Nut is a general term for the large, dry, oily seeds or fruit of some plants. While a wide variety of dried seeds and fruits are called nuts, only a certain number of them are considered by biologists to be true nuts. Nuts are an important source of nutrients for both humans and wildlife.
All nuts are seeds, but not all seeds are nuts. Nuts are both the seed and the fruit, and cannot be separated. Seeds come from fruit, and can be removed from the fruit, like almonds, cashews and pistachios, which were once inside fruit.
A nut in cuisine is a much less restrictive category than a nut in botany, as the term is applied to many seeds that are not botanically true nuts. Any large, oily kernel found within a shell and used in food may be regarded as a nut. Because nuts generally have a high oil content, they are a highly prized food and energy source. A large number of seeds are edible by humans and used in cooking, eaten raw, sprouted, or roasted as a snack food, or pressed for oil that is used in cookery and cosmetics. Nuts (or seeds generally) are also a significant source of nutrition for wildlife. This is particularly true in temperate climates where animals such as jays and squirrels store acorns and other nuts during the autumn to keep them from starving during the late autumn, all of winter, and early spring.
Some fruits and seeds that are nuts in the culinary sense but not in the botanical sense:
See also: List of edible seeds
Several epidemiological studies have revealed that people who consume nuts regularly are less likely to suffer from coronary heart disease. Recent clinical trials have found that consumption of various nuts such as almonds and walnuts can lower serum LDL cholesterol concentrations. Although nuts contain various substances thought to possess cardioprotective effects, scientists believe that their fatty acid profile is at least in part responsible for the hypolipidemic response observed in clinical trials.
In addition to possessing cardioprotective effects, nuts generally have a very low glycemic index (GI). Consequently, dietitians frequently recommend nuts be included in diets prescribed for patients with insulin resistance problems such as diabetes mellitus type 2.
One study found that people who eat nuts live two to three years longer than those who do not. However, this may be because people who eat nuts tend to eat less junk food.