If you’re looking for a dense nutrient source to incorporate into your diet, it is hard to go wrong with nuts.
But which types of nuts are healthiest? Which will provide you with the specific vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats you are after?
For that matter, how are nuts classified, and how are they different from seeds?
I have recently made nuts a daily part of my ongoing diet and conducted much research to help me figure out which types of nuts to eat.
In this article, I will share what I’ve learned with you, introducing you to different types of nuts in detail, their nutritional information, and their advantages and disadvantages.
But first, let’s briefly talk about the difference between nuts and seeds.
Nuts vs. Seeds: What is the Difference?
You may already think that you know the difference between a nut and a seed. But do you?
Nuts and seeds are actually very closely related. Indeed, seeds are the broader category, and nuts are a subcategory of seeds.
Basically, seeds are just seeds. They are what you use to grow a new plant.
But some seeds are surrounded by hard shells.
Those types of seeds are called “nuts.”
We do not eat the hard shells. In most cases, when we buy nuts, the shells are already removed in advance so that we do not have to do it.
This is not always the case, which is where nutcrackers can come in handy.
Regardless, we continue to call the seed a “nut,” even though the shell is no longer a part of it.
While we are on this topic of nuts versus seeds, it is also worth mentioning that some things referred to as nuts are actually neither nuts nor seeds.
I have in mind specifically the example of the peanut, which is a legume. Nonetheless, I have included its nutritional information in this article as there’s a good chance you are looking for it.
Nuts are High in Fat: Is That a Problem?
One thing you will notice while you are learning about the different types of nuts below is that they tend to be high in fat.
If you are trying to lose weight, this may concern you.
But you should not worry about the high fat content of nuts. Eating healthy fats as part of a wholesome diet is not inherently fattening.
In fact, eating a diet that is high in healthy fats and low in carbohydrates can promote weight loss. It also may reduce inflammation and improve cardiovascular health (1).
Diets high in healthy fats and low in carbohydrates also tend to be more satiating than high-carb diets.
So, you are less likely to overeat with this type of diet.
You will discover that nuts are a filling, delicious, and nutritious snack.
They also work great as ingredients in salads, casseroles, and a wide range of other foods.
Now that we have answered some of your questions about the classification of nuts and their role in a healthy diet, let’s check out nutritional information, pros, and cons for a variety of different nuts.
1. Acorns (2)
You’ve picked up almonds at the grocery store before. You’ve purchased cashews and walnuts. But have you ever thought about buying acorns?
For most people, the answer is “probably not.” Nevertheless, acorns are edible.
The International Oak Society writes (17), “Native American peoples had survived on a staple diet of acorns for thousands of years.”
Take note that in their raw form, acorns have a bitter flavor. The reason for this bitterness is the high amount of tannins they contain. The solution? Boil your acorns.
Key Nutrients in Acorns
The International Oak Society also explains, “[Acorns] are an excellent source of potassium, iron, magnesium, calcium, and vitamin B-6, they are gluten-free and high in fiber, and also contain free radical scavengers: antioxidants that help protect cells from free radicals that may cause damage and increase the risk of cancer and other diseases.”
Benefits of Acorns
Drawbacks of Acorns
It is challenging to purchase acorns or acorn flour, even online. Most people who indulge in cuisine made out of acorn flour harvest and process them as a hobby.
2. Almonds (3)
One of the most popular types of nuts you can eat is the almond, which is the seed of the almond tree. There are multiple different types of almonds. Some examples include Mollar de Tarragona Spanish almonds, French Ferraduel almonds, Italian Tuono almonds, and others.
You will notice when you are picking out almonds that some are blanched, while others are un-blanched.
What is blanching? It is merely a process of cooking almonds briefly in hot water. After that, you dunk them in cold water. Through this process, it is possible to remove their skins.
As you might guess, blanching almonds does remove a bit of their nutritional value, but it is a reasonably small decrease. So, if all you can find are blanched almonds, or that these what you prefer, they are still a very healthy choice.
Key Nutrients in Almonds
According to the nutrition information for almonds, these nuts contain a lot of protein, B vitamins, vitamin E, manganese, copper, and magnesium.
Benefits of Almonds
Drawbacks of Almonds
Almonds contain phytic acid. Is it something about which you need to be concerned? Not if you do not indulge in vast amounts of almonds.
You also should note that almonds have a pro-inflammatory omega fatty acid ratio. Try and balance that out with some foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
3. Brazil Nuts (4)
Brazil nuts stand out because of their large size and their delicious flavor. They come from the protected Brazil nut tree, native to not just Brazil, but also Bolivia and some of the other nearby countries.
