Nuts are all around us but how much do we really know about them? As more and more varieties of nuts enter our common culinary experience, it’s important to understand their uses and their nutritional benefits.
Why Choose Nuts? Most people have eaten at least one type of nut in their lifetime. And many more actively seek to add nuts to their daily diet. There are many edible nuts that can be eaten straight from the source while others need to be dry roasted or even boiled before they are edible.
Whether you’re looking for tree nuts or those found underground, there are many reasons to consume nuts. Their richness in vitamins and minerals can help prevent heart diseases, regulate weight gain, and replace unhealthy fats with healthier, monounsaturated fats.
The good news is you don’t have to eat pounds of nuts every day. A simple handful each day is all that is recommended in order for you to reap the benefits of this superfood.
Well-Known and Popular Nuts
You’ve probably eaten quite a few different nuts but how well do you really know what you’re eating? This list of well-known nuts will give you more information and describe the health benefits they offer.
Acorns (Oak nuts)
You might think acorns are strictly for squirrels, but they are actually a very edible nut. Grown in North America, Europe, Asia, and even North Africa, when prepared right, they make for a delicious snack.
If eaten raw, acorns taste incredibly acidic and can even be toxic to humans. They need to be dried, boiled, and even roasted to become edible. You will often see acorns used in porridges or cakes.
Acorns are rich in manganese, and magnesium, and potassium. They are also a good source of Vitamin B6 and folate.
While almonds are grown in parts of Spain and Italy, the vast majority of almond trees are grown in California. You can eat raw almonds right from the tree but many people prefer to roast them which gives them a better taste as well as eliminates the risk of mold.
Almonds are often described as a super food for a reason. They are rich in manganese, copper, magnesium, and potassium.
These nuts are also an excellent source of Vitamin E and riboflavin. They are full of good, saturated fatty acids, as well as protein.
As the name suggests, Brazil nuts come from this South American country. They grow in the rainforest on large trees.
The outer shells of Brazil nuts are quite hard and need to be cracked first before the nuts can be eaten.
Brazil nuts are an excellent source of selenium and magnesium. They are rich in Vitamin E and niacin and also hold a lot of protein.
Just make sure you don’t eat too many Brazil nuts, all the time. High amounts of selenium can lead to negative reactions in the body.
Cashews are actually a part of the cashew fruit and require a very special method to be processed. The outer part of the cashew has a caustic liquid in it that can actually burn exposed skin.
In order for cashews to be edible, they need to be either frozen or roasted so that the liquid can be removed safely.
Cashews are rich in antioxidants and magnesium, which helps with joint movement. They also contain high amounts of Vitamins K and B6 and are a good source of protein.
Chestnuts (Chinquapin, Chinkapin)
Chestnuts can be found around the world, including the United States, Korea, Italy, and Greece. To get the best nutritional benefit from them, chestnuts should be refrigerated so that the starches inside are converted to sugar.
It’s also important to note that common chestnuts, also known as horse chestnuts, are actually poisonous for human consumption.
Unlike other nuts, chestnuts are rich in carbohydrates instead of oils. They are also rich in Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, and potassium.
Like so many nuts, you wouldn’t think to classify coconut as one. This delicacy is found in tropical locations, such as Hawaii, Mexico, and the Caribbean.
The entire coconut has many uses, and the inside meat can be eaten raw or cooked, while the inside water is a tasty treat.
The fleshy, white meat part of the coconut has a lot of nutritional benefits. It is incredibly high in iron and calcium. Coconut is also an excellent source of protein and fibre.
Ginkgo nuts (Gingko, Bai Guo)
Exclusively found in Asia, ginkgo nuts have found their way into North American cuisine as well as beauty products. They are harvested from the ginkgo flower and need to be boiled first before consumed.
While ginkgo nuts are commonly used in Asian recipes such as congee, consuming too much of them can be toxic over a long period of time.
Ginkgo nuts are a good source of Vitamin C and riboflavin. They are also high in phosphorous and magnesium.
Hazelnuts (Cob Nuts, Filberts)
Hazelnuts are found in North America, Asia, and Europe. They grow on bushy trees and once picked, need to be left out to dry within 24 hours.
While hazelnuts should be consumed within a few weeks of being shelled, if their shells are left on, they can last for months and still be edible.
Hazelnuts are full of good, monosaturated oils. They are also a good source of Vitamin E, magnesium, and thiamin.
Hickory nuts (Mockernuts, Pignuts, Shagbark, Bitternuts)
There are many species of hickory trees and they are primarily found in China, India, and the United States. Hickory nuts are edible raw and many people enjoy foraging for them out in nature.
You can also use hickory nuts boiled and mashed into a porridge or even flour. Once you crack through their layers, the nuts give off a sweet, oily scent.
