Brazil Nut

Food Type:
Age Suggestion: 12 months +
Nutrition Rating:How nutritious a food is with a focus on the specific nutrients babies need for optimal growth. The more nutritious a food, the more stars it will have.
Prep Time:How much time a food takes to prepare safely for a baby. The more time-consuming a food is to prepare safely, the more clocks it will have.
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Poop Friendly:Whether a food has qualities that help baby poop. Yes
Common Allergen: Yes (
  • Nut
  • )

May cause allergic reactions.

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a pile of brazil nuts before being prepared for babies starting solid food

When can babies eat Brazil nuts?

Brazil nuts are best introduced in small amounts after baby’s first birthday. This is because Brazil nuts are an extremely potent source of selenium, an essential nutrient that can be toxic if consumed too frequently or in high quantities.1

Warning

Brazil nuts are very high in selenium, a nutrient that is essential but can also cause health problems if consumed in large quantities.2 The recommended maximum intake of selenium for young children varies by age: the Institute of Medicine lists an upper limit of 60 micrograms per day for 7- to 12-month-old babies and 90 micrograms per day for kids between 1 and 3 years of age.3 One Brazil nut or 1 teaspoon of Brazil nut butter contains approximately 70-90 micrograms of selenium and when served on occasion, is an excellent way to get all the benefits of this powerful nut without compromising safety.

Where do Brazil nuts come from?

Brazil nuts may be available worldwide today, but the large seeds have been eaten by Indigenous peoples for thousands of years in South America. Brazil nuts grow in pods on long-living trees that tower over other plants in the rainforests. In fact, these trees are so tall that their nuts—also known as castanha, juvia, nuez amazónica, and pará—can’t be harvested from their branches. Instead, the nuts are retrieved from their pods once they’ve fallen to the ground. And because only certain bee populations are able to pollinate the Brazil nut tree, most Brazil nuts come from wild trees rather than orchards. Collecting and processing Brazil nuts for export to other parts of the world is an active industry in and around the Bolivian, Brazilian, and Peruvian rainforests, the native home of the plant.

★Tip: If you buy Brazil nuts marked “Fair Trade” or RONAP (the Organization of Organic Brazil Nut Gatherers of Peru), you’re supporting fair prices and working conditions for local workers.

Callie, 12 months, eats oatmeal balls with finely ground Brazil nut.
Max, 14 months, eats finely ground Brazil nut in yogurt with bananas.
Hawii, 15 months, eats yogurt with finely ground Brazil nut. Note: the nut on the side of the plate is just for visual reference; whole nuts should not be served to babies.

Are Brazil nuts healthy for babies?

Yes—in very limited quantities on occasion. While Brazil nuts are packed with nutrients, they contain large amounts of selenium, an essential nutrient that can be toxic if consumed too frequently or in high quantities.4 Selenium exists in other foods (seafood, meat, dairy, and grains) so consider limiting the serving size to one Brazil nut, and only occasionally.

Worried now? Don’t let the selenium content scare you away from introducing this delicious nut to toddlers. Selenium is an important nutrient and is required to be added to all baby formulas in the United States. Brazil nuts are also loaded with vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant, fiber for healthy digestion, magnesium for cardiovascular and muscle health, and they even contain iron and protein.

Brazil nuts, like many tree nuts, are often sold salted, and some brands of Brazil nut butter may be high in sugar and sodium. When introducing these foods to toddlers, opt for unsalted Brazil nuts or unsalted, unsweetened Brazil nut butter when possible.

★Tip: Like most tree nuts, Brazil nuts can go rancid. Store raw Brazil nuts or open jars of Brazil nut butter in the refrigerator. In the refrigerator or freezer, Brazil nuts can stay good for up to 1 year.

Can babies drink Brazil nut milk?

No. Prior to 12 months, the only liquids an infant should receive are breast milk, formula, and if the baby is older than 6 months of age, water in small amounts (less than 2-4 ounces a day) in an open cup.5 6

If, after the first birthday, you’d like to introduce unsweetened Brazil nut milk as a beverage, you may do so, but only serve on occasion, due to the nut’s high selenium levels. Also, consider that nut milks often lack adequate calories, fat, and protein for a plant-based milk for toddlers (fortified soy or pea milk are more nutritious).7 See our Milk FAQs to learn more.

Are Brazil nuts a common choking hazard for babies?

Yes. Whole nuts, nut pieces, and globs of nut butters are choking hazards for babies and young children.8 To reduce the risk, grind Brazil nuts into a fine flour and sprinkle on other foods or mix small amounts of Brazil nut butter into applesauce, yogurt, or thin with breast milk, formula, or water. As always, make sure you create a safe eating environment and stay within an arm’s reach of baby during meals. For more information on choking, visit our section on gagging and choking and familiarize yourself with the list of common choking hazards.