It isn’t just brazil nuts which are large, but also the fruit and nutshell. A fruit from the Brazil nut tree may weigh more than 4 pounds!
Key Nutrients in Brazil Nuts
Brazil nuts are high in selenium, protein, B vitamins (especially vitamin B1), vitamin E, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, potassium, calcium, iron, and others.
Benefits of Brazil Nuts
Drawbacks of Brazil Nuts
While it is great to get more selenium with Brazil nuts, make sure that you do not overdo it. Over-consumption of selenium can result in selenosis.
As with almonds, Brazil nuts also contain significant phytic acid. Moderate your consumption for this reason too.
4. Candlenuts (5)
If you like Asian or Polynesian food, you might have eaten candlenuts before. Otherwise, you might not know what they are.
So, what is a candlenut? It is a nut that comes from the candlenut tree of the Euphorbiaceae family.
Sometimes, the tree is also called the “Indian walnut” tree.
If you eat a candlenut, it might remind you of a macadamia nut. But macadamia nuts have a milder taste, whereas candlenuts are on the bitter side.
Key Nutrients in Candlenuts
Eating candlenuts is a great way to load up on protein, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, and calcium, among other vitamins and minerals.
Benefits of Candlenuts
Drawbacks of Candlenuts
Candlenuts are not easy to come by outside of Asia. Also, you cannot eat raw candlenuts safely. The reason is that they contain saponin and phorbol. Cooking them can remove both so that you can eat them safely.
5. Cashews (6)
The cashew tree is native to Brazil and is now grown in many other countries. It produces cashew nuts.
The mild flavor of cashews and their smooth texture combine to make them a delightful snack or ingredient.
Technically, the cashew has the classification of a seed. But because it has the texture and flavor of a nut, that is usually what we call it.
Fascinatingly enough, the shell removed from the seed is quite useful outside of cuisine. Indeed, some products manufactured with the shell include paints and lubricants. It even went into arms production during the Second World War!
As you might expect, the shell isn’t something you want to mess with. Rather like poison ivy, it can produce the symptoms of contact dermatitis. Thankfully, the seeds tend to be shelled before they end up in the supermarket.
Key Nutrients in Cashews
You can turn to cashews to augment vitamin E, protein, vitamin K, phosphorus, selenium, manganese, phosphorus, lutein, oleic acid, beta-carotene, and zeaxanthin.
Benefits of Cashews
Drawbacks of Cashews
Cashew allergies (to the seed, not just the shell) are surprisingly common. How common? They may affect up to an estimated 6% of the population.
The other potential concern with cashews is that they are high in carbs. Because they are a relatively starchy nut, they may not integrate as well into a high-fat, low-carb diet as some other types of nuts. Nevertheless, they should be fine so long as you do not eat them to excess.
6. Chestnuts (7)
If you are looking for a delicious, healthy nut to cook into cuisine, you cannot go wrong with chestnuts.
Chestnuts come from chestnut trees. These large nuts are edible in their raw form. But you won’t often encounter them raw, because their astringent flavor can be off-putting unless you cook them.
One of the easiest ways to cook chestnuts is to roast them. Peeling the nuts is unnecessary when cooking them this way. That is why roasted chestnuts are so popular.
Once you cook a chestnut, it is soft to bite into, though often with a crisp crunch.
Key Nutrients in Chestnuts
By far, the most significant nutrient in chestnuts is vitamin C, but chestnuts contain B vitamins, copper, manganese, and potassium.
Benefits of Chestnuts
Drawbacks of Chestnuts
The starchy texture of chestnuts is enjoyable, but as you might expect, that texture comes from their high carb count. So, if reducing carbs is your goal, you cannot eat too many chestnuts too often.
7. Gingko Nuts (8)
The ginkgo tree is perhaps best known for producing the leaves which go into supplements.
Nevertheless, these supplements are not the only product which comes from the ginkgo tree. Gingko trees also produce ginkgo nuts.
Like candlenuts, ginkgo nuts are enjoyed more in Eastern cuisines than Western cuisines.
Indeed, they are an ingredient in the Chinese New Year and wedding dish “congee.”
Key Nutrients in Gingko Nuts
If you eat ginkgo nuts, they will confer you with vitamin C, some B vitamins, vitamin A, potassium, phosphorus, and copper.
Benefits of Gingko Nuts
Drawbacks of Gingko Nuts
Beyond availability issues outside of Asia, there are a few issues with ginkgo nuts.
