Friday, February 12, 2021

Brazil nuts

Brazil nuts are the largest of the commonly consumed nuts from the giant Brazil nut tree (Bertholletia excelsa), which is a native of South America. The Brazil nut tree is originally discovered growing in hard, well-drained soil along the Amazon River in countries such as Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador.

Brazil nuts are almost exclusively harvested in natural forests, making them one of the most important products of extractive reserves in Amazonia. Although some plantations have been developed, the production is still low and not economically viable.

These nuts are consumed directly (raw, salted, roasted, etc.) or as an ingredient in chocolate and cereal bars, cakes or biscuits, as well as in a variety of recipes. Brazil nuts are a great snack (raw or processed) and a good ingredient to complement pastries, salads, ice creams and yogurts.

The seed is processed by dehydration to obtain the dehydrated kernel (safe humidity below 15%) to be processed in-shell or shelled. The nuts that do not meet the size standards (small, medium and large) or have undesirable characteristics (color, shape or stains) according to industry standards can be otherwise used in pieces and/or for the production of other products, such as oil, or as ingredients to add to cereal bars and cookies.

Nutritionally, Brazil nuts are a good source of nutrients, including protein, fiber, selenium (Se), magnesium, phosphorus and thiamin. They also contain niacin, vitamin E, vitamin B6, calcium, iron, potassium, zinc and copper. Brazil nuts possess phenolics and flavonoids in both free and bound forms and are rich in tocopherol, phytosterols, and squalene.

The nuts have high nutritive food value containing 60–70% oil and 17% protein. The average content of lipids (60-70%) contributes to its high caloric content, and the ratio of saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids is 25:41:34.

Brazil nuts are unique in that they are the highest known food source of selenium (Se). One single Brazil nut provides 160% of the US Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of selenium - perhaps the best source of Selenium from plant-based foods.

Selenium may also protect against cancers of the prostate, liver and lungs. Due to high levels of phytonutrients, Brazil nuts have been associated with many health benefits, mainly including cholesterol-lowering effects, antioxidant activity, and antiproliferative effects.

Among the products obtained from industrial processing of whole nuts or pieces of nuts are oil and cake (partially or fully defatted) obtained by nut pressing and/or by extracting the fatty material. The oil can be obtained by extraction using n-hexane and ethanol, and it can be used in food or in cosmetic formulations.
Brazil nuts

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