Nuts are an incredibly versatile ingredient, as well as a tasty and nutritious snack. With so many different types of nuts though, it can be tough to keep track of each variety’s qualities. We’ve got your guide to some of the most popular types.
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As a group, nuts are a deceptive bunch. Technically speaking, several of the foods that we call nuts aren’t actually nuts at all. For instance, because peanuts grow underground in a pod, rather than in trees, they are actually legumes, not tree nuts.
There are cashews, which do grow on trees, but not the way that proper nuts do. Cashews come from cashew apples, small fruits that are prized for their pits rather than their flesh. Peaches and plums grow and produce pits in the same way, but we don’t eat those.
Beyond their origins, the way that we use and enjoy nuts can vary quite a bit as well. You can enjoy most nuts raw or roasted, and they will have similar nutritional content either way. Many assume that nuts roasted in oil are less healthy than oven-roasted or raw nuts, but research shows that the difference is actually minimal. Nuts actually have numerous health benefits, so they’re a great addition to your daily diet.
Here’s what you need to know about nut types:
Known as the healthiest nut, almonds are seeds that grow from the pollinated flowers of the almond tree. They are prized for their sweetness and are used to make almond milk and almond oil. They can even be ground into almond flour that can be used for baking. Sliced almonds add a nice crunch to salads and cooked vegetable dishes. They can also be candied or coated in chocolate for a sweet treat or made into almond butter. As an added bonus, almonds are a good source of vitamin e.
Nutritional profile: Per cup (143.0 g): 30.0g protein, 71.0g fat, 30.0g carbohydrates, 17.0g fiber, 6.0g sugar, 1048.0mg potassium, and 1.0mg sodium.
2. Marcona Almonds
Marcona almonds are native to Spain and have gained a great deal of popularity in the U.S. in recent years. Similar in appearance to macadamia nuts, Marcona almonds are often served on charcuterie boards, but they can also be used in baking. They are sweeter, softer, and have a creamier texture and flavor than almonds.
Nutritional profile: Per cup (144.0g): 24.0g protein, 88.0g fat, 24.0g carbohydrates, 16.0g fiber, 12.0g sugar, 560.0mg sodium.
3. Brazil Nut
Brazil nuts grow on trees in South America. They are high in antioxidants and have a rich buttery flavor because they are also high in fat. Don’t worry though, it’s the good kind. Brazil nuts can be eaten raw, and they are often blanched for snacking. They are high in antioxidants and support brain function, so they make a great study buddy.
Nutritional profile: Per cup (120.0g): 16.0g protein, 80.0g fat, 16.0g carbohydrates, 8.0g fiber, 4.0g sugar, and 0mg sodium.
4. Cashew Nut
Cashew nuts have a salty, creamy flavor that’s hard to resist. Cashew milk and cashew butter are popular cashew products. Cashews are terrific in granola bars, and make a nice crunchy addition to stir-fry dishes. They are a good source of copper, magnesium, and iron.
Nutritional profile: Per cup (112.0g): 20.0g protein, 52.0g fat, 32.0g carbohydrates, 4.0g fiber, 4.0g sugar, 344.0mg sodium.
Thanks to Nat King Cole’s “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire”, most people know that chestnuts are frequently roasted, but they are just as often boiled. Once cooked, their spongy, soft insides are sweet, grainy and aromatic. For many, chestnuts are the signature scent of the holidays.
Nutritional profile: Per cup (150.0g): 2.44g protein, 1.89g fat, 66.0g carbohydrates, 3.0mg sodium, 727.0mg potassium, 45.0mg magnesium, 60.0mg vitamin C.
You might think of umbrella drinks and suntan oil when you hear the word “coconut,” but there’s so much more to this versatile nut. In grocery stores, you can find coconut flaked, shredded, and desiccated, which means all the moisture has been removed. You can also buy it sweetened or unsweetened. Coconut is wonderful on baked goods, in granola, in salads, and on yogurt. Eating coconut is a great way to get more fiber in your diet.
Nutritional profile: Per cup (93g, dried and shredded): 2.69g protein, 33.0g fat, 44.0g carbohydrates, 4.0g fiber, 40.0g sugar, 244.0mg sodium, 313.0mg potassium.
Hazelnuts are small, round, and sweet. They have a thin skin that will flake off as it is cooked. They’re probably most well-known as the key ingredient in Nutella, but they can also be ground to make flavorful pie crusts. Hazelnuts aren’t just for dessert though. Coursely chopped, they make a delicious crusty breading for baked fish.
Nutritional profile: Per cup (135mg): 20.0g protein, 82.0g fat, 22.0g carbohydrates, 13.0g fiber, 6.0g sugar, 0g sodium, 918.0g potassium.
8. Macadamia Nut
Macadamia nuts are most well known for their appearances in delicious desserts such as cookies, pies, and brownies. However, macadamia nuts are also high in healthy fat. They make a great addition to salads and can be pureed into a rich and satisfying soup. Macadamia nut butter is also a great substitute for traditional butter.
Nutritional profile: Per cup (134g): 10.0g protein, 101.0g fat, 18.0g carbohydrates, 11.0g fiber, 6.0g sugar, 7.0mg sodium, 492.0mg potassium.
