Common nut varieties include cashews, pistachios, pecans, walnuts and almonds. The coconut is also a nut. Other common nuts are hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, and pine nuts or pignoli.
Peanuts are technically legumes rather than nuts, but people use them as nuts, and their protein and fat composition are similar to that of nuts.
Although nuts are high in calories because of their fat content, varieties such as almonds and walnuts have been touted in recent years as sources of heart-healthy, unsaturated omega-3 fats. They are low in carbohydrates, so they fit into diabetic diets. Various nuts contain minerals such as iron, zinc, magnesium and selenium.
Although nuts are commonly eaten raw or roasted as snacks, people have used them in cooking for centuries. Native Americans made bread and porridge from acorns, Egyptians use pistachios in spice blends, pine nuts feature in Italian dishes such as pesto sauce, the Chinese include water chestnuts in stir-fried dishes, and Thai cuisine makes use of cashews and coconuts. Peanut butter is an American staple, though cashew and almond butters exist, too. Chocolate chip cookies, brownies and banana breads often contain walnuts or pecans. Vegans use cashews to give dips and sauces a creamy texture.