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The Benefits of Selenium in Brazil Nuts

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 11/06/2017

Selenium is an essential trace mineral and powerful antioxidant. Brazil nuts are one of the most potent natural sources of selenium. A single Brazil nut each day can help keep your selenium levels balanced.

Let’s take a look at some of the health benefits of Brazil nuts and selenium!

Brazil nut tree

How much selenium is in Brazil nuts?

It’s estimated that 500 million to 1 billion people are deficient in selenium. The average person needs 55 micrograms of selenium each day. 

A single Brazil nut contains an incredible 68 to 91 mcg of selenium. Adding a Brazil nut to your diet each day can provide you with the selenium that your body needs without the use of selenium supplements.

Brazil nuts have many other incredible benefits too! They have potent anti-inflammatory properties and are an excellent source of other vitamins and minerals, including vitamin E, copper, phosphorus, zinc, and manganese—making Brazil nuts one of the best nuts for keto.

Brazil nuts contain phytic acid that can interfere with the absorption of selenium. However, you can reduce phytic acid in nuts by soaking them in water overnight. This is a process known as germination.

You can also roast your Brazil nuts to reduce phytic acid—although this will reduce the amount of vitamins and minerals too.

Check out this study that shows how Brazil nuts can also improve cholesterol levels. Make sure you’re eating Brazil nuts that are grown organically!

Benefits of selenium 

Selenium has some impressive health benefits—take a look!

Acts as a building block for glutathione peroxidase

Selenium is an important building block for the enzymes in your body. One of the most important enzymes is glutathione peroxidase, which relies heavily on selenium. 

Glutathione peroxidase is essential for liver detoxification. It also protects your cells against damage and oxidative stress. People with liver disease, cirrhosis, or a fatty liver often have low selenium levels.

Reduces cancer risk

Selenium reduces mitochondrial damage, which consequently helps lower the risk of many diseases, including cancer. It acts as a potent antioxidant and can help repair free radical damage. Don’t pass up on selenium’s powerful anticancer and antitumor effects.

Promotes heart health 

Selenium supports the cardiovascular system by reducing oxidation. Normal selenium levels may help reduce the risk of heart disease.

Supports immune function

Selenium supports your immune system by boosting your white blood cell count. For healthy immune function, get plenty of selenium in your diet.

Helps with thyroid hormone conversion

Selenium supports the thyroid gland and helps with the conversion of inactive thyroid hormone (T4) to its active form (T3). 

Normal selenium levels are essential for overall thyroid function and can help with hypothyroid conditions and thyroid disorders like Hashimoto’s disease.

Supports mercury detoxification

Selenium helps detoxify heavy metals like mercury, lead, and cadmium. When you eat fish, like tuna, that contains mercury, make sure you get plenty of selenium to help counteract it.

Brazil nuts selenium

Selenium deficiency 

Consuming high-quality plants and animal products is the best way to maintain healthy selenium levels. Plants absorb trace minerals from soil, and animals get their trace minerals from plants.

Trace minerals are not distributed evenly across different soils. Coastal land tends to have soil with more iodine, while drier, more alkaline soil often contains more selenium.

Unfortunately, traditional fertilizers like NPK have made a lot of the selenium in our soils unavailable. Always choose organic foods that utilize natural growing methods—they’re often more nutrient-dense.

While selenium deficiency is often caused by not consuming enough selenium-rich foods, it can also be caused by poor intestinal absorption, gastric bypass, old age, and taking statin drugs.

Here are some of the symptoms you might experience if you have selenium deficiency:

  • Heart disease/heart issues from low glutathione

  • Infertility

  • Low sperm count

  • Myocardial necrosis (breakdown of heart tissue)

  • Muscle weakness

  • Mood issues

  • Anxiety

  • Confusion

  • Fatigue

  • Brain fog

  • Hair loss

Symptoms of thyroid disease may also signify low selenium. 

Selenium toxicity

While very unlikely, it’s possible to develop selenium toxicity from consuming too much selenium. 

Keep in mind, you should always consume selenium in microgram doses, not milligrams or grams! 

Side effects include digestive upset, heart issues, and decreased brain function. 

Selenium toxicity usually doesn’t occur with selenium supplementation because it’s typically properly dosed. Selenium toxicity from too many Brazil nuts is also highly unlikely.

foods rich in selenium

Selenium-rich foods

Selenium has numerous health benefits and can greatly improve thyroid health and liver health. If you have nut allergies, don’t worry! There are plenty of other foods that can help increase your selenium intake.

1. Brazil nuts

Compared to other tree nuts, Brazil nuts have the highest selenium content. 

2. Pork

Pork is an excellent natural source of selenium. Choose high-quality, organic pork to get the most nutrients.

