what is a nut, anyway?
Actually, the word “nut” is pretty ambiguous, when we’re talking about edible nuts. Usually, a nut is a fruit with a hard shell. Sometimes, a nut is a seed with a hard shell. Other times, a nut is actually a legume. Even though “nut” can refer to so many things, all nuts have this much in common: They’re tasty and healthy!
What’s distinctive about each nut type?Peanuts Cashews Almonds Pistachios Walnuts Pecans
Peanuts are legumes, like beans and peas. That means peanuts grow 6-8 inches underground, while most other nuts grow on trees. Peanuts are grown in the United States, especially in the Southern states like Georgia, Alabama and Texas. China and India area actually the top producers of peanuts. Around 60% of the peanuts consumed in the U.S. are consumed as peanut butter. Aside from peanut butter, most Americans eat peanuts that have been roasted. Peanuts can be roasted shelled or unshelled and are salted or sweetened after roasting.
Cashews may seem similar to peanuts, but cashews actually grow on trees. They’re seeds that grow on the bottom of fruit (the fruit is called a “cashew apple”. Cashew trees grow best on tropical plantations in Brazil, Africa, India, and Vietnam. After being harvested from the tree, the cashew’s shell is removed by hand. This is why the cost can be higher than other nuts. Cashews are considered good for overall health, though containing lots of fat, because they are packed with protein, dietary fiber, vitamins and healthy minerals. Cashews are considered healthy because of their high monounsaturated fatty acid content, which experts say is good for preventing heart disease. Delicious health food? Yes, please!
Almonds are a stone fruit grown on trees, like plums and cherries. We eat the seed of the fruit, which is inside a shell, which is inside the fruit itself. 80% of the world’s almonds are grown in California. Almonds can be eaten raw, though most are roasted and salted. Almonds are also linked with all kinds of health benefits. Some studies show that almonds lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, help control type 2 diabetes, provide antioxidants, and provide healthy vitamins.
The pistachio is a fruit related to the cashew. That split in the shell? That actually occurs naturally. . We eat the seed of the fruit, which is inside that distinctive shell. California is the top pistachio producer, followed by Iran. Almonds can be eaten raw, though most are roasted and salted. Pistachios, like other nuts, contain lots of fat. However, pistachios eaten in normal quantities has not been linked to weight gain. Plus, the United States Food and Drug Administration published a statement regarding studies showing that eating nuts regularly, such as pistachios, may reduce the risk of heart disease.
The walnut is a tree nut. In fact, the walnut may be one of the oldest edible tree nuts known to man. Approximately 38% of the world’s walnuts are grown in the U.S.A., with 90% of those grown in California. The part we eat is referred to as the “nut meat”. The nut meat is inside a shell, and the shell is inside a hull. After harvest, walnuts are often eaten raw. However, the walnuts can be toasted. Walnuts are loaded with nutrients. Not only do they contain valuable Omega-3 fatty acids and minerals, they also contain phytonutrients not contained in other nuts. This means that walnuts are probably good for your heart and for your brain.
Pecans and walnuts are often confused. Pecans are slightly more sweet and walnuts are slightly more bitter. The pecan comes from a tree fruit, in the same tree family as peaches. An estimated 75% of the world’s pecans come from the U.S.A., with most of those coming from southern states such as Georgia, New Mexico, and Texas. In fact, the pecan tree is the official state tree of Texas. The part we eat is the seed of the fruit. The outer part we don’t eat separates from the seed naturally. After the seed is separated from the outer hull, it is dried. Then, that inner “nut” is separated from its shell. Pecans can be eaten raw and are often roasted. Like other nuts, pecans come naturally loaded with “good” fats. Pecans also contain more than 19 vitamins and minerals, a good source of protein, and a good source of fiber.