Brazil nuts contain beneficial nutrients and minerals, including selenium. They may also help support thyroid function and overall health.

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Brazil, or Brazilian, nuts are tree nuts native to the Amazon rainforest in Brazil, Bolivia, and Peru. Their smooth, buttery texture and nutty flavor are typically enjoyed raw or blanched.

Yes, Brazil nuts offer health benefits. Here are the seven most important ones:

1. Nutrition boost

Brazil nuts are very nutritious and energy dense. A 1-ounce (oz) serving of Brazil nuts contains the following nutrients:

  • Calories: 187
  • Protein: 4.1 grams (g)
  • Fat: 19 g
  • Carbs: 3.3 g
  • Fiber: 2.1 g
  • Copper: 55% Daily Value (DV)
  • Magnesium: 25% DV
  • Phosphorus: 16% DV
  • Manganese: 15% DV
  • Zinc: 10% DV
  • Thiamine: 15% DV
  • Vitamin E: 11% DV

Brazil nuts are rich in selenium too. Just one nut contains 96 micrograms (mcg), or 175% of the reference daily intake (RDI). Most other healthy nuts provide less than 1 mcg, on average.

Additionally, Brazil nuts have higher concentrations of:

  • magnesium
  • copper
  • zinc

The exact amounts of these nutrients may vary depending on climate and soil.

Finally, Brazil nuts are an excellent source of healthy fats. In fact, 36% of the fats in Brazil nuts are polyunsaturated fatty acids. This type of fat has shown benefits for heart health.

2. Selenium source

Brazil nuts are a rich source of selenium. A 1-oz nut contains approximately 989% DV of selenium.

The DV for selenium is 55 mcg per day for adults. Thus, the average Brazil nut contains 175% of the required amount of this mineral.

Selenium is a trace element vital for your body’s proper functioning. It’s essential for your thyroid and influences your immune system and cell growth.

Indeed, higher levels of selenium have been linked to enhanced immune function and better outcomes for:

  • cancer
  • infections
  • infertility
  • pregnancy
  • heart disease
  • mood disorders

Although selenium deficiency is rare, some people worldwide may have insufficient intake for optimal functioning. For example, suboptimal selenium status has been found in people throughout Europe, the United Kingdom, and the Middle East.

Brazil nuts are a highly effective way to maintain or increase your selenium intake.

3. Thyroid support

Your thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland at the base of your neck. It secretes essential hormones for growth, metabolism, and body temperature regulation.

Thyroid tissue has the highest concentration of selenium — required for the production of the thyroid hormone T3 — as well as proteins that protect your thyroid from cellular damage.

One Brazil nut per day could deliver enough selenium to support thyroid function.

4. Thyroid disorder management

One large study from 2015 found that people with low selenium levels in China had a significantly higher rate of thyroid diseases, such as hypothyroidism, thyroiditis, and enlarged thyroid, than people with regular levels.

As well as ensuring proper thyroid function, selenium may improve symptoms in people with thyroid disorders.

Low selenium intake may lead to cellular damage, reduced thyroid activity, and autoimmune disorders like Hashimoto thyroiditis and Graves’ disease. It may also increase your chance of thyroid cancer.

Hashimoto thyroiditis is an autoimmune disorder in which the thyroid tissue is gradually destroyed, leading to hypothyroidism and a range of symptoms, including:

  • fatigue
  • weight gain
  • brain fog
  • feeling cold

A 2016 review of research found that supplementing with selenium may improve immune function after reducing the number of thyroid antibodies, a standard indicator of the severity of an autoimmune attack in Hashimoto thyroiditis.

However, another review concludes that insufficient evidence exists to determine selenium’s role in managing the condition. Therefore, further research is needed.

Meanwhile, Graves’ disease is a thyroid disorder in which too much thyroid hormone is produced (hyperthyroidism), leading to symptoms like:

  • weight loss
  • weakness
  • sleeping problems
  • bulging eyes

A 2018 review suggests that supplementing with selenium may improve thyroid function and delay the progression of some symptoms in people with Graves’ disease. However, more research is needed.

The use of Brazil nuts as a selenium source, specifically in people with thyroiditis or Graves’ disease, is limited. Nevertheless, discussing selenium supplementation via Brazil nuts with a healthcare professional may be a good idea.

5. Inflammation reduction

Brazil nuts are rich in antioxidants, which help keep your cells healthy. Antioxidants do this by combating damage caused by reactive molecules called free radicals.

Selenium, vitamin E, and phenols, like gallic acid and ellagic acid, are common antioxidants in Brazil nuts.

Selenium increases levels of an enzyme known as glutathione peroxidase (GPx). GPx may help reduce inflammation and protect your body from oxidative stress — an imbalance between antioxidants and free radicals that may lead to cellular damage.

6. Heart health

Brazil nuts contain heart-healthy fatty acids, such as polyunsaturated fats, and are rich in antioxidants, minerals, and fiber. All of these nutrients may help lower your risk of heart disease.

Research has indicated that Brazil nuts may improve or reduce:

  • vascular inflammation
  • oxidative stress
  • coagulation
  • total cholesterol
  • triglycerides
  • blood glucose levels

They may also improve HDL (good) cholesterol levels and arterial stiffness.

7. Brain health

Brazil nuts contain ellagic acid and selenium, which can benefit your brain health.

Ellagic acid is a type of polyphenol in Brazil nuts. It has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that may have protective and antidepressant effects on your brain. Selenium may also play a role in brain health by acting as an antioxidant.

In a 2016 study, older adults with mental impairment ate one Brazil nut per day for 6 months. In addition to experiencing increased selenium levels, they showed improved verbal fluency and thinking ability.

Low selenium levels are associated with neurodegenerative diseases, like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

What’s more, some research suggests that supplementing with selenium may help mediate low mood, which is significantly associated with inadequate selenium intake.

Brazil nuts offer impressive health benefits, but eating too many at a time could be harmful.

An intake of 5,000 mcg of selenium, which is the amount in approximately 50 average-sized Brazil nuts, may result in toxicity.

Selenosis (toxicity by selenium) may cause:

  • breathing problems
  • cardiovascular accidents
  • kidney failure

Taking too much selenium, particularly from supplements, has also been linked to an increased risk of diabetes and prostate cancer.

The upper level of selenium intake for adults is 400 mcg per day. For this reason, it’s important not to eat too many Brazil nuts and check nutrition labels for selenium content.

Limiting your intake to one to three medium-sized Brazil nuts daily is a smart way to avoid consuming too much selenium.

Additionally, people with some food allergies, including nut allergies, may be allergic to Brazil nuts and need to avoid them.

Brazil nuts are nutritional powerhouses providing healthy fats, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. They’re exceptionally high in selenium, a mineral with potent antioxidant properties that’s also good for thyroid, brain, and heart health.

Taking too much selenium may lead to toxicity, though. To avoid consuming too much selenium, limit your intake to one to three medium-sized Brazil nuts daily. If you take any medications, consult a healthcare professional before incorporating Brazil nuts into your routine.