When it comes to nuts, almonds win the of-the-moment popularity contest hands down, with almond butter and almond milk on grocers’ shelves and in family refrigerators everywhere. But there’s another nut coming up on its heels, and it’s got healthy benefits and culinary buzz to boot. And no, it’s not the walnut, pecan, or even the cashew.
It’s the Brazil nut (you know, the big half-moon shaped one), which has been the unsung hero of the nut world, despite crazy levels of vitamins and minerals and an ultra creamy, rich taste that’s perfect for nut butters, pestos, and vegan cheeses. And healthy food purveyors are starting to catch on.
In Los Angeles, Pressed Juicery sells a green juice with Brazil nuts and Cafe Gratitude sprinkles Brazil nut “parmesan” on its dishes, while in New York City, you can buy raw vegan Brazil nut shortbread cookies at One Lucky Duck. And The Chia Co’s recently released Bircher Muesli Chia Pods come in an orange and Brazil nut flavor.
So why all of the sudden enthusiasm?
You should see the nutrition resume of Brazil nuts. “They’re the richest food source of selenium, which is essential for immune and thyroid function, as well as protection from prostate and breast cancers, and it plays a role in reducing allergies and inflammation,” explains New York-based nutritionist Stephanie Middleberg. “Selenium is hard to find in other nuts, but just one ounce, or about six Brazil nuts, provides 700 percent of your daily value.”
According to Middleberg, Brazil nuts are also rich in vitamin E, an antioxidant and beauty-boosting vitamin, and magnesium, a mineral most women are deficient in (especially if they take birth control pills), which helps with headaches, insomnia, and PMS.
They also have high levels of chromium, copper, zinc, potassium, riboflavin, and healthy fats.
“I use them in nut cheese infused with rosemary, raw lasagna, Brazil nut milk (which is great in hot chocolate), and savory dips,” Woodward gushes. “They’re amazing on their own, too. I love just roasting them for 10 minutes with a little maple syrup and a pinch of Himalayan salt for the best easy snack.” (Excuse us while we go make that immediately.)
One recipe Woodward is especially proud of is her Brazil Nut and Arugula Pesto. “This is amazing tossed with brown rice pasta and sautéed veggies, or mixed into a quinoa bowl,” she says. Once you get a taste, you might just think “almond, who?” —Jamie McKillop