Put down the doughnut!

Nowadays, many offices are laden with calorific food temptations and free office snacks. First thing in the morning, you are allured with that sugar – laden strong coffee, the essential daily pick – me up. Even if you practice healthy dietary choices, sometimes the vending machine is just too much to resist during a stressful day. We already know that what you eat effects your mood, energy levels and productivity, all very important for a successful day at your desk. It is not news that having healthy snacks on hand, increases your chances of eating well at work instead of constantly treating yourself to high sugar and high calorie foods.   

Here in Brazil, mostly thanks to the fountain of life that is the Amazon rainforest, we are lucky to have access to many tropical delights and healthy Brazilian snacks. Often the colourful and refreshing fruits and berries found on these lands are not only mouth-wateringly delicious but also highly beneficial for your health and perfect for an office snack. At Brazil Selection, we can admit that we take full advantage of our location in Northeast Brazil and enjoy the fruits of the land every day!

In this post, we present you with our 3 favourite Brazilian snacks, always on – hand to stave off that mid – morning hunger at Brazil Selection HQ, why don´t you take some inspiration from here and add a vital and healthy Brazilian energy boost to your working day!?

1) Açaí

  “Chegou ao Pará, parou; tomou açaí, ficou”

Pronounced “ASS – IGH – EE”, this little grape – like fruit from the rainforest has recently exploded in popularity. Splashed all over social media and healthy food blogs, this fellow really packs a punch, especially when you consider that the seed takes up about 80% of the fruit (most of the health benefits lie in the other 20%). Harvested from the Açaí palm tree, they are about the size of a marble and their flesh is of a very rich and deep purple colour.

This Brazilian snack is enjoyed in most of Brazil as an ice – sorbet, often with powdered milk, granola, honey or fruit toppings. Different cities have their own recipes and in Belém, right near the Amazon, Açaí is eaten with fried fish and normally a cold can of Guaraná soda! If you walk past any gyms on your trip to Brazil, or decide to go for a workout yourself, you will most certainly see some of the fit and healthy athletes heading straight to the nearest Ponto de Açaí. Considering how delicious this snack is, you should probably go with them!

The Brazilian snack that is bursting with health benefits

Açaí can help reduce the risk of getting Alzheimer´s and Parkinson´s disease, both age related illnesses. Researchers claim that a diet with plenty of antioxidants, specifically “anthocyanin” will help to reduce inflammation of the brain and help to improve memory function. The Açaí berry is a great source of anthocyanin. As for office work, increased memory is always a help!

Açaí may be good for your heart and help prevent cardiovascular disease; the same anthocyanins help increase good cholesterol while simultaneously decreasing bad cholesterol.  The biggest and boldest claim regarding this magnificent Brazilian snack is that it has certain cancer fighting properties. It has been proven that the berry does fight cancer in animals, however further studies need to be conducted to validate this claim for humans.

Lastly, Açaí is rich in fatty acids, contains approximately 19 amino acids and is packed with more antioxidants than other, more commonly eaten berries.

Where to get it and how to eat it

You can easily buy Açaí now in powdered form in health food shops or online.   Blitz this powerful powder into a fruit smoothie, stuff it in your office refrigerator and use it as a substitute for a fizzy drink from the vending machine. Also, if you are a real advocate for the health benefits of this Brazilian snack, it also comes in capsule form, which you can easily take every day. Lastly, check online for some delicious Açaí bowl recipes – granola, honey, yoghurt, just like we have it here in Northeast Brazil!

Acai Bowl

2) Brazil Nuts 

“Castanha do Pará”

The Brazil nut, known as “Castanha do Pará” in Brazil is actually a seed. It comes in an extremely tough little pod usually in groups of about 10 – 25. The pods grow on huge trees that can reach up to 50 metres high, making it one of the tallest trees in the Amazon rainforest! Even more impressive, these trees can reach well over 500 years old. Harvesting the pods can be a dangerous task as they fall from the massive trees randomly, pelting towards the earth at high speed and often embedding themselves deep in the ground. (This usually happens from December to March).

