Selenium, Brazil Nuts, and Rural Communities

by Eren Cayan

Selenium was discovered in 1817 and is named after the Greek word for Moon (selene). Although we’ve known about selenium for over 200 years now, and most of us have heard of it as a supplement, very few of us know what it actually does.

Selenium is classed as a micronutrient, we only need it in very small quantities, with recommended consumption around 60 micrograms per day, and a maximum daily intake of 400 micrograms per day. A microgram is a millionth of a gram.

Scientific analysis points towards selenium playing a key role in immune-endocrine function, metabolism, and cellular homeostasis. High concentrations of selenium are found in the thyroid gland. During the production of thyroid hormones, oxygen free radicals are created, selenium is thought to play a role in removing these free radicals and contributing to the antioxidant defence of the thyroid.

Selenium levels in food and the population are linked to the soil that food is grown in, as plants take up selenium from the soil.

Brazil nuts are the richest source of selenium and two brazil nuts, or one spoonful of brazil nut butter can provide your recommended daily intake of selenium. Brazils are also a great source of protein, and are packed with good monounsaturated fats, thiamine, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese and zinc among others.

Our brazils are actually from the Bolivian Amazon, which is the second largest producer of brazil nuts after… you guessed it, Brazil! Brazil nuts grow better in wild forests, as they need large bees that thrive in the pristine forests for pollination. Our brazils are hand harvested by indigenous Amazonian people. Using hand-made tools they forage for fallen fruit, collecting them in baskets they carry on their back. For many, brazil nut harvesting is their only source of income. Supporting brazil nut trade helps to preserve the Amazon rainforest, as brazils grow on large, mature trees that can be decades to hundreds of years old.

So, by eating healthy brazils, you’re not only treating yourself, you’re also helping to support rural, indigenous communities, and helping to preserve the Amazon rainforest.