What Is The Difference Between A Nut And A Seed

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Last Updated on December 30, 2022 by Griselda M.

Have you ever been confused when it comes to telling what is the difference between a nut and a seed? Mixing up the difference between a seed and a nut is quite common. This is why this guide will give a clear explanation between seeds and nuts with some good examples. 

Let us begin by defining a seed and a nut.

Definition of a Seed

According to botany, a seed is a product of a fertilized ovule from gymnosperm and angiosperm plants. It consists of three parts:

  • An embryo
  • An endosperm – food storage for the embryo
  • Seed coat – a covering shield 

Examples of seeds are rice, beans, wheat, peanuts, barley, etc. 

Definition of a Nut

Botany defines a nut as a type of hard seed that is indehiscent (does not split open when matured). They consist of seeds and fruit (i.e. nuts are a type of fruit). In other words, the hard shell of the hazelnut is actually the fruit. Examples of true nuts are hazelnut, chestnut, acorn, etc. 

What Is The Difference Between a Nut and a Seed

 Below are some of the differences between a seed and a nut: 

  • The puzzling and interesting thing is that a nut is a seed, but a seed can’t be a nut.
  • The dry hard shell fruit of nuts does not split open when mature. But a seed typically opens and breaks out from its shell when matured. 
  • Nuts are not attached to the ovary, but seeds attach themselves to the ovary walls. This is why you can shake a nut and hear the seed rattle inside, but you cannot hear anything when you shake a bean.
  • You can remove plant seeds from its fruits, for instance removing the seeds inside a papaya fruit. As for nuts, the part inside the outer shell is composed of both the seeds and fruits, and cannot be removed.

Misconceptions about Nuts and Seeds

  • Most foods that we call nuts, in reality, are not. Surprising right? Examples of such are cashew nut (it has a fruity edible layer when mature), almonds (has a dry peach-like fruit), coconut (from a palm, and a source of great confusion but generally considered a drupe). Brazil nuts and pine nuts are also not nuts but seeds.
  • Another misconception is that peanuts and groundnuts are nuts, but they are actually classified as legumes. 

Take a look at this short video about nuts and seeds.

Misconceptions about Nuts and Seeds

Is an Acorn a Nut or Seed?

An acorn is a true nut. These have a tough outer shell that protects the hard inner seed. Many people view an acorn as a pretty useless thing, but it is an excellent food! I feed it to my ducks in the fall and it gives them a great boost in energy.

You can shell the acorns, and then lightly crush the acorn nuts, soak these in running water for a week (I used a bag similar to this), and then air dried the crushed acorns. The water soak removes bitter tannins. I then ground the nuts into flour and added it to soups. Tasted ok. I won’t do it again as it was a big job, but it is good to know that in an emergency you can eat acorn nuts!

Is Castor Seed a Tree Nut?

The castor oil plant, Ricinus communis, is a toxic plant that is an invasive weed in much of the world. It produces seed pods that look a bit like a coronavirus. Inside these pods, there are a lot of little beans – so it is not a nut.

There are anecdotal tips on the internet suggesting that eating these seeds can have health benefits – do not fall for this stupidity – castor oil beans contain Ricin, which is actually classified as a weapon of mass destruction, as it is so toxic that if weaponized it can be used to kill entire cities. This is a truly evil toxin and has no conceivable benefit to human health at all.

Is Hazelnut a Nut or Seed?

The hazelnut is a true nut. It has a hard “fruit” shell and a seed inside.

Are Seeds and Nuts in The Same Family?

They are plants. Seeds and nuts are derived from many different families of plants. So the answer is that they are plants, and there are many seeds (eg. wheat, barley, and rye) that are related, and there are many nuts that are related (eg. the nuts of various acorn trees). However, acorns and hazelnuts are not in the same family. Much the same, beans, maize and peanuts are all seeds – but they are not in the same family.

How Do You Activate Nuts and Seeds Without a Dehydrator?

Seed activation refers to the process of soaking a seed so that it begins to germinate, releasing enzymes and allowing some potentially toxic compounds to leach out. This paper suggests that there is a nominal benefit to soaking nuts if not possibly damage – it reduces magnesium and other minerals.

I personally would suggest rather using a sprouter such as this to partially germinate your seeds increasing their nutritional value significantly. My sprouter is made of plastic and I find it can develop odor residues with time – the stainless steel one looks like a better option.

If you wanted to then dry the sprouts, you could do that in a tray in your oven at a low temperature of around 140-145°F. I normally wedge the oven door open with a cloth and use the fan setting. You can then mill these dried sprouts into nutritious flour.

Which Seeds and Nuts Have Magnesium?

