Plus, they're a delicious way to preserve the rainforest. Wildcrafted in the Amazon, these nuts are harvested by indigenous people in a program that protects precious rainforest and creates a legacy of sustainable agroforestry.
More than health food — they're Essential Living Food.
The Essential Living Foods Difference
Even though all Brazil nuts are "wild harvested," if they are NOT organic certified that means they are treated with toxic chemicals to prevent rot. Our Brazil nuts are certified organic AND kosher, so instead of using chemicals, they undergo a rigorous process of inspection, steam-cleaning, and drying.
Nobody can honestly claim to offer Truly RAW Brazil nuts. Because they are wild-harvested in the humid jungle, all organic Brazil nuts must be treated at temperatures above 118 C to prevent humidity and mold contamination. Although our Brazil nuts are not processed at RAW temperatures, they are treated at minimal necessary temperatures and never roasted — in order to protect their delicate fatty acids from oxidation. For details, see Processing below.
Sustaining the Rainforest
Our premium quality Brazil nut products come from Brazil nuts wild-harvested by Peruvian and Brazilian families who greatly value and rely on healthy rainforests for their livelihood.
The rainforest that spans the Amazonian intersection of Peru, Bolivia, and Brazil contain the world's most biologically diverse ecosystem, including the greatest known species densities of birds, butterflies and a number of other animals. A single square kilometer supports twice as many butterfly species as the entire United States, and more than 10 % of the world total. This rainforest is also incredibly rich in Brazil nuts, which cannot be grown anywhere else due to their reliance on unique insects and animals for its pollination and seed cycle. Like developing nations everywhere, the people living in this rainforest are on a quest to improve their lives — a quest that will ultimately determine the fate of these forests and will have a significant impact on the health of the entire planet. This ecosystem is a resource base of profound significance to global biodiversity. Either it can be protected and sustainably utilized, or it can be exploited and wiped out in a few generations.
For thousands of families in the region, wild-harvesting Brazil nuts represent more than half their yearly income, and this fact has provided political justification for governments to protect these natural areas from unsustainable extractive industries like logging, ranching, and oil exploration.
Our Brazil nuts are gathered in this rainforest by harvesters trained in sustainable forest management. In partnership with Conservation International, over 250 indigenous people from the Madre de Dios rainforest of Eastern Peru work to gather these wild-crafted nuts. The fair trade income from this product provides a sustainable alternative to clear-cutting rainforest, and 1% net profits go to support the work of Amazon Watch (www.amazonwatch.org).
The process begins when the large Brazil nut pods (similar to a coconut shell) are carefully gathered by Indigenous people in pristine tracts of untouched primary Peruvian rainforest. The harvesters work together to ensure that the nuts are not over-harvested, which could lead to either wiping out the trees or the animals that depend on these nuts for food.
The harvesters crack open the pods with machetes, revealing handfuls of Brazil nuts inside their tough shells. The pods are left in the rainforest to compost and renew the cycle of life, while the in- shell nuts are quickly shade-dried to prevent moisture and mold. Then they are bagged and brought on canoes and boats to a processing facility close to the source. The harvesters are paid a fair price for their skilled, sustainable collection and value-added processing work. Our harvesters have been certified organic since 2000.
At this source-adjacent facility, the in-shell nuts undergo a series of controlled processes and inspections which ensure that poor quality nuts can be eliminated at several points in the process. First they are inspected for mold, then quickly dried at 131 C before undergoing a moisture test. Then the nuts (still in their shells) are steamed at 40 psi for 10 seconds to clean and sterilize the outer layers. Then the nuts are shelled and graded. Only the best quality nuts are allowed to proceed. To prevent oxidation of the nuts, only whole nuts are destined for consumption. Nuts that break during the shelling process are separated for use in oil making. At this point, the nuts are dried a final time, before undergoing thorough chemical testing for aflatoxins. Then they are vacuum packed and shipped to a more complete processing facility in Lima. There, the nuts are weighed, moisture tested (again), and sorted (again) to divert broken nuts for oil production. All nuts undergo a final steam decontamination (48 seconds at 177 C) before cooling and final testing for microbes and aflatoxins.
After this painstaking process, these pristine, high-quality nuts are vacuum packed, sealed away from light and heat, and shipped to our air-conditioned facility in Southern California.
Nutrition: Contents & Benefits
Brazil nuts are, essentially, an ideal supplemental source of selenium, the vital antioxidant mineral linked to a wide array of powerful health benefits.
Although Brazil nuts are rich in protein, healthy fatty acids, Vitamin E, fiber, minerals, and several other nutrients, most health experts advise limiting consumption to 3-6 nuts per day, since they are so rich in selenium. Think of them as a crunchy, nutty, buttery daily vitamin!
Brazil nuts are one of the world's richest sources of the crucial antioxidant mineral selenium, with 2,500 TIMES MORE than any other nut! This is especially important because having sufficient blood selenium levels is linked to a lower risk of breast cancer, prostate cancer, coronary artery disease, and liver cirrhosis. (Selenium works by helping the body to make a special antioxidant enzyme called glutathione-peroxidase.)
A New Zealand university study showed that eating just two Brazil nuts a day boosts blood levels of selenium and overall antioxidant levels better than synthetic selenium supplements. Presumably, the natural form of selenium, along with the nut's other nutritional co-factors, play a role in this improved health benefit.