For starters, this is another type of nut which can cause dermatitis symptoms for some. As with cashews, it is not the ginkgo seeds that produce this symptom, but instead what surrounds them.
In this case, that is not a shell, but rather a sarcotesta. What is a sarcotesta? It is a coating around a seed that one might call “fleshy” in nature. Think of pomegranate seeds, and you will have the right idea.
There is also a potential health problem with ginkgo nuts involving their high content of 4’-O-methylpyridoxine (MPN).
This compound is present whether you consume the nuts raw or cooked.
If you ingest too much MPN, you can experience convulsions. The key to avoiding them? Just don’t eat too many ginkgo nuts.
Additionally, if you are taking blood thinners or have a circulatory problem, ginkgo nuts may not be appropriate. They may interfere with clotting.
8. Hazelnuts (9)
Like quite a few other nuts, hazelnuts derive their name from the trees that produce them, hazel trees.
Creating some confusion is the fact that there are different names for hazelnuts. What you call a hazelnut depends both upon the species and your geographical location.
For example, if you live in the US, you probably call hazelnuts “hazelnuts” exclusively.
But if you happen to be in the UK, you might not refer to a hazelnut as anything other than a “cobnut.”
This etymology is interesting and stems from a children’s game involving striking one another on the head using a hazelnut on a string. As the head might be called a “cob” according to regional slang, we have the term “cobnut.”
But what makes matters complicated is that the term “cob” also can refer to a specific species of hazelnut with an oval shape.
Meanwhile, a longer, thinner type of hazelnut is known as a “filbert nut.”
So, the term “hazelnut” is rather vague, and even the word “cob” may refer to a species of hazelnut or simply to hazelnuts in general in the UK.
Key Nutrients in Hazelnuts
You can eat hazelnuts to load up on protein, fiber, B vitamins, vitamin E, copper, manganese, phosphorus, magnesium, and iron.
Benefits of Hazelnuts
Drawbacks of Hazelnuts
Hazelnuts are yet another type of nut which can cause allergic reactions.
There is another problem with hazelnuts as well.
In this article (22), you can learn about how common child labor is at hazelnut farms in Turkey. That is where 70% of hazelnuts are harvested. If you eat a hazelnut product and do not check its source, there is a good chance your purchase supported child labor.
Also, the people who work at the farms in question often do not even receive minimum wage. So, do your research on any hazelnut product you plan to buy.
9. Macadamia Nuts (10)
Macadamia nuts come from Macadamia trees, which in turn come from the Land Down Under. But it wasn’t until Macadamia trees came to Hawaii that the nut became a popular product.
Indeed, to this day, you probably associate Macadamia nuts with Hawaii. But did you know that the biggest manufacturer in the world is now South Africa?
Macadamia nuts are large and have a mild flavor and a delightful texture. As far as nuts go, they have a reputation for decadence and are often pricey compared to others.
Key Nutrients in Macademia Nuts
When you eat macadamia nuts, you get a lot of B vitamins, iron, magnesium, manganese, copper, and phosphorus. Macadamia nuts also can help you load up on healthy fats.
Benefits of Macademia Nuts
Drawbacks of Macademia Nuts
There is only one major issue with macadamia nuts, and that is the price tag. For many people, macadamia nuts are an occasional treat. But if you have the budget to buy them frequently, you may as well indulge yourself. Your body will benefit as much as your taste buds.
10. Mongongo Nuts (11)
The mongongo nut is from the tree by the same name, which grows in southern Africa, particularly in Mozambique, Malawai, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia, and Zimbabwe.
While many people outside of Africa are not familiar with the mongongo nut, it is famous in Africa.
The reason is that these nuts are abundant and are easy to store for extended periods. So, they are a reliable food source, enough to serve as a staple.
While it is possible to harvest the nut directly from the fruit, there is another way to get at it, too—and that is through elephant dung!
That’s right—the mongongo nut can pass whole and undigested through an elephant’s digestive tract.
The outer shell keeps the inner nut from contamination. So, once one collects the nut and cracks open the shell, one can enjoy it.
Key Nutrients in Mongongo Nuts
You can fuel up with the high fat and protein content in mongongo nuts. You also give your body zinc, magnesium, calcium, vitamin E, and copper.
Benefits of Mongongo Nuts
Drawbacks of Mongongo Nuts
Unless you live in Africa, it is unlikely that you will be able to purchase mongongo nuts locally.
