It is probably true that brazil nuts are the most widely eaten wild food in the world. Yes, commercial brazil nuts grow wild in the Amazon without human intervention. The brazil nut tree is the tallest tree in the Amazon rain forest. The nuts grow in pods that are so heavy, that if one falls from the tree and hits you in the head, it could kill you.

Brazil nuts have very high nutrient content, including protein, healthy fats, and vitamins and minerals. And what they are most noted for is their very high selenium content- the highest of any food in the world. In fact, their selenium content is so high, there is concern about selenium toxicity from them. However, I have yet to come across a clinical report of anyone suffering from “selenosis” from eating too many brazil nuts.  And that’s surprising because surely you would think that someone might have loved the taste of brazil nuts so much that he hate a half a pound a day for months or years and got sick. But, I have not come across such a thing.

And brazil nuts have been tested as a selenium “supplement” and in some cases, feeding a person just one single brazil nut a day has resulted in a significant rise in their blood selenium level.

So, if one brazil nut could do that, how come there are no reports of disaster from eating too many of them? I am going to speculate about it. Besides being the highest food in selenium, brazil nuts may also be the highest food in phytic acid, which is a form of phosphoric acid which binds minerals.  Generally, phytic acid is considered a bad thing since it binds minerals and makes them unavailable. But naturally, if this happens in relation to preventing selenium overload, then it’s a good thing.

But, foods are complex, and it’s possible that the body has a mechanism to limit selenium absorption in the context of a whole food like brazil nuts. We know that absorption is not just a passive process like diffusion, but rather, an active one in which carriers are involved, and it may be that the body has a way to let the excess of selenium in brazil nuts pass through the system. But, as I said, I am just speculating. But, there does seem to be a general consensus that one should not eat more than 3 brazil nuts a day, and I think that is sound advice.

 

So, should you make a point of eating 1 to 3 brazil nuts a day? I think it depends on several factors, including whether you like brazil nuts. I like them a lot, but I’ll qualify that by saying that I like them when they are fresh. One way you can tell is by biting one in half and looking at the color of the flesh inside. The whiter it is, the better. And if it’s brown, spit it out because that one is rancid.

Many people today take selenium supplements or they get selenium in their multivitamin supplement. And there are other foods that are high in selenium, such as fish and seafood. So, not everyone needs the high selenium fix that comes from eating brazil nuts.

It wasn’t always the case, but brazil nuts have become relatively expensive. They used to be cheaper than cultivated nuts, such as almonds and walnuts, but these days, brazil nuts are more expensive than those two. However, there are more expensive nuts than brazils, such as macadamias and pecans.

But, in any case, brazil nuts are a nutritional powerhouse, and I find it strangely empowering the thought of eating a wild food.  So, I will continue eating brazil nuts while respecting the recommended limits. But, keep in mind that I am a nut aficionado. I am simply nuts about nuts.