Studies have shown that in populations with low selenium intake, cancer rates were higher. One study linked selenium supplementation with a 48% to 63% lower cancer rate (especially prostate, colorectal, and lung cancer).
It is possible to consume too much selenium, so limit Brazil nut consumption to 3-6 nuts per day.
Brazil nuts are rich in protein — nearly 20% by weight. This protein is very high quality, containing all 8 essential amino acids (although they are lower in lysine, so supplementing with lysine-rich foods like mesquite will increase protein utilization).
Carbs & Fiber
Brazil nuts are fairly well suited to a low-carb diet, with less carbs than protein. More than half of their carb content is actually fiber, which means you can actually subtract the fiber from the total carb count, meaning that Brazil nuts have TWICE as much protein as carbs.
Another benefit of Brazil nuts: the dietary fiber they provide is very important for both cardiovascular health and digestive regularity.
Vitamins & Minerals
Brazil nuts are loaded with beneficial vitamins and minerals. Just 6 Brazil nuts (about 28 grams) provide a good portion of your RDA for the following vitamins and minerals:
- Thiamin (B1) 12%
- Vitamin E 11%
- Calcium 4%
- Iron 4%
- Magnesium 26%
- Phosphorus 20%
- Copper 24%
- Manganese 17%
Of particular note are the antioxidant benefits of Vitamin E and Manganase. Vitamin E is a powerful lipid-soluble antioxidant, and manganese is involved in the body's production of the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase.
Brazil nuts are rich in fats — primarily heart-healthy unsaturated fats. Of these unsaturated fats, the majority are monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) similar to olive oil, and the rest are polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), which include Essential Fatty Acids (EFA).
The primary fatty acid in Brazil nuts is oleic acid (36%) which is one of the main heart-healthy components of olive oil. Years of research supports the beneficial effects of oleic acid on HDL/LDL cholesterol balance, but Oleic acid may also be responsible for the hypotensive (blood pressure reducing) effects of olive oil by changing signaling patterns at the cell membrane level. Oleic acid also keeps cell membranes soft and fluid, allowing helpful anti-inflammatory substances like omega -3 fatty acid to penetrate the cell membrane more easily. (Consuming trans-fats, for example, can stiffen the walls of our cells, inhibiting their ability to ‘breathe,’ while healthy fats like oleic acid can rejuvenate the cellular membrane.)
The next biggest component of Brazil nut fats is linoleic acid (31%), an omega 6 Essential Fatty Acid the human body cannot produce on its own. It is involved in many parts of the body's cell membrane, cell signaling, and inflammation systems. Shortage of linoleic acid is not common, and nutritionists generally advise that people reduce their intake of omega 6 oils (while increasing intake of omega 3 oils). This generalization is for the average American diet, which tends to be high in junky vegetable oils, fried foods, and very poor quality rancid nuts and other fats. For someone on a selective, health-conscious diet, a better prescription is to avoid consuming rancid omega 6 oils (often referred to as PUFAs or "polyunsaturated fatty acids") and ensure that only high quality, low- temperature, fresh PUFAs are consumed. Our carefully-processed and stored brazil nuts perfectly fit that need.
Only 25% of the fatty acids in Brazil nuts are saturated. Saturated fats have a negative reputation for interfering with cardiovascular health, but they should not be shunned entirely, especially in nuts, which provide a wide variety of other nutrient co-factors that actually benefit cardiovascular health (including sterols: see below). The main saturated fat in Brazil nuts is palmitic (14%). Although some research has created a scare around negative health effects of palmitic acid (comparing it to trans fats for a negative impact on insulin), these studies involved diets based exclusively on palmitic acid, without any other fats consumed. A Canadian study (French et all, 2002) showed that high consumption of palmitic acid does not raise cholesterol as long as linoleic acid is also being consumed. Coincidentally, nature's wisdom has endowed Brazil nuts with both Palmitic and Linoleic acids.
Brazil nuts' other saturated fat, stearic acid (9%), has been shown to have no impact on levels of blood cholesterol (Kris-Etherton, 1997).
Brazil nuts contain sterols, which actually help to lower cholesterol levels by blocking absorption of cholesterol in the digestive system. New research is also beginning to suggest that sterols may help to balance the immune system and reduce inflammation. 76% of the sterols in Brazil nuts consist of Beta-Sitosterol, which is being investigated as a potentially anti-inflammatory nutrient important for supporting men's health.
Like all nuts, seeds, and grains, Brazil nuts contain phytic acid, or phytates.
Phytic acid is a concern for people who get most of their nourishment from these sources, since phytic acid may interfere with the absorption of some nutrients like iron, zinc, calcium, and magnesium. Phytic acid also inhibits certain enzymes needed for protein and starch digestion. This is why vegans and vegetarians who eat phytate-containing foods more often will try to neutralize the phytate by soaking, sprouting, and fermenting these foods. For nuts the preferred technique is overnight soaking followed by gentle dehydration. Non-RAW foodists may also roast their nuts for the maximum removal of phytate. These precautions are only mandatory for diets dependent on phytate-rich foods, especially when the diet is low in calcium and Vitamin A (usually from dairy and animal products). Also, phytic acid only inhibits absorption while it is in contact with foods, so snacking on a handful of nuts in between meals is unlikely to cause any problems.