The Brazil nut (Bertholletia excelsa) is a South American tree in the family Lecythidaceae, and also the name of the tree’s commercially harvested edible seeds.
The Brazil nut family is in the order Ericales, as are other well-known plants such as blueberries, cranberries, sapote, gutta-percha, tea, phlox and persimmons.
The Brazil nut tree is the only species in the monotypic genus Bertholletia. It is native to the Guianas, Venezuela, Brazil, eastern Colombia, eastern Peru, and eastern Bolivia. It occurs as scattered trees in large forests on the banks of the Amazon River, Rio Negro, Tapajós, and the Orinoco. The genus is named after the French chemist Claude Louis Berthollet.
The Brazil nut is a large tree, reaching 50 m (160 ft) tall and with a trunk 1 to 2 m (3.3 to 6.6 ft) in diameter, making it among the largest of trees in the Amazon rainforests. It may live for 500 years or more, and according to some authorities often reaches an age of 1,000 years. The stem is straight and commonly without branches for well over half the tree’s height, with a large emergent crown of long branches above the surrounding canopy of other trees.
The bark is grayish and smooth. The leaves are dry-season deciduous, alternate, simple, entire or crenate, oblong, 20–35 cm (7.9–13.8 in) long and 10–15 cm (3.9–5.9 in) broad. The flowers are small, greenish-white, in panicles 5–10 cm (2.0–3.9 in) long; each flower has a two-parted, deciduous calyx, six unequal cream-colored petals, and numerous stamens united into a broad, hood-shaped mass.
In Brazil, it is illegal to cut down a Brazil nut tree. As a result, they can be found outside production areas, in the backyards of homes and near roads and streets. The fruits are very heavy and rigid; when the fruits fall, they pose a serious threat to vehicles and people passing under the tree. Brazil nut fruits sink in fresh water, which can cause clogging of waterways in riparian areas.
There has been a long history of extraction and collection of Brazil nuts from the forest in Pando, Beni and Acre (PBA). In fact, since as early as 1633 Brazil nuts have been exported to Europe, however this early trade was primarily focused in the Eastern Amazon (Wadt, et al., 2005).
The Brazil nut is widely recognized as a delicious nut that is high in natural oils and is seen as a significant source of naturally occurring selenium, which the health food culture highlights for its cancer fighting qualities.
In northern Bolivia the tradition of Brazil nut extraction is very important to the local communities. It was found that more than 50% of the local population derive their livelihoods from this crop, with the collection and processing of the nuts employing around 15,000 people for 8 to 9 months of the year (Soldan, 2003).
The Brazil nut is termed a non timber forest product (NTFP) because the seeds or “nuts” are primarily wild harvested in the Amazon forest. It accounts for around 45% of Bolivia’s forest-related exports, contributing more than $70 million USD to the national economy annually (CIFOR, 2007).
The total Brazil nut export in 2010 was around 24,000 metric tonnes; this volume varies little annually (Zuidema, 2003, Kainer, et al., 2007). The nuts collected in PBA are processed in the northern Bolivian urban centres of Riberalta and Cobija before being shipped to international markets.
Nowadays the majority of nuts are cracked and extracted from their individual shells. This is done to reduce the risk of a widely naturally occurring substance called aflatoxin that can accumulation in the product. The occurrence of aflatoxin can prevent shipments being accepted in some importing countries like the UK.
The demand for the Brazil nut as a food commodity is of key importance to the local economies that depend on them, but is also of key importance to the survival of the rainforest in which the nuts are found.
23 Amazing Benefits
Selenium in Brazil nuts speeds the cell turnover process, providing a natural glow to the skin. The high levels of antioxidants in Brazil nuts stimulate the production of glutathione, which combats free radicals that damage the skin collagen. The Vitamin E in Brazil nuts also maintains the integrity of the cells of the mucus membranes and the skin.
The Vitamin E and selenium present in Brazil nuts help to prevent skin cancer. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that protects the skin from free radical damage. A deficiency in selenium can cause basal and squamous skin cancer. Brazil nuts also contain copper, a mineral that aids in the production of melanin. Melanin is a color pigment that protects the body from the harmful ultraviolet rays. Consume a handful of Brazil nuts every day to protect yourself from skin cancer.
The anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties of Brazil nuts can be useful for treating acne and skin inflammation. Zinc in this nut reduces skin redness and promotes the production of collagen. It flushes out the toxins from the body, preventing the onset of acne.
Brazil nuts contain Vitamin A and E that increase the production of collagen, giving you smooth and firm skin. Apply the oil before going to bed to add a healthy shine to your complexion.
Brazil nuts are very useful for alleviating skin dryness. It contains nutrients like zinc, Vitamin E and omega 3 fatty acids that treat skin dryness and flakiness, preventing eczema and psoriasis. The oil extracted from Brazil nuts can also be used to treat skin dryness and minor infections. The emollient properties of Brazil nut oil keep the skin well-hydrated and moisturized. Apply a few drops of Brazil nut oil on the feet to treat itchiness, cracked heels and tightness.
