Nut (fruit)

A nut is a fruit consisting of a hard or tough nutshell protecting a kernel which is usually edible. In general usage and in a culinary sense, a wide variety of dry seeds are called nuts, but in a botanical context "nut" implies that the shell does not open to release the seed (indehiscent).

Chestnuts are both botanical and culinary nuts.
Some common "culinary nuts": hazelnuts, which are also botanical nuts; Brazil nuts, which are not botanical nuts, but rather the seeds of a capsule; and walnuts, pecans, and almonds (which are not botanical nuts, but rather the seeds of drupes)

Most seeds come from fruits that naturally free themselves from the shell, but this is not the case in nuts such as hazelnuts, chestnuts, and acorns, which have hard shell walls and originate from a compound ovary. The general and original usage of the term is less restrictive, and many nuts (in the culinary sense), such as almonds, pecans, pistachios, walnuts, and Brazil nuts,[1] are not nuts in a botanical sense. Common usage of the term often refers to any hard-walled, edible kernel as a nut.[2] Nuts are an energy-dense and nutrient-rich food source.[3]

Botanical definition

A seed is the mature fertilised ovule of a plant; it consists of three parts, the embryo which will develop into a new plant, stored food for the embryo, and a protective seed coat. Botanically, a nut is a fruit with a woody pericarp developing from a syncarpous gynoecium. Nuts may be contained in an involucre, a cup-shaped structure formed from the flower bracts. The involucre may be scaly, spiny, leafy or tubular, depending on the species of nut.[4] Most nuts come from the pistils with inferior ovaries (see flower) and all are indehiscent (not opening at maturity). True nuts are produced, for example, by some plant families of the order Fagales. These include beech (Fagus), chestnut (Castanea), oak (Quercus), stone-oak (Lithocarpus) and tanoak (Notholithocarpus) in the family Fagaceae, as well as hazel, filbert (Corylus) and hornbeam (Carpinus) in the family Betulaceae.

Also widely known as nuts are dry drupes, which include pecans (Carya illinoensis), almonds (Prunus amygdalus), macadamia (Macadamia integrifolia), candlenut (Aleurites moluccanus), water caltrop (Trapa bicornis) and walnuts (Juglans regia). A drupe is an indehiscent fruit which has an outer fleshy part consisting of the exocarp, or skin, and mesocarp, or flesh, which surround a single pit or stone, the endocarp with a seed (kernel) inside. In a dry drupe, the outer parts dry up and the remaining husk is part of the ovary wall or pericarp, and the hard inner wall surrounding the seed represents the inner part of the pericarp.[4]

A small nut may be called a "nutlet" (or nucule, a term otherwise referring to the oogonium of stoneworts). In botany, the term "nutlet" specifically refers to a pyrena or pyrene, which is a seed covered by a stony layer, such as the kernel of a drupe. Walnuts and hickories (Juglandaceae) have fruits that are difficult to classify. They are considered to be nuts under some definitions but are also referred to as drupaceous nuts.

In common use, a "tree nut" is, as the name implies, any nut coming from a tree. This most often comes up regarding food allergies; a person may be allergic specifically to peanuts (which are not tree nuts but legumes), whereas others may be allergic to the wider range of nuts that grow on trees.


Nuts being sold in a market
2019 world production
in millions of tonnes[5]
Nut Production
Brazil nuts

In the 21st century, some dozen species constitute most of the worldwide production of nuts, shown in the table below for major commercial nuts.[5][6]

