Brazil nuts are some of the best sources of selenium, an antioxidant mineral that is critical to metabolism, reproduction, and immune responses. Eating a single Brazil nut is enough to meet the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for selenium.
Brazil nuts also contain plenty of other minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus. In addition, these nuts provide plenty of protein.
Brazil nuts are good for the heart. The healthy fats they contain are called monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Eating these good fats helps protect against heart disease and stroke.
In addition to healthy fats, Brazil nuts also have lots of dietary fiber. Eating them and other fibrous foods not only improves cholesterol levels, it also decreases the risk of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, such as atherosclerosis and Type 2 diabetes.
People can benefit from eating Brazil nuts and other tree nuts as these offer considerable protection against many chronic diseases. (Related: More than honey: Honeycomb products with powerful natural health benefits.)
By replenishing and maintaining selenium levels, Brazil nuts ensure that the thyroid remains in good health. Otherwise, people may find it hard to rest and sleep, suffer from foul mood, and be unable to concentrate and metabolize food.
Selenium supports the production of thyroid hormones. It also plays a role in the synthesis of triiodothyronine, the active form of thyroxine.
Hypothyroidism and other thyroid issues may stem from insufficient selenium intake. By eating selenium-rich Brazil nuts, a person may be able to manage these problems or prevent them altogether.
Furthermore, selenium supports the antioxidants in the body. It protects cells from oxidative stress.
Once it reaches the liver, selenium is turned into selenoprotein P. This protein acts as an antioxidant that eliminates free radicals responsible for oxidative stress. Both free radicals and oxidative stress are linked to cancer and other serious diseases.
Another selenium-related health benefit of Brazil nuts has to do with inflammation. Like free radicals and oxidative stress, excessive inflammation is linked to chronic health conditions.
Antioxidants can also help stop inflammation. Selenium-rich Brazil nuts can provide sufficient natural antioxidants to minimize the frequency and severity of inflammation.
Consuming Brazil nuts and other selenium-packed foods may also improve the blood glucose levels of people, especially patients with diabetes.
In a 2016 study, Iranian researchers from Kashan University of Medical Sciences (KAUMS) gave supplements containing 200 micrograms of selenium to participants with Type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease every day. They then measured the participants' insulin and antioxidant levels.
The researchers found that the daily dose of selenium -- which three or four Brazil nuts can provide -- decreased the participants' insulin levels and increased their insulin sensitivity.
Antioxidants support the healthy functions of the brain. Deficient levels of antioxidants can make people more vulnerable to neurodegenerative diseases, including the dreaded Alzheimer's disease.
When researchers analyzed the selenium levels of Alzheimer's disease patients and healthy people, they reported that patients with Alzheimer's have lower concentrations of selenium than healthy people.
It stands to reason that eating Brazil nuts can reverse this deficiency. While there are no definitive studies that connect selenium levels with improved cognition, increasing a person's antioxidant levels may be helpful in some ways, especially for patients who suffer from cognitive impairment.