Definition – What does Nut mean?

In most dictionaries, a nut is defined as “a hard-shelled dry fruit with a separable rind or shell and interior kernel; the kernel of a nut; a dry indehiscent one-seeded fruit with a woody pericarp”.

While many plants bear no fruit, but reproduce through basic seeds, many use fruit as a means to help spread their seeds far and wide. When you think of fruit, chances are good you imagine apples, oranges, and other fleshy fruits that are sweet and juicy. However, there are other types. For instance, nuts are fruit. They’re just dry.

Maximum Yield explains Nut

With most fruits, the seeds are nestled into the interior meat or pulp of the fruit (the portion that you eat). However, nuts are a little different. The seeds are what you eat, the meat of the nut, so to speak. In the botanical definition of a nut, the shell cannot open to release the seed housed within. This is in contrast to the culinary definition of the term, which can be applied to quite a few dried seeds (not actual nuts) including pine nuts and the like.

Examples of actual nuts (by the botanical definition) include:

  • Chestnuts
  • Acorns

Examples of seeds commonly called nuts in the culinary sense include:

  • Walnuts
  • Brazil nuts
  • Peanuts
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Almonds
  • Pine nuts
  • Pistachios

In fact, most of the “nuts” we’ve become accustomed to eating are not nuts at all. Rather, they’re drupe fruit seeds. Despite this, they are routinely lumped into the nut family, and for good reason. They’re all very high in nutrition, and can be part of a healthy diet. Scientific studies have shown a correlation between nut consumption and reduced heart disease, lower blood pressure, and other positive health outcomes. However, they are also high in fat, and so should not be heavily consumed.

There is a difference between nuts and seeds themselves.

Technically, nuts are the hard-shelled “fruit” of certain plants. Conversely, seeds are an edible small plant enclosed in a seed coat. Most nuts are seeds, but not all seeds are nuts. Nuts generally are “fruits” that have a hard outer shell that doesn’t crack open naturally. Seeds on the other hand typically naturally open and free themselves from the shell. Interestingly, some common (ground) “nuts” commonly used and thought of as nuts, specifically peanuts, are actually technically a legume and not a true nut.

Nutritionally speaking, most nuts and seeds generally contain many of the same nutrients, including protein, vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, and fiber. But there are some varying degrees of nutrition in the different varieties that make certain choices better sources than others, depending on the nutrient being looked at. Because the separate nuts and seeds offer varying nutrient profiles, getting an assortment rather than sticking to one or two usuals is a good idea.