Wednesday, 29 January 2014

WARNING, too many [Brazil] nuts!

Image courtesy of רנדום /

Last week I found out that eating too many Brazil nuts on a regular basis can be toxic. This is apparently due to the levels of Selenium found in the nuts, an important trace mineral high in antioxidants.

Like vitamin C, this is a mineral that our body has to consume, i.e. we cannot produce it ourselves, so we get it from food. It just so happens that as well as the multitude of health benefits Brazil nuts offer, being high in protein, calcium, magnesium, thiamine and zinc, they are also one of the best natural sources for selenium, which has been shown to help fight cancer, heart disease and ageing, as well as improve immune function and reduce the risk of developing osteoarthritis.

So it seems they are a wonder-nut... But not if you have too many!

Last week I had been feeling nauseous on a daily basis and my nails were weak and splitting, which is unusual, they're usually pretty strong. I had to wonder what I had been doing differently, when my eye caught my big bag of brazil nuts that I'd been snacking on for a few days. I'm not talking a bag a day, more like a handful (6-10) a day, as I'd recently read that eating nuts regularly can have great health benefits. I knew that you shouldn't eat too many Brazil nuts a day, but I had always just assumed that was because they are high in saturated fat. I did a bit of research and, little did I know, the real reason there is a recommended limit is because consuming too many Brazil nuts can cause an overdose of selenium in your system, which can be toxic.

Apparently, just 1 Brazil nut contains 100% of your daily recommended selenium allowance. Eating too many, and increasing your selenium intake, can result in skin rash, brittle hair and nails, garlic-breath, nausea and nerve damage! Scary stuff!

Needless to say, I promptly stopped eating my bag of Brazils, and from now on will only dip into them once or twice a week for one or two a day max. I also checked my daily ABC Vitamins and I'm already getting 45% of my RDA of selenium, so one or two nuts is more than enough!
I can't be 100% sure if it was the cause of my stomach upset and brittle nails but since I stopped eating them my nails are looking a lot better and the nausea has stopped. I could experiment a bit more to prove / disprove, but I don't particularly want to!!!

Hope this helps someone. These nuts should come with a warning!

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