Indeed, even finding them for sale online is challenging, though you might discover mongongo oil you can buy. It can help hydrate your skin.
11. Peanuts (12)
Strictly speaking, peanuts do not belong on this list. Why? Because they are legumes, not nuts.
Nevertheless, I include them. Peanuts taste like nuts and have a crunch similar to nuts. We think of them casually as nuts.
We snack on peanuts and add them to recipes, and some people cook with peanut oil too.
The oil oxidizes easily, which isn’t great. But it doesn’t impart much of a flavor to your food, which can be a plus.
Key Nutrients in Peanuts
A serving of peanuts is high in protein, fiber, B vitamins, copper, magnesium, manganese, and phosphorus.
Benefits of Peanuts
Drawbacks of Peanuts
You will discover that while peanuts are rich in nutrition, they also are high in carbs. So long as you do not eat peanuts to excess, that is okay. But it can be hard to stop snacking on them once you start!
12. Pecans (13)
Did you know that there was a time when in Algonquin, “pecan” simply met “nut?” Not any nut in particular—just “nut.”
But nowadays, “pecan” no longer just means “nut.” It means the pecan tree nut, which makes it a hickory nut.
While we have talked about nuts that come from Asia, Africa, Australia, and other parts of the world, this time, we are talking about a nut native to North America.
Incidentally, producing pecans is hard work. There are many diseases and pests which can take hold of pecan trees.
Key Nutrients in Pecans
By eating pecans, you nourish your body with protein, B vitamins, fiber, magnesium, manganese, copper, zinc, and phosphorus. Pecans also are an excellent source of polyphenols.
Benefits of Pecans
Drawbacks of Pecans
Like most other nuts, pecans are mostly beneficial for your health. But as pecan allergies are common, that can be a disadvantage for some.
13. Pine Nuts and Cedar Nuts (14)
If you put nuts in your salads, there is a good chance that you enjoy pine nuts, a popular salad ingredient.
Pine nuts, of course, come from pine trees. Indeed, they come from multiple types of pine trees.
You should also note that cedar nuts are pine nuts as well, specifically coming from the Swiss Pine. A seed nut may also be referred to as a cembra nut.
Key Nutrients in Pine Nuts and Cedar Nuts
Nuts that come from pine trees are high in protein, B vitamins, iron, phosphorus, magnesium, copper, zinc, and manganese. You can get polyphenols from eating pine nuts as well.
Benefits of Pine Nuts and Cedar Nuts
Drawbacks of Pine Nuts and Cedar Nuts
Pine and cedar nuts can cause allergic reactions for some people, just as is common with other types of nuts.
There is another particular issue that can plague some unfortunate people when eating pine nuts, which is something referred to as “Cacogeusia.” Colloquially, the condition is “pine mouth.”
If you have this condition, just eating a few pine nuts could cause you to have a nasty taste in your mouth, which persists for weeks.
14. Pistachios (15)
Who doesn’t love the vibrant taste of pistachios and their fun crunch? But did you know that a pistachio is a type of cashew nut? The pistachio tree belongs to the cashew family.
The majority of pistachios are exports from Iran. The US is another major producer.
Consumers also love pistachios because of their fun green color. Indeed, a range of pistachio dessert foods featuring this green tint have become popular.
Unlike many other nuts, you usually buy pistachios in their shells, which are partly cracked open. Opening them the rest of the way is easy and enjoyable.
Key Nutrients in Pistachios
Eat pistachios for protein, fiber, B vitamins, copper, manganese, and phosphorus.
Benefits of Pistachios
Drawbacks of Pistachios
Pistachio allergies are common. Also, as with peanuts and peanut butter, pistachios sometimes may expose you to aflatoxins. But properly processing minimizes this problem.
15. Walnuts (16)
As drupe seeds, walnuts are not “nuts” in a classical sense, but we still consider them such while grocery shopping and cooking.
They are, of course, from the walnut tree.
While you can purchase walnut oil, its low smoke point prevents it from being useful for cooking. Nevertheless, it can still serve as an ingredient in some other dishes.
Key Nutrients in Walnuts
You can eat walnuts for protein, omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, B vitamins, zinc, copper, magnesium, manganese, and phosphorus.
Benefits of Walnuts
Drawbacks of Walnuts
Walnut allergies are possible. But for most people, these nuts are tasty and reasonably priced.
I hope you have enjoyed learning in detail about the many different types of nuts which you can make a part of your healthy diet.
Nuts provide you with that delectable crunch you are looking for while nourishing your body ample bioavailable nutrition.