Hickory nuts are very dense in protein. They are rich in phosphorous, iron, and magnesium. Hickory nuts are also a great source of thiamin and Vitamin B6.
Kola nuts (Cola)
Found in rainforest climates, especially in Africa, the kola tree produces kola nuts. These nuts are often used to flavor beverages as the nuts contain caffeine.
Some West African people will also chew the nut in order to get the caffeine benefits. While coca-cola once used these nute in their recipe, they no longer do.
In addition to caffeine, kola nuts also contain theobromine which is also a stimulant. There are not a lot of specific vitamins and minerals in kola nuts.
Macadamia nuts (Queensland nuts, Queen of nuts, Bauple nuts, Bush nuts, Hawaii nuts, Maroochi nuts)
It takes a lot of patience to grow macadamia nuts as the plant won’t be able to produce them for up to five years. Once they are ready to be harvested, macadamia nuts need to be removed from their shells within 24 hours or mildew could set in.
Macadamia nuts are very high in protein and iron. They are also rich in Vitamin A and manganese.
Peanuts don’t grow above ground; instead, they grow in the roots of the peanut plant, underground. To harvest them, they are pulled up from the ground and then left in the sun to dry.
Peanuts are quite versatile and can be seasoned in many different ways, or even just left in their shells to be eaten plain. And of course, who didn’t grow up with peanut butter sandwiches?
Peanuts are incredibly rich in manganese, copper, and iron. They also contain a lot of niacin, folate, and Vitamin E, as well as protein.
After waiting for pecan trees to fully mature, which takes seven to nine years, they will produce an abundance of pecans, perfect for all your baking recipes.
Pecan trees grow in the southern United States and parts of Mexico. They are usually harvested by shaking the tree and collecting the fallen nuts from the ground.
Pecans are incredibly high in manganese. They also have high levels of copper, magnesium, and zinc.
They are also a good source of thiamin and protein.
Pine nuts come from multiple varieties of pine trees, and are grown in North America, Europe, and Korea. They can be eaten raw but are usually roasted. You will find pine nuts in many cooking recipes, as well as in trail mixes.
Pine nuts are an incredible source of manganese. They are also rich in Vitamin E, thiamin, and niacin.
Found in both North America as well as the Middle East, pistachios love dry, arid climates. They can be eaten raw but most people prefer when they have been roasted and salted.
Pistachios are commonly used in spimoni ice cream and desserts like baklava.
Pistachios are an excellent source of protein and fiber. They also are a good source of Vitamin A and Vitamin C.
At first glance, you might mistake walnuts for a fruit stone. But inside their shells you will find these popular nuts. They are grown around the world, including the United States, China, Turkey, and Mexico.
Walnuts are frequently consumed because they are rich in antioxidants and Omega-3s. They are also rich in manganese, magnesium, Vitamin B6, and thiamin.
In countries all over the world, there are numerous types of nuts. While they might not have entered your own local cuisine yet, after reading this list you might be tempted to find them.
In this list, we describe where you can find these lesser-known nuts and what their uses are.
Araucaria nuts (piñas, pinhas, piñones, pinhões)
Produced by the national tree of Chile, araucaria nuts are a type of pine nuts. While these nuts might look similar to pine nuts, they are quite a bit larger, and usually measure up to 5 cm in length.
Araucaria nuts are rich in protein and fiber. They are also high in magnesium, iron, and calcium.
Bunya bunya nuts
Native to Australia, the bunya pine produces unique bunya bunya nuts. These nuts come in the form of kernels which are housed inside protective shells. You can boil or roast the shells and inside you will find the nuts.
The shells of bunya bunya nuts can be as large as a soccer ball, so if you happen to be walking under these tall trees, you might want to be careful.
Bunya bunya nuts are made up mostly of water, but they do have some good nutritional qualities. They are rich in protein and complex carbohydrates.
Some people will ground these nuts into flour as they make a good gluten-free flour alternative.
Candlenuts (Kukui nuts, Buah Keras, Candleberry, Indian walnut, Kemiri)
Grown on the Aleurites moluccanus trees, candlenuts are found in Southeast Asia. This is a versatile nut as the many layers have different purposes.
Inside the round nut is an oily kernel that can be used to make oil. The entire nut can be eaten, and because it is slightly toxic raw, most people prefer to roast the nuts first, before consumption.
Candlenuts are rich in protein and fiber. The are a good source of iron and potassium.
Karuka nuts (Pandanus nuts)
Karuka nuts, which are also known as pandanus nuts, are found exclusively in New Guinea. They are a staple of the local population and are more nutritious than coconuts.
You can eat karuka nuts raw, although they can have a bitter taste, so most people prefer them cooked. The nuts are found on a large, oval part of the tree and there will be dozens of kernels that can be picked from it.
Karuka nuts are incredibly high in fiber and protein. They are also a great source of calcium.