Brazil nuts act as a wonderful natural exfoliant. Take half a cup of Brazil nuts and grind them in a processor to make a fine powder. Combine the powder with mashed avocado and eggs to make a smooth paste. Rub the paste gently on your wet face and leave it for 15 minutes. Rinse it off with cold water and pat dry. The paste will provide the right abrasiveness without damaging the fragile areas of the skin. It will exfoliate the skin gently, removing the dead cells, while avocado and egg will make the skin smooth and supple.
Lack of essential nutrients in the body can cause hair fall or stunted hair growth. Brazil nuts contain selenium, an important trace mineral that is extremely vital for the health of the hair. A deficiency in selenium, can often lead to excessive hair fall. Regular consumption of Brazil nuts can improve hair growth and health.
Brazil nuts are the easiest and least expensive treatment to make the hair healthy and shiny. It contains high amounts of omega 3 fatty acids, which stimulate the production of sebum in the scalp, conditioning the hair naturally. Brazil nut oil is also used in shampoos, conditioners and hair treatments. Eat a handful of Brazil nuts daily to notice a major improvement in the quality of your hair.
Brazil nut is an excellent source of l-arginine, an amino acid that is mainly used topically to reverse male baldness. It encourages the growth of healthy hair. This amino acid also improves the health of the artery walls, making them less prone to blood clots. Our scalp requires a strong flow of blood for proper hair growth.
Prevent hair breakage
Brazil nuts are rich in omega 3 fatty acids, a healthy form of fatty acid that makes the strands healthy. It is also a good source of Vitamin E, one of the most important nutrients required for improving the appearance of the hair. A deficiency in this nutrient can make the hair brittle and prone to breakage.
Regulates the thyroid hormone
Brazil nuts contain an active enzyme called “triodothyronine” which helps to produce the active thyroid hormone. Eat a handful of Brazil nuts every day to get your daily dose of selenium.
Excellent source of selenium
Most of the health benefits of Brazil nuts can be attributed to its high selenium content. Our body cannot produce selenium on its own. It is important to consume it through foods to prevent its deficiency. Selenium is an essential component required for producing two antioxidant enzymes- glutathione peroxidase and thioredoxin reductase. It also helps to increase the Vitamin E function in the body.
Neutralizes free radical damage
Selenium encourages the production of glutathione, the most important antioxidant that protects the body from free radical damage. Free radicals can oxidize in the body, damaging the cells and tissues. Selenium neutralizes the free radicals, while providing protection from a number of health conditions like heart diseases and cancer.
Brazil nut assists in weight management. It contains high amounts of protein and fiber that control hunger, thereby reducing weight. Eating a small serving of Brazil nuts keeps you full for a longer time, reducing the likelihood of snacking in between.
Brazil nuts contain high amounts of omega 3 fatty acids that help to lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases. The nuts are an excellent source of monounsaturated fatty acids like oleic and palmitoleic acid. This is beneficial for lowering the bad cholesterol and increasing good cholesterol in the blood. It favors the blood lipid profile, preventing coronary artery diseases and stroke. Selenium in Brazil nuts also prevents the clotting of blood.
Brazil nuts are very beneficial for treating Acrodermatitis enteropathica, a rare inherited disorder. The disorder occurs when the body fails to absorb sufficient amounts of zinc, leading to its deficiency. Brazil nut contains high levels of zinc, which can help to combat Acrodermatitis enteropathica.
Those who catch a cold easily can benefit greatly from Brazil nuts. It contains a plethora of nutrients that boost the immune system, fighting off cold and flu. It also provides ample energy to carry out the day-to-day activities.
Brazil nuts are considered as complete protein, making them an excellent addition to the vegetarian diet. They provide all the essential amino acids needed for muscle and tissue repair. It contains methionine, an important amino acid that protects us from chronic diseases. It also helps to fend off the signs and symptoms of ageing.
Brazil nuts are a nutrient-dense food. It contains magnesium, a mineral required for the functioning of the muscles. It prevents the buildup of lactic acid in the muscles, preventing soreness and muscular pain. Magnesium is catalytic in nature, which helps to break down the protein into simpler amino acids. It helps in the digestion and absorption of protein in the body.
Brazil nuts contain copper, a mineral vital for the skeletal system. Copper is required for the formation of bone tissues. It also helps in the formation of the connective tissues. It aids the absorption of iron into the blood stream. In addition to the skeletal system, Brazil nuts also strengthen the bones by improving bone mineral density.
Lowers Cancer Risks
The nutrients present in Brazil nuts reduce the risk of several types of cancer like prostate, colon, breast and lung cancer. Brazil nut facilitates the production of glutathione, an enzyme that fights cancer.
The antioxidants present in Brazil nuts protect the semen from free radical damage. It improves sperm mobility and reduces infertility. It also increases natural testosterone levels in the body.
Thiamin in Brazil nuts keeps the nervous system healthy. It is vital for easing mind-related problems like stress, migraine and memory loss. It also helps to quell depression and anxiety. Regular consumption of Brazil nuts may help to prevent Alzheimer’s disease.