All seeds and nuts have Magnesium as it is an essential nutrient for germinating seeds. Some of these however have higher concentrations of Magnesium. Tropical nuts (and some seeds we call nuts) tend to live in washed-out soil due to high rainfall. These trees provision their roots with more magnesium to help the little plants get established. Cashew “nuts” and Brazil “nuts” are very rich in magnesium.

A big problem with health lessons is people often hear “Magnesium” is good and that you need more. Then you read “Brazil nuts contain Magnesium” and eat lots of Brazil nuts. Generally, any area that has leached soils tends to be Selenium deficient. Plants that provision their seeds with Magnesium, often provision their seeds with Selenium too. Hence Brazil nuts, if you were to use them as a primary source of Magnesium would actually potentially kill you in time due to Selenium poisoning.

It is a good idea for all minerals, such as Magnesium, to look at a balanced diet with as many different seeds, nuts, fruit, and leaves as a source of Magnesium. Hence Chia seeds, Pumpkin seeds, Almonds, etc in a mixed diet will keep you far healthier.

If you are truly worried about a Magnesium deficiency, consider supplementing your diet with a chelated Magnesium product such as this. Many chelated minerals are easier to absorb. I believe in a healthy diet and supplements of Magnesium, Zinc, Vitamin B complex, and Vitamin D. It is nearly impossible to get enough of these unless you eat twenty small meals a day and live in the sun, and don’t ever wash.

How Long Do Seeds and Nuts Last?

We don’t really know! Under the right conditions, some can last centuries or even millennia. If seeds are stored in a place such as the arctic Svalbard global seed vault they can potentially last for thousands of years or more. The current record holder for the oldest seed germinated was a date palm seed that was about 2000 years old.


I’m sure you will agree that you have been assuming the difference between seeds and nuts wrongly. And I hope this guide has helped you clarify this. 

I would like to outline a few of the things we have discussed above:

  • Botany defines nuts as hard seeds that do not split open when mature. But seeds do break open when mature. 
  • Most foods we call nuts are usually not.
  • Nuts are seeds, but seeds can never be a nut.
  • Nuts are usually one-seeded fruit.
  • Peanuts and groundnut are legumes and never a nut.

I hope you found this article helpful. If you still have other questions, please comment below.


What makes a nut a nut and not a seed?

A nut is often defined as a fruit with a hard shell. The distinction between the two is relatively simple to make. Seeds typically have a liquid (rather than a hard) covering.

A nut seed is not a nut because it has a covering that's similar to that of the seed of an herbaceous plant called the dandelion. Dandelions have their seeds covered in fuzz like an insect's exoskeleton and are different from most nuts because they don't have hard shells and are, therefore, more difficult to remove from their husks

Nuts have seeds inside them, but not all seeds have nuts inside them. If you look carefully, you can see the tiny little indentations in the outer shell of the seed where it broke through the surface to become a nut and not some other type of fruit.

Is an almond a nut or a seed?

Almonds are categorized as nuts because their outer layer is made up of a hard shell that protects the seed-like inner core. They share this trait with other popular types of nuts such as walnuts, hazelnuts, pistachios, and cashews. In contrast to these other types of nuts with hard shells, almonds have a softer skin that does not need protection.

What nuts are poisonous?

Nuts are a part of many people’s diets. They are considered to be healthy choices and are high in nutrients. However, some nuts have high levels of cyanide which can cause cyanide poisoning.

Many people worry about the safety of their foods and make sure they don’t eat any nuts that have been exposed to pesticides or other chemicals.

Some nuts are poisonous, while others are not. The most common ones that are known to be toxic include the walnut, cashew nut, Brazil nut, and acorn.

Is nutmeg a nut?

Nutmeg is not a nut. It is a spice of the same size and shape as a walnut. The difference is that it has a round, wrinkled, brown-colored outside and a light-brown or yellow-colored inside.

Are poppy seeds a nut?

Some people think that poppy seeds are a nut, while others argue that they are not. This is because there is no consensus on the classification of seeds. The United States Department of Agriculture allows for poppy seeds to be classified as a fruit or vegetable.

In most countries, the United States included, all fruits and vegetables are considered nuts. The USDA classifies poppy seeds as a "seeded fruit".

As we all know, the term “nut” usually refers to any hard, round seed with an outer shell, but it can also refer to pine nuts and walnuts. However, there is one type of seed that does not fit into this category - poppy seeds.

Is hazelnut a nut?

Hazelnuts are often referred to as nuts, but they are actually drupes. This means that the fruit is a drupe that has an outer membrane and a pit. The pit is what we eat, so it's not technically a nut.

Is chickpea a nut?

A chickpea is a type of bean, not a nut. It is also known as garbanzo bean or ceci beans. The chickpea plant belongs to the family Fabaceae.

The chickpea plant belongs to the family Fabaceae. Chickpeas are one of the most common ingredients in curries, salads, soups and stews in many countries around the world including India, Greece, Spain and Morocco.

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