So, why do we need Brazil nut protein balls in our life? Simple answer: Brazil nuts are THE most abundant source of selenium and chromium on the planet! Why do we need selenium and chromium? These two minerals are important for blood sugar balance (i.e. weight loss), thyroid support and even cancer prevention! Below, I share the origin of Brazil nuts, benefits of chromium and selenium, as well as a delicious Brazil Nut Protein Ball recipe.
All About Brazil Nuts
First, a little, food for thought. Brazil nuts are the seeds of incredibly giant wild evergreen trees, native to the Amazon Valley in Brazil, Bolivia, and Peru. Yes, these nuts are truly exotic! This region is so important to the tree, that efforts to grow them outside of this region have been completely unsuccessful. Amazingly, the tree’s life span is actually 500-800 years, but it only starts to produce fruit at year 15-30. Each seed pod contains 20-25 delectable nuts. And, just one tree will provide 250 to 500 pounds of seed pods in one year! In fact, when the seed pods fall to the ground, weighing in at 4-6 pounds, they are so heavy, they could actually knock a person out! Those are some strong, super-powered nuts! (Murray, 2005)
Benefits of Brazil Nuts
Looking at their nutritional value, two Brazil nuts contain 90 calories, which seems high, but they are greatly rich in polyunsaturated fats (healthy fat) and an incredible amount of selenium. In fact, one shelled Brazil nut, offers more than what is required for the daily recommended value of this mineral! Therefore, it is super easy to add a couple of these nuts into your trail mix or oatmeal, to make sure you are getting enough of this much needed nutrient. *Note: the Brazil nuts that come in their shells, contain higher levels of selenium. If consuming deshelled Brazil nuts, which have a lower amount of selenium, increase intake to 3-4 nuts per day. (Murray, 2005)
Brazil Nuts are one of the most abundant sources of selenium and an excellent source of chromium.
Importance of Selenium
- Boosts immune function and is anti-inflammatory
- Helps protect the body from toxic metals
- Protects the heart and is highly anti-viral
- It is an antioxidant that promotes the activity of glutathione, which is capable of preventing free-radical damage
- Powerful anti-cancer properties
*200 mcg of selenium per day has been shown to cut cancer related deaths by 50% for those who supplemented for 5+ years
What does selenium do for us? Selenium is a trace mineral that seems to be scarce in the Standard American Diet, due to the low nutrient content of our soils (soil depletion) and food products. In fact, it’s most intriguing that selenium acts as an antioxidant in the body, working with Vitamin E to prevent cellular damage, better know as free-radicals. Free-radicals are unstable groups of atoms that can cause damage to the body.
Studies show individuals with low levels of selenium are at a greater risk for cancer, cardiovascular disease, inflammatory diseases, premature aging and cataracts. – Murray
Benefits of Chromium
Now chromium is particularly important for blood sugar regulation and weight loss. If one is lacking chromium in the diet, most likely you have an excess of blood sugar. In particular, Michael Murray states that chromium is a determining factor of insulin sensitivity. This basically means, if your chromium is low, blood sugar will remain high, which eventually leads to insulin resistance (IR). Insulin resistance can lead to obesity and eventually diabetes. However, just buy adding chromium-rich foods into the diet, like brazil nuts, one can lower body weight, increase lean body mass, decrease cholesterol and improve glucose tolerance. Other sources of chromium include: broccoli, bananas, green pepper, brewer’s yeast, calf’s liver, oysters, wheat germ, rye bread, potatoes and apples. Take note that Vitamin C enhances the absorption of chromium.
What do Brazil Nuts Taste like?
Brazil nuts have a tremendously favorable taste. I liken them to a coconut since they are a medium-density, creamy, crunchy and oily nut all at the same time. You may eat them raw or roasted or consume them like the Brazilians do by making a tea for an upset stomach. However you choose to consume Brazil nuts, by adding these into your diet a few times a week, your body will love you for it! Look out for other foods high in selenium, such as wheat germ, sprouted whole wheat bread, oats, swiss chard and calf’s liver. But by far, Brazil nuts gloriously surpass the other selenium containing foods! (Murray, 2005)
Here is a super easy and delicious recipe for enjoying Brazil nuts…
Brazil Nut Protein Ball Recipe
Prep time: 30 minutes Cook Time: 1-2 hours (in the fridge)
Serving size: 16
- 1 1/2 cups Brazil nuts
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1⁄4 cup almond butter
- tsp cinnamon
- 1⁄4 cup of dates
- 2 tbsp chia seeds
- pinch of sea salt
- 1/4 c. melted Nutiva Virgin Coconut Oil
- 1/2 c. protein powder (I used Nutiva’s Hemp Protein Powder 15g)
- 1/2 c. chopped Brazil Nuts (to roll the balls in)
*If you don’t have the full serving of Brazil nuts, you may always use a mix of nuts and seeds such as pumpkin, sunflower and almonds.
- Add 1 1/2 cups of Brazil nuts to a food processor and process for about 20 – 30 seconds so there are still chunky pieces of the nuts. Then add the remaining ball ingredients and process until it is mixed well.
- Roll 1 tablespoon of the ball mixture up into a ball then roll in the chopped Brazil nuts. Do all the mixture like this then store in an airtight container in the fridge for softer balls or the freezer for a harder consistency.
Nutrition per serving:
Calories 100, Fat 9g, Saturated Fat 3.5g, Cholesterol 0mg, Sodium 190mg, Carbohydrates 4g, Fiber 2g, Sugars 2g, Protein 3g
*As for storage, Brazil Nuts can go rancid, so make sure to store them in an air-tight container in the refrigerator or freezer for up to 1-2 months.
Bauman, E. (2015). Therapeutic Nutrition Textbook. Part 2. Penngrove, CA: Bauman College.
Murray, M. Pizzorno, J. & Pizzorno, L. (2005). The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. New York, NY: Atria Books.
The World’s Healiest Foods. “Chromium.” Retrieved form http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=nutrient&dbid=51
Livestrong.com “What is the Best Source of Chromium in Foods.” Retrieved from http://www.livestrong.com/article/199306-what-is-the-best-source-of-chromium-in-food/
Recipe adapted from: http://www.rebootwithjoe.com/brazil-nut-protein balls/