Nuts belong to the protein food group. In general usage, the term "nut" is defined as a dry fruit with a hard shell and a seed that is usually edible. Botanical nuts on the other hand, refer only to the ones that do not open to release the seed.
The regular consumption of peanuts and certain tree nuts, such as pistachios, walnuts and almonds, may lessen the risk of cardiovascular diseases, as stated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The inclusion of nuts and seeds in the diet, however, should be adequate but within an individual's caloric requirements. Instead of eating nuts along with other protein food sources, it is better if the nuts serve as a replacement for certain types of meat or poultry.
Nuts provide a variety of nutrients, just like most other plant foods. They are a rich source of monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fats, as well as protein. Nuts are also a good source of dietary fiber and other essential nutrients, such as B vitamins, vitamin E, magnesium, calcium, potassium, zinc and iron. The antioxidant minerals in nuts are also beneficial and these include copper, manganese and selenium, as well as phytochemicals, such as flavonoids, resveratrol and plant sterols.
Among the most common varieties of nuts are almonds, Brazil nuts, chestnuts, walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, macadamias, cashews and pine nuts.