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What are Some Different Kinds of Edible Nuts?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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A nut is a plant embryo with a hardened shell which is intended to protect it until it matures in a sapling which will later grow into a fully adult plant. The body of a nut tends to be firm to crunchy and very oily, and it happens to be a favorite food of a number of animals. There are a wide assortment of edible nuts all over the world, with many countries having plantations of nut producing trees for the specific purpose of generating nuts for culinary nuts. Nuts can also be harvested in the wild.

Edible nuts have been an important part of the human diet for thousands of years. Because they are protected by a firm outer shell, nuts can be stored for extended periods of time without the risk of going bad. They are also high in protein and an assortment of other vitamins and minerals, depending on the specific nut, making them a great dietary choice. Humans have also cultivated a taste for nuts, ranging from the rich, fatty macadamia nut to the leaner and slightly bitter almond.

The botanical definition of a nut is actually quite strict; a nut must have a woody or stony outer wall, and the seed inside is free or partially fused. In cuisine, however, the term “nut” is much more broad, encompassing legumes like peanuts, drupes such as almonds, and seeds like pine nuts and sunflower seeds. The culinary definition of nut appears to encompass any sort of oily kernel, whether or not the kernel is a true nut.

Almonds, pistachios, coconuts, hazelnuts, pecans, walnuts, pine nuts, chestnuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, beechnuts, and butternuts are all considered edible nuts, whether or not they are true nuts. All of these foods share the trait of rich, oily flesh which can be pressed for oil or eaten out of hand. Some of these nuts need to go through multiple steps of processing before they are released to market; walnuts, for example, are drupes, meaning that they are covered in a leathery shell which is removed to expose the hard shell before the nuts are sent to market.

Allergies to edible nuts are extremely common. Since “nut” in culinary terms is a broad word, it is possible for someone to be allergic to some nuts, but not to others. A peanut allergy, for example, is usually restricted just to peanuts while an allergy to tree nuts like walnuts may suggest that someone is allergic to a range of drupes including almonds and beechnuts. Since the terms of a nut allergy can get confusing, most people who know that they are allergic to nuts avoid edible nuts altogether, since they do not want to risk serious allergic reactions.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By eatsjello — On Jul 25, 2010

@milagros, You're right, eating nuts are healthy. Studies show that, in general, people who eat nuts regularly have low LDL cholesterol. LDL is the bad cholesterol often associated with heart disease.

Nuts also help the lining of your arteries and reduce the risk of blood clotting.

By kmdragon — On Jul 25, 2010

Acorns are also a type of edible nut. Acorns come from Oak trees. Various groups of people have considered acorns a staple of their diet.

Because of the Tannins in the acorns, they must be processed before they can be eaten. This generally involves soaking them in water, and changing the water frequently until all the tannins leech out.

By milagros — On Apr 07, 2008

I read how nuts, such as walnuts and almonds are good for the heart and brain health. Because they contain good fats, they help keep arteries clear. It is sufficient to have 1oz, or 28g of nuts a day for them to be effective.

Since nuts are calorie dense, it is wise to keep the amount under control. 1oz of nuts (of course it varies somewhat with different nuts) is about 200 calories. I have also found that nuts are a very good snack food, since they really help control hunger, due to their healthy fat content.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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