Culinary nuts
Name Image Origin Description Production
(Prunus dulcis)
Originated in Iran and the surrounding area. The fruit is a drupe, consisting of an outer hull and a hard shell, the endocarp, containing a single seed.[4] Almonds are sold shelled or unshelled. Blanched almonds are almonds with the shells removed that have been treated with hot water to soften the seed coat, which is then removed. World production of unshelled almonds in 2019 was 3.5 million tonnes, and the largest producing countries were the United States, Spain, Iran, Turkey and Morocco.[5]
Brazil nut
(Bertholletia excelsa)
Native to tropical South America where the nuts are gathered from forest trees growing in the wild. The nuts are hard-shelled seeds borne in a hard, woody capsule.[4] In 2019, global production of Brazil nuts was 78,000 tonnes, most of which were harvested from the Amazon rainforest of Brazil and Bolivia.[5]
(Anacardium occidentale)
Originated in northeastern Brazil and widely grown in the tropics. The fruit is a thick-shelled, seed-bearing drupe borne at the apex of a fleshy stalk known as a cashew apple.[4] World production in 2019 of cashew nuts with shells was around 4 million tonnes, with Côte d'Ivoire and India being the main producing countries.[5]
(Castanea spp.)
Native to temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, and was at one time a staple crop in some regions. It is a true nut and grows in a spiny, cup-shaped involucre formed from the calyx.[4] World production in 2019 was 2.4 million tonnes, and the main producing countries were China, Turkey, South Korea, Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain.[5]
(Cocos nucifera)
Grown throughout the tropics. The fruit is a dry drupe, with both the coconut flesh and the coconut water developing from the endosperm, being surrounded by the fibrous husk.[4] Has the largest world production of any nuts, with a global figure of 62.5 million tonnes in 2019, with Indonesia, the Philippines and India being the largest producers.[5]
(Corylus avellana)
Native to temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere. The fruit is a true nut and grows in a leafy or tubular involucre formed from the calyx.[4] In 2019, world production of hazelnuts in shells was 1.1 million tonnes, predominantly grown in Turkey, with other notable producing countries being Italy, Azerbaijan, the United States, Chile and China.[5]
(Macadamia spp.)
Indigenous to Australia and an important food for the Aboriginal peoples before Europeans arrived. The fruit is a hard, woody, globose follicle with a pointed apex, containing one or two seeds. Total world production in 2018 was 200,000 tonnes, South Africa being the largest producer, followed by Australia and Kenya.[7]
(Arachis hypogaea)
Originated in South America and may have been in cultivation for 10,000 years. Widely grown in the tropics. The plant is a legume and the fruit is a papery pod containing one or more nut-like seeds.[4] World production in 2019 was 49 million tonnes, China is the largest producing country, followed by India, Nigeria, Sudan, and the United States.[5]
(Carya illinoinensis)
Native to the southern United States and northern Mexico. The fruit is a pseudo-drupe with a green, semi-fleshy husk. Two to three million tonnes are harvested annually; in the United States, most pecans are produced in Georgia, New Mexico and Texas.[8]
Pine nuts
(Pinus spp.)
Northern hemisphere. Seeds extracted from woody cones.[4] In 2017, world production was 23,600 tons, the main producing countries being South Korea, Russia, China, Pakistan and Afghanistan.[9]
(Pistacia vera)
Native to Central Asia, where it is a desert tree. The fruit is a drupe, containing a single elongated seed in a hard, cream-coloured shell, which abruptly splits open when ripe.[4] World production in 2019 totalled 0.9 million tonnes, the main producing countries being Iran and the United States, with lesser quantities coming from China and Turkey.[5]
(Juglans regia)
Black walnut
(Juglans nigra)
J. regia originated in Iran and Central Asia, and J. nigra originated in the eastern United States. The fruit is a pseudo-drupe with a green, semi-fleshy husk.[4] In 2019, world production of walnuts in shells was 4.5 million tonnes, predominantly grown in China, with other notable producing countries being the United States and Iran.[5]

Food and health effects

Nuts contain the diverse nutrients that are needed for the growth of a new plant.[3] Composition varies, but they tend to have a low water and carbohydrate content, with high levels of fats, protein, dietary minerals, and vitamins.[3] The digestibility of the protein at about 90% is slightly lower than that of meat and fish, but can be improved by thorough chewing.[10] The fats are largely unsaturated and nuts are a source of essential omega-3 fatty acids.[3][11] As part of a healthy human diet, long-term consumption of diverse nutrients in nuts may contribute to a lower risk of cardiovascular diseases, reduced levels of blood cholesterol, and lower all-cause mortality.[3] For vegetarians and vegans, nuts provide many of the essential nutrients which may be in short supply in other plant foods.[10]

Nuts supply nutrients for humans and wildlife.[3] Because nuts generally have a high oil content, they are a significant energy source.[3] Many seeds are edible by humans and used in cooking, eaten raw, sprouted, or roasted as a snack food, ground to make nut butters, or pressed for oil that is used in cooking and cosmetics.[3] Moderate nut consumption about 5 ounces (140 g) per week may benefit weight control and contribute to lowering body weight in humans.[3]

Nuts used for food are a common source of food allergens.[3] Reactions can range from mild symptoms to severe ones, a condition known as anaphylaxis, which can be life-threatening. The reaction is due to the release of histamine by the body in response to an allergen in the nuts, causing skin and other possible reactions.[12] Many experts suggest that a person with an allergy to peanuts should avoid eating tree nuts, and vice versa.[3][13]

Raw mixed nuts, sold as a snack food.



Nuts are the source of energy and nutrients for the new plant. They contain a relatively large quantity of calories, essential unsaturated and monounsaturated fats including linoleic acid and linolenic acid, vitamins, and essential amino acids.[3] Many nuts are good sources of vitamin E, vitamin B2, folate, fiber, and essential minerals, such as magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper, and selenium.[3][14]

This table lists the percentage of various nutrients in four unroasted seeds.