Mongongo nuts (Mongongo nuts, Manketti tree)
Found mainly in southern Africa, mongongo nuts come from the mongongo tree, although it is also referred to as the manketti tree.
The nuts need to be removed from their skins, which is done by steaming them open. They can be stored easily and are a staple in many communities because they last so long.
Mongongo nuts are full of good fats and protein. They are also rich in calcium, magnesium, and Vitamin E.
Paradise nuts (Cream nuts, Monkey pot, Sapucaia, Castanha-de-Sapucaia)
Found in Central and South America, paradise nuts come from the Lecythis zabucajo tree. It is a close relative of the Brazil nut and is commonly used in local cuisine.
The outside shell of paradise nuts is quite dense but inside you will find both a meaty texture as well as multiple nuts.
It’s not just humans who like paradise nuts; bats love this food and because they consume so many, the seeds have been spread throughout the region.
Paradise nuts are rich in protein. They are a good source of magnesium and niacin. Just don’t consume too many paradise nuts as they are high in selenium which can be harmful to your health.
Red Bopple nuts (Beef nuts, Ivory silky oak, Monkey nuts, Red nuts, Rose nuts)
Found in the subtropical rainforests in Australia, you will find a small tree called Hicksbeachia pinnatifolia. This tree produces small red fruit commonly known as red bopple nuts.
If you think you’ve seen them before but aren’t sure, they actually have many names including beef nuts, ivory silky oak, monkey nuts, red nuts, and rose nuts.
While perfectly edible, there isn’t much nutritional information with regards to red bopple nuts.
We’ve included seeds on our list because they are so similar to nuts. While nuts are often larger and need to have their shells removed, seeds are also a byproduct of trees and flowers. These are some common seeds and their properties.
Chia seeds are among the tiniest on our list but don’t let their size distract you from their health benefits. They can be used, and even hidden, in baked goods and salad dressings.
What’s more, is that just a few ounces of chia seeds can give you many amazing benefits.
Chia seeds are incredibly dense in protein and fiber. They are incredibly rich in calcium, phosphorous, and manganese.
Furthermore, chia seeds are rich in antioxidants and Omega-3s. The result is that when consumed regularly, they can protect against strokes and heart attacks.
These tiny seeds come from the flax plant, which can grow to be over two feet tall. They are best digested once they have been dried and can be used in cooking, baking, and even made into oil.
Flax seeds are often included in baking because of their limitless health benefits. They are rich in magnesium, manganese, and phosphorous.
Flax seeds are also a good source of thiamin, folate, niacin, and Vitamin B6.
Yes, nutmeg is technically a spice, but its origins are in fact a seed. Nutmeg is derived from nutmeg seeds, which grow in tropical locations. Ground nutmeg is used in many baking recipes throughout the world.
You will have to consume a lot of nutmeg to really take advantage of its health benefits. However, inside these seeds, there is a lot going on.
Nutmeg is rich in magnesium, iron, and calcium. It also includes a large amount of antioxidants. So, next time you’re baking, add a bit extra nutmeg.
Poppy seeds have been consumed by humans for thousands of years. They are harvested from the poppy flower pod and these tiny seeds are excellent in many culinary dishes.
You can use poppy seeds whole, ground them up for baking, or even create poppy seed oil.
Poppy seeds are high in phosphorous, manganese, and magnesium. They are an excellent source of thiamine and a good source of folate and Vitamin B6.
Pumpkin seeds (Pepita)
The next time you’re carving your jack-o-lantern, don’t just throw out the seeds with the guts. Instead, wash those pumpkin seeds, stick them in the oven, and chow down on a delicious snack.
You can use pumpkin seeds in salads, baked goods, and even as a stand-alone snack.
Pumpkin seeds are a great source of healthy oils. They are also rich in manganese, phosphorous, and magnesium. Furthermore, they provide a good portion of niacin, folate, and riboflavin.
These tiny seeds are rich in oil, which is why you often see sesame seed oil on your grocery shelf. They have some good benefits to them; unfortunately, to get the most benefits from them, you will need to eat a large quantity of them.
Inside these tiny sesame seeds, there is plenty of fiber and protein. They are a good source of calcium, manganese, and magnesium.
Commonly found in most gardens in North America, sunflowers are not only beautiful but leave delicious seeds behind at the end of their life. These seeds can be roasted and flavored in a variety of seasonings.
It can take a bit of effort to remove their shells, but once you do, sunflower seeds make for a very tasty snack.
Sunflower seeds are amazing. They are extremely rich in thiamin, niacin, and Vitamin E. They are also full of iron and manganese. Furthermore, they are an excellent source of protein.
Nuts provide a variety of health benefits and should be a part of your daily diet. Whether you use them in a fancy dinner, a tasty treat, or on their own as a snack, nuts provide tasty goodness as well as important vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats.