Glossary of Nut Terms & Facts

Dietary Fiber (also called "fiber"): The edible parts of plant foods or synthetic carbohydrate polymers that do not break down during digestion. Classified as complex carbohydrates, there are two types of dietary fiber: insoluble and soluble. Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water and is part of the structure of plants. Food sources include wheat bran, whole-grain cereals, breads and crackers, fruits and vegetables with their skins, nuts and seeds. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and forms a gel. Food sources include oats, barley, psyllium (a cereal grain), legumes (dried beans, peas and lentils) and some fruits and vegetables.

Dietary Fat: A class of naturally occurring nutrients found in animal- and plant-based foods that includes lipid compounds: triglycerides (fats and oils), phospholipids and sterols. An important source of energy for the body, dietary fat that is not needed for immediate energy requirements is stored in the body as fat. Fat is a combination of fatty acids + glycerol.

Fatty Acid: A basic component or "building block" of a fat. There are three classes of fatty acids: saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. It is the combination of fatty acids that gives each fat its specific characteristics and function within the body.

Saturated Fat: A fatty acid that has no double bonds. Saturated fats are usually solid at room temperature and are found in animal foods and hydrogenated oils. Sources include meat, dairy foods and some solid vegetable fats. Current dietary guidelines recommend limiting intake of saturated fat to less than 10% of daily calories. Eating too much saturated fat can raise blood cholesterol levels.

Monounsaturated Fat: A type of unsaturated fat that has one ("mono"-) double bond. Monounsaturated fats are found mostly in plant foods. Sources include olive, canola and peanut oils, nuts and avocados. When eaten in place of saturated fats as part of a healthful diet, unsaturated fats help lower blood cholesterol levels.

Polyunsaturated Fat: An unsaturated fatty acid that has more than one ("poly") double bond. Polyunsaturated fats are found mostly in plant foods and some fish. Sources include non-hydrogenated vegetable oils, fatty fish and walnuts. When eaten in place of saturated fats as part of a healthful diet, unsaturated fats help lower blood cholesterol levels.

Trans Fat: Trans fat (also known as trans fatty acids) is formed when hydrogen is added to liquid oils (in a process called partial hydrogenation) to make shortenings and oils for use in baking, frying or cooking. A small amount of trans fat also occurs naturally in foods such as beef, veal, lamb and foods containing milk fat, such as butter, whole milk, cream, cheese and ice cream. In their natural state, peanuts and tree nuts contain no trans fat.

Flavonoid: Any of a large group of substances in plants that are believed to promote health. Examples are anthocyanidins (in berries, cherries and red grapes), resveratrol (in grapes and the skin of nuts) and flavonols (in onions, apples, tea and broccoli).

Kernel: The "meaty," edible part of a seed found within the shell of a nut (e.g., pine nuts, aka pine kernels); also refers to a whole grain (e.g., kernel of wheat or corn).

Legume: A plant pod that opens into two parts, with the seed/seeds attached to one part. Food examples are peas, beans, lentils and peanuts (also called "ground" nuts). Although popularly used as a "nut," peanuts are technically classified as legumes.

Lightly Salted: 50% less sodium per serving of a food than per serving of a comparison food.

Omega-3 Fatty Acid: A specific type of polyunsaturated fatty acid. One example of an omega-3 fatty acid is alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is found in walnuts and certain vegetable oils, including flaxseed and canola oils. ALA can also be converted in the body into two other important omega-3 fatty acids: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which are found in fatty fish and fish oils. The role of omega-3 fatty acids in health is an emerging area of research.

Nut or Tree Nut: An edible kernel or seed of a fruit enclosed in a woody or hard shell, i.e., almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts. Most nuts are available in the shell or unshelled. Shelled nuts are sold in many forms, including blanched, smoked, dry-roasted, oil-roasted, candied, salted or flavored.

Peanut: A nutritious seed from the pea family that grows underground and is sometimes referred to as a "groundnut." It has a thin brown skin covered with a thin tan pod and is classified as a legume.

Qualified Heart Health Claim for Nuts: Based on available epidemiologic and clinical evidence, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration allows certain nuts to carry the following "qualified" health claim on appropriate product labels. "Scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, such as almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, pistachios and walnuts, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol and not resulting in increased caloric intake may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease." The statement: "See Nutrition Information for Fat Content" must be included near the claim.

Qualified Heart Health Claim for Walnuts: Based on available epidemiologic and clinical evidence, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration allows walnuts to carry the following "qualified" health claim on appropriate product labels. "Supportive but not conclusive research shows that eating 1.5 ounces per day of walnuts as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol and not resulting in increased calorie intake may reduce the risk of heart disease. See Nutrition Information for fat [and calorie] content."

Resveratrol: A flavonoid found in the skin of peanuts, as well as other foods such as red grapes, blueberries and pomegranates. This flavonoid may work in the body as an antioxidant to help promote healthy cells.

Seeds: The edible ripened ovule of a vegetable or flowering plant. Examples are pumpkin and sunflower seeds.