Name Protein Total fat Saturated fat Polyunsaturated fat Monounsaturated fat Carbohydrate
Almonds 21.26 50.64 3.881 12.214 32.155 28.1
Walnuts 15.23 65.21 6.126 47.174 8.933 19.56
Peanuts 23.68 49.66 6.893 15.694 24.64 26.66
Pistachio 20.61 44.44 5.44 13.455 23.319 34.95


Nuts are under preliminary research to assess whether their consumption may lower risk for some diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases and cancer.[3][15] A 2014 review indicated that consuming one or more servings of nuts or peanut butter per day could lower the risk of ischemic heart disease, overall cardiovascular disease, stroke in women, and all-cause mortality.[16] A 2022 umbrella review confirmed these findings and found a 22% reduction in all-cause mortality.[17]

See also



    1. Alasalvar, Cesarettin; Shahidi, Fereidoon (17 December 2008). Tree Nuts: Composition, Phytochemicals, and Health Effects (Nutraceutical Science and Technology). CRC. p. 143. ISBN 978-0-8493-3735-2.
    2. Black, Michael H.; Halmer, Peter (2006). The encyclopedia of seeds: science, technology and uses. Wallingford, UK: CABI. p. 228. ISBN 978-0-85199-723-0.
    3. "Nuts". Micronutrient Information Center, Linus Pauling Institute, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR. 1 September 2018. Retrieved 28 March 2019.
    4. Armstrong, W.P. (15 March 2009). "Fruits Called Nuts". Palomar College. Retrieved 28 June 2021.
    5. "Production of nuts (use pick lists for Crops/Regions/World list/Production Quantity)". Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Corporate Statistical Database (FAOSTAT). 2019. Retrieved 27 June 2021.
    6. Wilkinson, Jennifer (2005). Nut Grower's Guide: The Complete Handbook for Producers and Hobbyists. Csiro Publishing. p. 14. ISBN 0-643-06963-1.
    7. Motaung, Ntswaki (30 May 2018). "More and more macadamia produced globally". Agriorbit. Archived from the original on 15 January 2019. Retrieved 5 July 2021.
    8. "Pecans". Agricultural Marketing Resource Center. August 2015. Retrieved 5 July 2021.
    9. Geisler, Malinda; Romero, Christina (October 2018). "Pine Nuts". Retrieved 6 July 2021.
    10. Jaffa, Myer Edward (1908). Nuts and Their Uses as Food. U.S. Government Printing Office. pp. 14–18.
    11. Whitney, Ellie; Rolfes, Sharon Rady (2018). Understanding Nutrition. Cengage Learning. pp. 755–. ISBN 978-1-337-67237-5.
    12. Harding, Mary. "Nut Allergy". Patient. Retrieved 10 July 2021.
    13. "Common Food Allergens". Food Allergy Research & Education. Archived from the original on 13 June 2007. Retrieved 24 June 2007.
    14. Kris-Etherton PM, Yu-Poth S, Sabaté J, Ratcliffe HE, Zhao G, Etherton TD (1999). "Nuts and their bioactive constituents: effects on serum lipids and other factors that affect disease risk". Am J Clin Nutr. 70 (3 Suppl): 504S–511S. doi:10.1093/ajcn/70.3.504s. PMID 10479223.
    15. Aune, D; Keum, N; Giovannucci, E; Fadnes, LT; Boffetta, P; Greenwood, DC; Tonstad, S; Vatten, LJ; Riboli, E; Norat, T (5 December 2016). "Nut consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease, total cancer, all-cause and cause-specific mortality: a systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies". BMC Medicine. 14 (1): 207. doi:10.1186/s12916-016-0730-3. PMC 5137221. PMID 27916000.
    16. Luo, C; Zhang, Y; Ding, Y; Shan, Z; Chen, S; Yu, M; Hu, FB; Liu, L (July 2014). "Nut consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and all-cause mortality: a systematic review and meta-analysis". American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 100 (1): 256–69. doi:10.3945/ajcn.113.076109. PMID 24847854.
    17. Rajiv Balakrishna, Tonje Bjørnerud, Mitra Bemanian, Dagfinn Aune, Lars T Fadnes (2022). "Consumption of Nuts and Seeds and Health Outcomes Including Cardiovascular, Diabetes and Metabolic Disease, Cancer, and Mortality: an Umbrella Review". Advances in Nutrition. 13 (6): 2136–2148. doi:10.1093/advances/nmac077. PMC 9776667. PMID 36041171.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)

    Further reading

    • Albala, Ken (2014) Nuts A Global History. The Edible Series. ISBN 978-1-78023-282-9
    This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.