Are Brazil nuts a common allergen?

Yes. Brazil nuts are considered to be tree nuts, and all tree nuts are common food allergens. While only 1 to 3% of the population is allergic to tree nuts, it is usually life-long: only 9% of children with a tree nut allergy will outgrow it.9 10 11

Although an allergy to one tree nut increases risk of allergy to another, keep in mind that being allergic to one nut does not necessarily mean that all nuts need to be removed from the diet.12 Having as diverse a diet as possible, even within the confines of food allergies, is important to get the nutrients we need to be healthy.

There is no recommendation to complete allergy testing before introducing tree nuts into the diet, even if there is a family history of food allergy. However, if you suspect baby may be allergic to nuts, make an appointment with your primary care clinician or a pediatric allergist before introducing nuts at home.

When it is time to introduce the nut, offer a scant amount (such as a pinch of finely ground nut or 1/8 teaspoon of Brazil nut butter thinned with water) for the first few servings. If there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the quantity over future meals, being careful not to exceed 1 teaspoon.

Can Brazil nuts help children poop?

Brazil nuts and nut butter can help prevent constipation by promoting bowel movement regularity. They are a good source of fiber and magnesium, which help move stool along in the intestine.

How do you prepare Brazil nuts for babies with baby-led weaning?

6 to 12 months old: Avoid. Brazil nuts contain very high levels of selenium, a mineral that can be toxic when too much of it is consumed. The amount of selenium in one Brazil nut exceeds the total daily recommended amount for babies at this age. So, to minimize the risk of excess selenium intake, wait until 12+ months to introduce Brazil nuts.

12 to 24 months old: Go time! Mix up to 1 teaspoon of smooth Brazil nut butter into yogurt, warm cereals, or baked goods, or sprinkle up to one pinch of ground Brazil nut on other dishes and foods. At this age, toddlers often enjoy nut butter on toast. Make sure the nut butter is very thinly spread with no clumps and that you offer milk or water in an open cup to help wash down any sticky pieces of food.

24 months old and up: Continue to serve finely ground Brazil nuts and smooth Brazil nut butter in small quantities. If your child has developed mature eating skills (taking small bites with their teeth, moving food to the side of the mouth when chewing, chewing thoroughly before swallowing, not stuffing food in their mouths, and finally, the ability to identify and spit out foods when it is not well chewed, AND is able to eat softer nuts like walnut and pecans with ease, they may be ready to learn how to eat whole Brazil nuts. Just remember that nuts and nut pieces are considered choking hazards until age 4 and even beyond by all governing medical bodies.

Brazil nuts are particularly risky and challenging to eat as they are firm and difficult to take a bite out of–all of which increases choking risk. We’d recommend starting with other nuts before offering Brazil nuts.

To model how to eat Brazil nuts safely, start by telling your child: “This is a hard one. Watch me.” Then, show your toddler how to place the nut in-between your front teeth. Hold the nut between your teeth and exaggerate taking a small bite of the nut. Then, show how you move the nut piece to your molars with your tongue. Chew with your mouth open (you can even demonstrate by opening and closing your hands at the same time). Once you have chewed the nut well, open your mouth to show your toddler how it has been broken down. Say, “I moved it to my big strong teeth to chew it. It needs a lot of chewing.” Demonstrate a couple of times before offering your toddler a Brazil nut to do the same.

To coach your child through eating a whole Brazil nut safely, say, “Your turn to try.” For the very first attempt, firmly hold on to the nut for your child to take a bite from it (without you letting go of the nut). DO NOT PUT THE NUT IN THEIR MOUTH. Don’t let go until they have used their teeth to actively take a bite. This ensures that they initiate chewing. Continue but only serve one or two nuts at a time to pace the practice. If your child insists on holding the Brazil nut themselves, allow them to self-feed and take a bite if you feel comfortable. If you do not feel comfortable or if your child does not bite or attempt to break down the Brazil nut, we recommend coaching the child to spit the nut out and waiting a few weeks more to practice chewing other nuts that are less challenging.

It is important to help your child stay engaged with the task, and part of that is modeling that safe chewing takes place when we are not talking, singing, etc. A highly animated child who is talking, yelling or singing while practicing eating nuts increases choking risk. After practicing nuts with your toddler, make sure their mouth is clear before taking them out of the highchair. Never allow your toddler to walk around with nuts or nut pieces in their mouth.

