Baru nuts come from barueiro trees, part of the legume family. This means their name is a misnomer: they're actually seeds, not true nuts! The smooth, dark brown seeds grow inside of soft, sweet baru fruit. The almond-shaped "nuts" are gaining a reputation as a new superfood because they're packed with nutrients and beneficial bioactive compounds. Their taste is described as similar to cashews or peanuts with hints of bitterness often associated with cocoa or coffee.
The Brazilian savannah where baru nuts grow is part of the Cerrado biome. Baru nuts are fairly new to international markets, and their production is unique in several ways. The Cerrado biome covers a large area that is under threat of deforestation and environmental destruction, but baru trees are grown and harvested without destroying other trees and plants. Sustainable baru nut harvesting lets native populations benefit without harming natural ecosystems. The initial exploration of baru nuts as a marketable product focused on nutrient content and the potential for protecting the environment.
Many phenolic compounds are antioxidants that scavenge free radicals, cells that contribute to disorders such as cancer and cardiovascular disease. Baru nuts contain numerous phenolic compounds, including catechin, ferulic acid, and epicatechin. A study of Wistar rats found that adding baru nuts to their regular food lowered oxidative stress and increased antioxidant activity in general.
Baru nuts may be especially effective for increasing levels of a specific family of antioxidants. Glutathione peroxidase, or GPx, is a group of enzymes that protect cells from oxidative damage. One study found that eating 20 grams of baru nut each day was associated with higher levels of copper in blood plasma and increased GPx activity.
GPx and several other enzyme antioxidants need copper to function. The combination of increased copper and GPx activity may help protect cells from oxidative stress and reduce risk of heart disease and colon cancer.
A study of baru nut flour in mice found promising results. Baru nuts have high energy value, but they do not significantly contribute to increased deposits of fat in mice. Increased fat deposits can have harmful effects on fat and sugar metabolism and may increase insulin resistance.
Mice fed a glucose-rich supplement with baru nut flour demonstrated less weight gain and lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels than the control group.
Most nuts and seeds are good sources of protein, but each type has a different amino acid profile. An amino acid score, or AAS, measures complete protein. The AAS value of baru nuts is approximately 71%. Baru nuts contain every essential amino acid except lysine, and many common foods, such as beans and cereal grains, contain this final essential amino acid.
Baru nuts contain many important minerals including iron, copper, chromium, selenium, calcium, magnesium, manganese, and phosphorus. Minerals are essential for numerous bodily processes such as metabolizing food into energy. The nervous system needs several, especially calcium, to function correctly. Many enzymes also require magnesium, manganese, zinc, selenium, and copper.
Baru nuts contain unsaturated fatty acids, including oleic and linoleic acids. Linoleic acid is one of the most important fatty acids needed for proper cell function. Omega-6 fatty acids are associated with reduced rates of heart disease, lower cholesterol levels, and reduced plaque build-up on blood vessel walls. Most available baru nuts are roasted, but this process does not significantly alter the fatty acid profile.
Nuts and seeds are known for their high levels of dietary fiber. Baru nuts contain more fiber than other commonly consumed nuts and legumes, such as almonds or peanuts. Dietary fiber is good for digestion and may help control overeating.
Flour made from baru nuts has a sweet taste similar to cocoa. Substituting baru flour for traditional wheat flour increases fiber content and may let you reduce added sugars in baked desserts.
Oil made from baru nuts can be used for the same purposes as any other vegetable or nut oil, and it might even have superior anti-inflammatory effects. A study of people taking five grams of baru nut oil each day found subjects had significantly reduced levels of C-reactive protein — associated with inflammation and chronic cardiovascular disease — over a period of 12 weeks.
Baru nuts contain tocopherols, the most prominent form of vitamin E. Necessary for healthy organs, skin, and hair as well as vision and reproductive health, vitamin E can function as an antioxidant. The baru nuts you can buy are usually peeled and roasted, but tests show that tocopherol content is similar between roasted and unroasted nuts, and removing the peel doesn't reduce tocopherol either.
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