3. Tuna 

Tuna may contain mercury, but it’s also very high in selenium! Selenium helps detoxify the body of mercury.

4. Oysters 

If you are suffering from a thyroid disorder like Hashimoto’s disease, try adding oysters to your diet. Oysters are rich in selenium and other trace minerals like zinc, copper, phosphorus, and manganese. They also help improve brain health!

5. Clams

Though not quite as rich in selenium as oysters, clams are also an excellent way to get a boost of selenium and other trace minerals.

6. Shrimp

Shrimp and other shellfish are packed full of trace minerals and selenium.

7. Lamb

Always opt for organic grass-fed lamb! Lamb meat and organ meat are rich in selenium, iron, and B vitamins. 

8. Beef

Grass-fed beef is a nutritional powerhouse! Research shows that grass-fed beef is more nutrient-dense and beneficial to your health.

9. Mushrooms

Some mushrooms are rich in selenium, especially the wild varieties. 

10. Seeds 

Sunflower seeds, chia seeds, and flax seeds all contain a healthy dose of selenium.

soaking nuts

How to reduce phytic acid in nuts 

Phytic acid is a compound that seeds use to help bind minerals and prevent biochemical reactions that would cause a seed to sprout. It essentially protects the seed from sprouting too soon. 

Phytic acid is known as an “anti-nutrient”. Most nuts contain more phytic acid than grains and legumes. 

This can be problematic for some because phytic acid binds to minerals and essential nutrients, inhibiting absorption. It binds to selenium, zinc, iron, magnesium, calcium, chromium, manganese, and copper. 

These minerals are important building blocks for enzymes, so if you don’t have the enzymes to properly digest Brazil nuts, tree nuts, and other nuts, you’ll likely experience bloating, irritation, and inflammation.

Almonds are 9.4% phytic acid, which is higher than any other nut. Walnuts and Brazil nuts are close behind almonds at 6.7% and 6.3%, respectively. 

To reduce phytic acid in nuts and increase their nutritional value, you have to mimic the germination process as it would occur naturally. 

To do this, simply soak the nuts in water overnight. After the soaking process, the nuts will be moist. At this point, you can roast them in the oven at a low temperature or put them in a food dehydrator.

When you soak nuts, you should notice an improved taste to go along with the improved nutrition benefits.

Phytic acid can be beneficial in some cases, but you want to avoid it if your selenium levels are low.

woman eating brazil nuts

Key takeaways

One of the greatest health benefits of Brazil nuts is their selenium content. 

You can avoid selenium supplementation by consuming Brazil nuts! Just one Brazil nut each day provides more than your recommended daily value of selenium.

Because selenium is a trace mineral, you only need very small amounts to stay healthy. Although the amount of selenium you need is small, your body will function poorly without it. 

Try adding some selenium-rich foods to your diet—and don’t forget to soak your Brazil nuts to reduce phytic acid!

FAQs

1. Do Brazil nuts contain selenium?

Yes! Brazil nuts contain MORE than your recommended daily value of selenium. 

2. How much selenium is in Brazil nuts?

Brazil nuts contain 68 to 91 mcg of selenium per nut. 

3. Will Brazil nuts help replenish my selenium?

Yes, Brazil nuts can help replenish selenium as long as you reduce the phytic acid content. Phytic acid can inhibit the absorption of selenium.

4. What are the best selenium foods?

Selenium is found in meat, shellfish, seeds, and nuts. Brazil nuts are one of the most concentrated sources of selenium.

5. What are the benefits of selenium?

Selenium has powerful anticancer and antitumor properties. It also supports heart, liver, and thyroid health. 

6. How much selenium do I need each day?

The average adult needs about 55 mcg of selenium each day. Just one Brazil nut a day provides you with more than your recommended daily value.

7. What is selenium?

Selenium is a trace mineral necessary for many of the body’s functions. It should be in our soils and absorbed by the plants that we eat, but some soils are depleted of trace minerals.

8. Can selenium be harmful? 

Consuming too much selenium is possible but extremely rare and unlikely. Symptoms include digestive issues, heart issues, and decreased cognitive function. 

9. Can selenium interact with medications and supplements?

Statin drugs can reduce your absorption of selenium. If you are deficient in selenium, it may be due to statins.

10. What are the potential risks of Brazil nuts?

The health benefits of Brazil nuts far outweigh their potential risks. The risk of selenium toxicity from consuming Brazil nuts is extremely low.

11. How can I reduce phytic acid in Brazil nuts? 

Soaking your Brazil nuts in water overnight can greatly reduce their phytic acid content. You can toast them afterward to remove the excess moisture.

12. How many Brazil nuts should I consume each day to make sure I get enough selenium? 

The selenium content of one Brazil nut is 68 to 91 mcg. Just one nut per day provides you with plenty of selenium!

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