Take the guesswork out of introducing common allergens by watching our video, Introducing Allergens.

What are recipe ideas for Brazil nuts?

Brazil nuts are delicious on their own or mixed with other nuts, but if you want to use the nuts in your cooking, there are plenty of options. Grind the nuts to make an earthy topping that you can sprinkle on grains and vegetables or use to coat meat or fish to make chicken nuggets, fish sticks, or tofu strips. Blend the nuts to make a dairy-free butter to spread on toast or eat with fresh fruit. You can also grind and soak the nuts to make Brazil nut milk, which can add creamy flavor and lots of nutrition to soups and stews like moqueca de peixe, a rich seafood and tomato dish of Brazil with roots in African and Portuguese cooking.

Recipe: Mango Spears with Brazil Nuts and Lime

seven mango spears rolled in finely ground Brazil nut on a white background

Yield: 2 cups
Cooking Time: 5 minutes
Age: 12 months+

Ingredients

  • 1 ripe mango
  • 1 teaspoon (5 milliliters) lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon (1 gram) ground Brazil nuts (about 1 nut)

This recipe contains a common allergen: tree nut (Brazil nut). Only serve to a child after this allergen has been safely introduced.

Directions

  1. Wash, dry, and peel the mango. Cut the fruit into spears or, if the child tends to overstuff their mouth, cut into bite-sized pieces. Discard the pit or reserve the pit for a future snack.
  2. Set aside some mango spears or pieces for the child. Exact serving size is variable. Let a child’s appetite determine how much is eaten. Store the rest of the mango in an air-tight container in the fridge for a future meal.
  3. Drizzle the lime juice over the mango. Toss to coat.
  4. Sprinkle the ground Brazil nut on the mango.
  5. Serve and let the child self-feed by picking up the fruit with their hands. If help is needed, pass a mango spear in the air for the child to grab from you.

To Store: Cut mango keeps when sealed in the fridge for 4 days or in the freezer for 2 months.

Flavor Pairings

The buttery, creamy flavor of Brazil nuts pairs well with cassava, coconut, corn, rice, tomato, and yam.

Reviewed by

E. Cerda, MSN, CNS, LDN

A. Gilbaugh, RD, CNSC

K. Tatiana Maldonado, MS, CCC-SLP, CBIS, CLEC

K. Rappaport, OTR/L, MS, SCFES, IBCLC

K. Grenawitzke, OTD, OTR/L, SCFES, IBCLC, CNT

Dr. S. Bajowala, MD, FAAAAI. Board-Certified Allergist & Immunologist (allergy section)

Dr. R. Ruiz, MD, FAAP. Board-Certified General Pediatrician & Pediatric Gastroenterologist

  1. National Institutes of Health. Selenium: Fact Sheet for Professionals. Retrieved July 1, 2021.
  2. National Institutes of Health. Selenium: Fact Sheet for Professionals. Retrieved July 1, 2021.
  3. Institute of Medicine (US) Panel on Dietary Antioxidants and Related Compounds. (2000). Dietary reference intakes for vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, and carotenoids. Retrieved July 9, 2021
  4. National Institutes of Health. Selenium: Fact Sheet for Professionals. Retrieved July 1, 2021.
  5. American Academy of Pediatrics. (n.d.) Infant food and feeding. Retrieved July 1, 2021
  6. UNICEF. Guide to bottle feeding. Retrieved July 1, 2021.
  7. Verduci, E., D’Elios, S., Cerrato, L., Comberiati, P., Calvani, M., et al. (2019). Cow’s milk substitutes for children: Nutritional aspects of milk from different mammalian species, special formula and plant-based beveragesNutrients, 11(8), 1739. DOI: 10.3390/nu11081739. Retrieved July 1, 2021
  8. HealthyChildren.org. (2019). Choking prevention. Retrieved July 1, 2021.
  9. Brough, H. A., Caubet, J.-C., Mazon, A., Haddad, D., Bergmann, M. M., Wassenberg, J., Panetta, V., Gourgey, R., Radulovic, S., Nieto, M., Santos, A. F., Nieto, A., Lack, G., & Eigenmann, P. A. (2020). Defining challenge-proven coexistent nut and sesame seed allergy: A prospective multicenter European study. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 145(4), 1231–1239. DOI: 10.1016/j.jaci.2019.09.036. Retrieved July 8, 2021.
  10. American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. Everything you need to know about tree nut allergy. Retrieved July 1, 2021.
  11. Food Allergy Research & Education. Tree nut allergy. Retrieved July 1, 2021.
  12. Food Allergy Research & Education. Tree nut allergy. Retrieved July 1, 2021.