- (Bertholletia excelsa, Lecythidaceae)
FATTY ACID COMPOSITION AND PHYSICAL-CHEMICAL DATA
The seed oil is highly nutritious, containing 75% unsaturated fatty acids composed mainly of palmitic, oleic, and linolenic acids, as well as the phytosterol sistosterol, and the fat-soluble vitamins A and E. Extra-virgin oil can be obtained during the first pressing of the seeds, which can be used as a substitute for olive oil because of its mild and pleasant flavor.
The seeds are also rich in magnesium, thiamine, and have the highest known concentrations of selenium (126 ppm) of any seed in the world, which has antioxidant properties. Some studies indicate that the consumption of selenium is associated with a reduction in the risk of prostate cancer and recommend the consumption of these seeds as a preventive measure.
The proteins in the seeds are very rich in sulfur amino acids, such as cysteine (8%) and methionine (18%); the presence of methionine enhances the adsorption of selenium and other minerals.
Due to its anti-free radical, antioxidant, and moisturizing properties, the cosmetic industry uses the seed oil from this tree in anti-aging skin products. It is also considered one of the best conditioners for damaged and dehydrated hair.
The seed is widely used as an ingredient in cooking and in making cookies and ice cream. It is 18% protein, which is quite significant; the consumption of two seeds has the same amount of protein that is in one egg. The fresh seeds, similar to fresh coconut, are used in the preparation of typical regional dishes. The seed oil is applied to hair and, when exposed to the sun, the hair becomes brighter. The oil is also used by teenagers and women to prevent cellulite. A tea is prepared by leaving water in the fruit for a few hours, and is considered an excellent remedy for hepatitis, anemia, and intestinal problems. The oil from the seeds can be used for cooking (e.g, in salads and when braising food).
Castanha do Pará, more recently renamed the Brazil nut, is one of the most important species of Amazonian trees that produces a commodity. This tree plays a key role in the socio-economic organization of large forested regions. It is a very large tree, leafy and majestic, often reaching a height of 50 meters and can be more than 2 meters in diameter. The fruit of the Brazil nut is a large capsule containing 10 to 25 seeds (nuts). To remove the seeds the capsule needs to be broken, which has a very hard and woody shell that has an opening (when mature) that is small and does not allow the seeds to fall out.
ts wood is of excellent quality for construction and shipbuilding. Currently, it is prohibited by law to log native Brazil-nut trees, but this does not prevent people from planting them in order to reforest either in pure stands or in mixed plantations. In mixed plantations with perennial and / or semi-permanent crops, it is recommend that the trees are spaced 12 m apart, which corresponds to 69 trees per hectare. The seeds of this species germinate in 12 to 18 months and start producing fruits in their 12th year.
A mature tree produces an average 125 liters of seeds (at an average 45 seeds per liter). The peeled seed is approximately 70% oil. An oil press can extract (without the use of solvents) 40% of the oil, which means each tree can produce up to 50 liters of oil per year.
CHUNHIENG, T. et. al: Study of selenium distribution in the protein fractions of the Brazil nut, Bertholletia excels; 2004,J. Agric. Food Chem. 52(13):4318-22.
KLEIN, E. A. et. al. "SELECT: the next prostate cancer prevention trial. Selenum and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial.", 2001, J. Urol. 166(4):1311-5.
MORAIS, L. R. : Banco de Dados Sobre Espécies Oleaginosas da Amazônia, não-publicado.
MÜLLER, C. H. et. al.: A cultura da castanha-do-brasil, 1995, Embrapa-CPATU, Coleção plantar, 23, p.65.
SHANLEY, P. et. al. : Frutíferas e plantas úteis na vida amazônica, 2005, CIFOR, IMAZON, Editora Supercores, Belém, p. 300.
SUN. S.S.et. al.: Properties, biosynthesis and processing of a sulfur-rich protein in Brazil nut (Bertholletia excelsa H.B.K.). 1987, Eur. J. Biochem. 162(3):477-83.