They were eaten by local people as far back as 11,000 years ago and were first brought to Europe by the Dutch in the 1600´s. Now you will see them in supermarkets all over the world, marketed as a healthy “superfood.”

So what is it about this tasty Brazilian snack that makes the world nuts about Brazil nuts?

One of the main things that make Brazil nuts popular among health food advocates is the high level of selenium. This is a mineral found naturally in some fish and grains and in soil! The recommended daily intake of selenium is around 55 – 100 mcg per day, whereas the average Brazil nut contains around 175 % + of this amount.

Selenium also has various antioxidant properties, although there have been mixed results in experiments using selenium as treatment for lung cancer and prostate cancer. It is claimed however, that Crohn´s disease and HIV can be linked to low levels of selenium or selenium deficiency. Furthermore, selenium improves thyroid function. The thyroid gland actively uses selenium to produce the triiodothyronine hormone, which has an effect on almost every physiological process in the body!

This crunchy Brazilian snack is also a source of healthy polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Both help to lower cholesterol, improving heart health by lowering the risk of heart disease and stroke. Lastly, the antioxidant effects of the Brazil nut help keep your brain in its best working order, perfect for getting through your days’ work in the office!

Looking up at the enormous Brazil nut tree.

3) Guaraná

Once upon a time in the Amazon rainforest lived a couple of the Sateré-Maué tribe, who dearly wished that they could have a child. Tupă, a powerful and benevolent deity, granted them their wish and a boy was born with especially beautiful eyes. He grew up to be popular, generous and kind.

This made Juruparí, the evil jungle spirit, jealous and angry. In his rage, Juruparí killed the boy and news quickly spread back to the village. When his mother came to know, she was overcome with despair and longing for her beautiful boy. At this moment Tupã, sent a message to the mother in the form of a powerful lightning bolt and thunderclap. The boy’s mother understood the instruction from Tupã and planted her son’s eyeballs in the ground. From that spot in the ground, a new plant grew that would yield a tasty and energizing fruit for all the people and remind her of her son´s beautiful eyes. It became known as Guaraná, from the Sataré Mawé for “human – like.”

Guaraná is a climbing vine that exists mostly in the Brazilian Amazon, it has large broad leaves and a coffee bean – like seed that comes from its fruit. The Satawé Mawé people still harvest it, both domestically and in the wild.

Health Benefits of the legendary Brazilian snack from the Amazon

The powder from the Guaraná seed is used as a stimulant and contains about 3 – 5 times as much caffeine as coffee! It can be taken by boiling the powder in hot water and sipping it like a tea, but it is also used in many popular energy drinks. Due to its high caffeine levels, Guaraná can be used as a natural laxative. It can also be used in small doses to help prevent diarrhea, by restricting the water entering your bowels from your digestive tract.

Some studies have shown that it is likely that Guaraná can decrease the chance of getting blood clots by aiding blood flow. This is a major positive boost in cardiovascular health and functioning. Guaraná also has strong antioxidant and anti – microbial properties, which helps improve skin appearance. For this reason, it is used in soaps, shampoos and other cosmetics.

Moreover, Guaraná can prevent the forming of E – coli which in some cases can cause illness. As part of a balanced diet, you could switch your morning coffee for a Guaraná drink once in a while, to get you set for the day. Keep some Guaraná powder in the office if you need a little pick – me up during a busy work day instead of heading to the vending machine for a fizzy energy drink!

Lastly, and most interestingly, studies are ongoing to uncover whether guaraná can protect against age related illnesses and other diseases in the human eye!

Guaraná 1

The health benefits of these popular Brazilian snacks are cited in glossy magazines, social media and by “foodies” the world over. We have done our best to cite valid sources. You should however, be careful about what information you take at face value, especially online. Many claims are not backed up by evidence, so it is a good idea to do some independent research to investigate further – this applies to any “superfood.”

Brazilian Landmark - Brazilian National Flag.
Marajó Art up close.
Religous Orders in Brazil - Olinda Seaside Chapel.