts. Also, nuts frequently tend to be eaten as a snack between meals so their phytic acid content does not interfere with mineral absorption from foods consumed at mealtime. Brazil nuts are very rich tasting and usually people do not consume them in enormous quantities. One or two Brazil nuts eaten daily will not likely destroy the body’s mineral absorption ability. Other factors like soaking, sprouting, fermenting, blending and juicing help to break down the phytic acid content of nuts, making it easier for the body to absorb minerals. Hope this helps.

      Zel

  30. George Tweedale said

    Thanks ever so much for taking time to reply to my question. I am only interested in eating 2 Brazil nuts for the purpose of getting the right daily requirement of selenium. Although I am glad to get your advise that such a small amount of phytic acid in 2 Brazil nuts would not interfere with the absorption of minerals in other foods I eat, especially if the Brazil nuts are eaten between meals, this is not what is bothering me. What I really need to know is the phytic acid in 2 Brazil nuts going ruin my chances of absorbing the selenium in them?

    • Hi George,

      I understand your concern and would suggest you soak the Brazil nuts overnight to reduce the phytic acid content and allow more selenium absorption. Considering that the daily requirement for selenium is about 70 mcg and that 1 Brazil nut contains about 95 mcg, eating 2 Brazil nuts a day should give you more than enough selenium. Also consider that other foods you consume throughout the day have selenium, too. Whole grains, beans, leafy greens, other nuts, and sunflower seeds contain varying amounts of selenium. If you consume animal products like meat, seafood, and eggs, you’ll be getting selenium from those as well. The important thing is not to overdo on selenium. If you read my full post — Brazil Nuts: the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of the Nut World –you’ll find that too much selenium can cause some serious and unpleasant issues.

      Zel

  31. Jo said

    Hi, Ive been eating up to 10 brazil nuts a day and loving them, BUT I have a condition that has surfaced where I get puffy eyes and antihistimines are not helping. So I went searching the net today to find possible triggers. I am now going to abstain from my beloved brazils for the time being and hopefully get this under control – its affecting my budding singing career as I cant sing with puffy eyes, it scares the audience!
    Many thanks for the detailed info.
    Jo

    • Hi Jo,

      I am constantly surprised at the many symptoms that result from people eating fairly large quantities of Brazil nuts. I know that 10 Brazil nuts doesn’t seem like all that much, but when you consider the high level of selenium in just one nut, it’s easy to see that you can reach toxic levels quickly. The puffy eyes my not be due to the Brazil nuts at all, but it is certainly a possibility. Since all nuts contain some selenium, you might want to avoid nuts altogether for a week or two and see if your symptoms subside. It’s possible you’ve simply gotten an overload. The symptoms are a way of the body letting you know it’s had too much of something. Sometimes it’s a challenge to discover the source of the problem, but in your case, I’d put my money on the Brazil nuts. Lots of success in your singing career.

      Zel

  32. I enjoy reading a post that makes individuals think. Additionally, thanks for allowing me
    to provide feedback!

  33. P said

    Clinical Study: A Single Consumption of High Amounts of the Brazil Nuts Improves Lipid Profile of Healthy Volunteers

    http://www.hindawi.com/journals/jnume/2013/653185/

    The data size is small and has no placebo arm. Still, the results are astounding.

    • Hi there Py38,

      This is certainly an impressive study, but I fear that doses of 10 to 50 grams of Brazil nuts may be toxic to some people. More problematic is that some people may think it’s a good practice to consume large quantities every day. Judging from the distressing comments this blog article has drawn, I think Brazil nuts ought to come with a “Caution” or “Warning” on every package informing about the dangers of consuming multiple Brazil nuts on a regular basis.

  34. P said

    Hi

    Just to be clear, in the clinical study cited, the subjects ate a single serving of 0, 5, 20, or 50 grams of Brazil nuts, for just one time, not daily.
    30 days later their cholesterol level is measured.
    The 20g single serving got the same cholesterol effect as 50g serving. Perhaps a Brazil nut (appr 5 g) a day is safe.

    Here’s another study on Brazil nut titled
    Brazil nuts intake improves lipid profile, oxidative stress and microvascular function in obese adolescents: a randomized controlled trial.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21619692

  35. n.e.a.t.o. said

    There’s definately a lot to know about this subject. I love all of the points you have made.

  36. Akilah said

    Fantastic info thank you for sharing.

  37. Also the fact that they are shelled or unshelled makes so much difference.

    Unshelled from Brazil has 18 mcg per nut X 3 = 54 mcg
    Unshelled from Bolivia has 8 mcg per nut X 7 = 56 mcg

    So for the daily recommended amount it all depends where they come from.

    However if they come from

    shelled from Newzeland has 42 mcg per nut X 1 = 42 mcg.

    So whilst all that we can read on the internet is fantastic, though very conflicting.

    • Hi Meurig,

      So sorry for this tardy reply. Yes, you’re so right about the origin of the Brazil nuts providing different levels of selenium. Even within the country soils differ. When we read nutritional profiles we must allow for variability in location, soil, nutrients fed to the plants, sun exposure, rainfall, etc. The numbers are merely approximations. Thank you so much for taking the time to bring up this aspect.

      Zel

  38. […] What a terrible day felt dry, skin dry too, so tired yet stimulated… just terrible Drank water all nightFound this article today and apart from overdosing on lipids and having to much fats in my blood stream, which would be affecting my sugar uptakes, you can get very toxic side effects from too much brazil nuts, it has a cautionary warning that brazil nuts can be vey poisoning. http://nutgourmet.wordpress.com/2010/04/30/brazil-nuts-the-dr-jekyll-and-mr-hyde-of-the-nut-world/ […]

    • Hi Rawkus,

      Thanks so much for plugging The Nut Gourmet on your blog and mentioning that overdosing on Brazil nuts can certainly create some challenging health issues. Actually, one Brazil nut a day is plenty and actually exceeds a person’s daily requirement for selenium.

      Zel

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