The South American Brazil nut is considered a healthy snack. It contains many important nutrients, including calcium, iron and the trace element selenium. At the same time, warnings are repeatedly given against the consumption of Brazil nuts. We reveal what’s behind the rumours.
Nuts and nut mixtures are becoming increasingly popular with Germans. This is the result of a survey by the Federal Association of the German Confectionery Industry. Per capita consumption has increased in recent years from 0.5 kg in 2014 to 1.8 kg in 2019. In addition to classics such as peanuts, hazelnuts and walnuts, Germans also like to use other types of nuts, including the Brazil nut.
This type of nut, which comes from South America, is available from us in shelled nut mixtures, but also as a single variety. Their taste is described as slightly almond-like and sweet. Brazil nuts are harvested from November to March, but are available all year round.
The Brazil nut trees grow wild in the Bolivian and Brazilian rainforests. Since they can only be pollinated by a few types of bees, all attempts to grow Brazil nuts on plantations have so far failed.
Brazil nuts: This is in the nuts
Brazil nuts are small nutrient bombs that provide the body with a large number of vitamins and other nutrients. These include, for example, the minerals calcium, magnesium, potassium and iron. While calcium is needed to build bones and teeth, the body needs magnesium to supply muscles. The potassium it contains also regulates the conduction of nerve and muscle cells, while iron is responsible for binding oxygen in the red blood cells.
What is special about Brazil nuts, however, is their high selenium content. This trace element is required in the body for a number of metabolic functions. For example, selenium supports the thyroid function and the defenses of the immune system. In addition, the trace element also helps with cell regeneration. A Brazil nut contains the equivalent of over 140 percent of your daily needs. Therefore, Brazil nuts should be consumed in small portions.
In addition, Brazil nuts contain many monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, vegetable protein, fiber and the trace elements zinc and copper.
Are Brazil nuts healthy or even harmful?
In addition to their impressive nutrient content, Brazil nuts can also contain some problematic substances. In their shelled form, the nuts are susceptible to mold and their toxins. Special controls with special UV lamps usually prevent nuts infected with mold from reaching the market. Nevertheless, it is worth doing a smell and taste test before consumption. If the Brazil nuts taste bitter or smell musty, it is better to throw them away.
It is also repeatedly pointed out that Brazil nuts can be contaminated with radium. The radioactive element occurs naturally in the soil and is absorbed through the roots of the tree. The problem: the Brazil nut tree has a particularly fine network of roots and therefore absorbs a lot more substances from the soil.
That is why institutions such as the Federal Office for Radiation Protection warn against consuming too much Brazil nuts. However, consuming about two Brazil nuts per day, as recommended for people with selenium deficiency, is harmless.