9. Pili Nut
Pili nuts are not as well known as other kinds of nuts, but they definitely merit a place at your table. As one of the lesser-known types of nuts, you might not recognize them right away. They look a bit like small almonds, but they taste more like a sunflower seed or pine nut. They work beautifully in salads and as a garnish, and they make a delicious snack when slightly toasted.
Nutritional profile: Per cup (120.0g): 12.0g protein, 95.0g fat, 4.79g carbohydrates, 4.0mg sodium, 608.0mg potassium, 690.0mg phosphorus.
Though they are actually a legume, rather than a tree nut, peanuts have long been honorary members of the nut family. They are a regular part of nut mixes, and, of course, peanut butter is a staple. Peanuts appear frequently in Asian cuisine, as they add texture and flavor to stir fries and sauces. Their sweet, salty taste makes them excellent for baking and candies as well.
Nutritional profile: Per cup (146.0g): 37.0g protein, 71.0g fat, 6.88g sugar, 26.0mg sodium, 1029.0mg potassium, 245.0mg magnesium.
The buttery, slightly sweet flavor of pecans makes them ideal for baking. This nut is a native of the southern United States, and has become a key ingredient in American cuisine. Pecans are used in pie and cookies, of course, but they also give a sweet crunch to baked chicken or fish cutlets and salads. Their flat, oval shape makes them great for savory and sweet snacking as well, either raw or roasted.
Nutritional profile: Per cup (99.0g, halves): 9.0g protein, 71.0g fat, 13.0g carbohydrates, 9.0g fiber, 4.0g sugar, 0g sodium, 406.0mg potassium.
12. Pine Nuts
These tiny nuts are just right for toasting and adding to salads. They have a light, sweet flavor that is enhanced by roasting. Pine nuts are a light, creamy color, and have a slightly sweet taste. They are probably most highly regarded for their key role in making pesto.
Nutritional profile: Per cup (135g): 18.0g protein, 92.0g fat, 17.0g carbohydrates, 5.0g fiber, 4.84g sugar, 339.0mh potassium, 805.0mg potassium, 3.0mg sodium, 339.0mg magnesium.
13. Pistachio Nut
Pistachio nuts have a distinctive green color and a rich, creamy taste. They are often used in breading for seafood or chicken, and also make a frequent appearance in desserts, most notably ice cream. Pistachios make a fantastic base for sauces, and give a sweet crunch to homemade bread as well.
Nutritional profile: Per cup (123.0g): 24.81g protein, 55.0g fat, 33.0g carbohydrates, 13.0g fiber, 9.0g sugar, 603.0mg phosphorus, 1.0mg sodium, 1261.0mg potassium.
14. Tiger Nut
Wrinkly Tiger nuts are not as readily recognizable as many of the nuts on this list. They look a bit like a shriveled chickpea, but their earthy flavor and chewy texture are divine. Eat them just as they are, or add them to your morning oatmeal or dinner salad.
Nutritional profile: Per cup (159.0g): 10.62g protein, 37.0g fat, 100.0g carbohydrates, 52.0g fiber, 47.0g sugar, 0mg sodium, 1140.0g potassium, 159.0mg calcium.
Perhaps the most interestingly shaped nut in the lineup, walnuts look a little like some strange creature that dwells in the depths of the ocean. They have a soft texture and mild flavor that lends itself well to baking, snacking, and as a topping for sweet and savory dishes. Walnuts can also replace pine nuts in pesto recipes. Walnuts also have a high concentration of beneficial omega 3 fatty acid.
Nutritional profile: Per cup (120.0g): 20.0g protein, 80.0g fat, 16.0g carbohydrates, 12.0g fiber, 0g sodium, and 80.0mg calcium.
Nuts should always be stored in air-tight containers. Removing them from their shells will also drastically increase their shelf life. Shelled nuts will last in the refrigerator for up to six months, and in the freezer for up to a year. At room temperature, however, even shelled nuts will only last about a month. To maximize their time in the pantry, keep them away from light, heat, and moisture. As for individual nuts, bear in mind that the oiler a nut is, the quicker it will go bad at room temperature.
Nut flours and nut butters will also last longer in the fridge. Once opened, a commercial nut butter will be good for about 3 months in the pantry, but it will last for twice as long in the refrigerator.
How to Cook With Nuts
Roasting nuts before using them in recipes will heighten their natural flavor, and it is a quick and easy process. Spread them in a single layer on a baking pan and put them in a 350-degree oven. Soft oily nuts will roast in 5-8 minutes, while harder nuts can take 8-10 minutes to fully roast.
You can use a food processor to grind hard nuts for culinary use as well. Grinding them to a fine powder will produce a flour-like substance that you can use for breaking and baking, while a chunkier grind is great for adding texture to pie crust and crumble toppings.
Soft oily nuts puree well and give an earthy, rich flavor to sauces, soups, and salad dressings.
Health Benefits of Nuts
Nuts are relatively high in calories, but they also have loads of health benefits, provided that you do not have a tree nut allergy. As a group, they are generally high in fiber, vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, protein, and unsaturated fat. Many of us don’t get enough fiber in our diets, and often our snack choices contain more sugar and saturated fat than protein. Eating healthy nuts in moderation is a great way to solve those issues.
Nut consumption also helps improve heart health because they lower bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol. So, whether you use them for breading fish, add them to salads or oatmeal, snack on mixed nuts, or toss a few into your muffin mix, nuts will do your body good and help prevent heart disease.
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