Brazil nuts provide one of the best sources of the antioxidant selenium, a vital mineral that many people are deficient in. In fact, scientists have shown that a daily Brazil nut is a better source of the mineral than taking a supplement. This mineral strengthens the immune system's antibody response and helps to prevent cancer, heart disease and premature aging. It is a key component in the action of glutathione, an enzyme that suppresses free radicals and helps to halt the development of tumors.
Selenium is also a mood-boosting mineral. People whose diets are deficient in this nutrient have been found to suffer depression, anxiety and fatigue, and feel better when they eat selenium-rich food.
Brazil nuts are packed with vitamin E, which works with selenium to provide a super-boost to the immune system. They also contain other important minerals, including magnesium and are rich in omega-6 fatty acids - essential for easing inflammation in the body and enhancing digestion.
Their high selenium and vitamin E content makes Brazil nuts an excellent fertility-enhancing food. Selenium helps to keep sperm healthy - UK researchers found that when men with fertility problems increased their selenium intake, they produced hardier, more viable sperm cells. Increasing vitamin E intake also resulted in more fertile sperm and increased fertilization rates in women. Both selenium and vitamin E are antioxidants so they can help protect sperm against DNA and free-radical damage.
Brazil nuts are high in polyunsaturated and monosaturated fats - this means they go rancid quickly, so buy small quantities at a time and keep them in a cool place, or in the fridge.
Rich in protein, a handful of Brazil nuts eaten raw provides your daily needs of selenium, and makes a satisfying snack. They can be processed into nut milk or butter, or chopped and added to sweet or savory dishes.
Thomson CD, Chisholm A, McLachlan SK, Campbell JM. Brazil nuts: an effective way to improve selenium status. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 Feb;87(2):379-84. 2008.
Krznjavi H, et al. Selenium and fertility in men. Trace Elements in Medicine, vol 9(2) (1992), pp. 107-8.
Bayer, R. Treatment of infertility with vitamin E. International Journal of Infertility, vol 5 (1960), pp. 70-8.
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