Nuts And Seeds

I J Gray, Guildford, UK © 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

In botanical terms, the word 'nut' is used to describe a wide range of seeds, mostly from trees, with a tough, often lignified, seed coat or shell. True nuts include the chestnut, brazil nut, and hazelnut. In practice, these are usually classified together with certain other so-called nuts, for example the almond, cashew, and peanut, and other seeds which are all used in similar ways in the diet. Nuts and seeds come from a diverse range of different plants, so their nutritional composition is quite varied, but like most plant seeds they contain a food reserve designed to meet the needs of the developing plant embryo. In many nuts and seeds this is fat, but in others it is starch or other polysaccharides.

Therefore, these foods are concentrated sources of dietary energy, as well as sources of protein, unsa-turated fatty acids, various micronutrients, and fiber (nonstarch polysaccharides, NSP).

Nuts and seeds have a wide range of uses. In the typical Western omniverous diet they tend to be used either as snack items or added as minor ingredient to savory and sweet dishes, but they have wider applications in vegetarian diets as important sources of protein and other nutrients. Certain nuts and seeds are also made into spreads, for example peanut butter and tahini (sesame seed spread).

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