Botanically speaking, a nut is defined as both the seed and the fruit. Following this definition, most nuts that we know and eat will not be classified as true nuts as they are actually the fruit of the trees they come from. However, the culinary definition of nuts is less strict as its botanical definition. The culinary definition of a nut is anything that is a large and oily kernel found inside a shell and is used in food.

The Different Types of Nuts

There are several types of nuts (in the culinary sense). These nuts are walnuts, almonds, pistachios, pecans, macadamias and cashew nuts. Pistachio nuts have a tan-colored shell and are commonly eaten straight out of the shell. It is one of the most popular flavors in ice cream. Macadamia nuts have very hard shells and so the shells are removed prior to them being sold in stores. As a snack food, macadamia nuts are commonly enrobed in chocolate, even though its meat is already naturally sweet. Almonds are considered versatile and delicately flavored as these nuts can be used in both savory or sweet dishes. Cashew nuts also have a hard shell and is yellowish to reddish in color. Cashew nuts are commonly eaten raw and are also used as an ingredient in salads, vegetable dishes, desserts and meat dishes.

Benefits of Nuts to the Body

When eaten in moderation, nuts bring a lot of health benefits to the body. Results of research that involve this type of food suggest that it lowers the risk of heart diseases. In a 1996 study, it was found that women who ate nuts more than 4 times every week had 40% less risk of developing heart disease. In 2002, another study involving nuts found that those men who ate nuts more that twice every week had a reduced risk of cardiac arrest.

Nuts are a very good source of nutrients and micronutrients. This type of food is rich in protein, fiber, vitamin E, selenium and phytonutrients. Nuts are high in unsaturated fats (omega 3 fatty acids, specifically). It has long been proven that unsaturated fats lower bad cholesterol (LDL cholesterol).

Nuts also contain arginine, an amino acid that helps overcome or prevent erectile dysfunction. This amino acid also boosts the body’s immunity and helps lower blood pressure.

Health Risks That May Result From Eating Nuts

Although nuts are good for the body, too much can be potentially harmful to health, as well. It is recommended to eat only an ounce or two of any nut variety everyday as nuts do contain a high amount of fat, as well as calories.

It is common knowledge that nuts are a common food allergen. Allergic reactions to nuts most commonly occur in children. In some instances, an allergy attack caused by nuts can lead to death. Some of the common allergic reactions caused by nuts include tingling of the mouth and lips, urticaria (hives or nettlerash), angioedema (swelling), throat swelling (which leads to a difficulty in breathing), asthma, vomiting, stomach cramps, faintness and diarrhea. Allergy attacks that have lead to death is primarily due to anaphylactic shock or an obstruction in breathing.