Difference Between Nuts and Seeds (With Table)

Nuts and seeds are highly nutritious and are loaded with vitamins, minerals,  healthy fats, and much more. These are an essential part of our daily requirements and are thus recommended by nutritionists and dietitians. Though there are not huge differences between nuts and seeds one can be very confused between the two terms. 

Is almond a nut or a seed? What’s a peanut and what about pistachios? These are neither nuts nor seeds. Almonds and pistachios are drupes while peanuts are legumes. What if I tell you that the Brazil nuts are not nuts but seeds.

Nuts vs Seeds

The difference between nuts and seeds is that a seed is a fertilized ovule of a plant with the potential to give rise to a new plant while nuts are fruits having a hard outer shell that doesn’t crack naturally and have a seed inside them. Thus a seed is contained in a nut in some plants and in some, it exists independently.

Comparison Table Between Nuts and Seeds

Parameters of ComparisonNutsSeeds
DefinitionNuts are dry fruits with an edible kernel surrounded by a hard shell and have a seed inside them fused with the kernel.Seeds are actually fertilized ovules surrounded by a seed coat.
FormationNuts are formed from the fertilized ovaries present inside the pistil of a flower in a plant.Seeds are formed from the ovules after fertilisation by pollen grains.
SizeNuts are larger in size in comparison with seeds.Seeds are comparatively smaller in size.
Available formsNuts are available in a variety of forms like shelled, raw, roasted, salted, sugared and dry roasted in the market. Seeds are mostly available in raw and roasted forms in the market.
NutrientsAlmost all nuts are rich in proteins, vitamins, minerals, and fats.Seeds are rich in proteins, vitamins (vitamin B particularly), minerals, fats and dietary fibres.
ExamplesHazelnuts, chestnuts, acorns, etc.Brazil nuts, sesame seeds, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, etc.

What is a Nut?

A nut is a seed in a hard shell which doesn’t open naturally. The main characteristic of a nut is the outermost stony fruit wall. Nuts are full of nutrients and are energy rich which makes it costly in the market. They are good for the heart and indeed a very good snacking option. It’s better than the chips, soda, french fries, pizzas or any such kind of junk food.

Nuts are high in oil content and contain unsaturated fats, omega-3 fatty acids, fibers, vitamin E, and much more. We generally refer to almonds, pecans, pistachios, walnuts, brazil nuts, etc. as nuts though they aren’t. Some of the examples of nuts are hazelnuts, chestnuts, and acorns. The nuts that you find the squirrels munching on is none other than acorns. 

When we talk of a nut, we usually refer to the edible kernel. Small nuts may be called a nutlet or a nucule or a pyrena which is a seed covered by a stony layer. Pistachios, almonds, and cashews are drupes. The seeds within drupes are protected by the fleshy three-layered exocarps. 

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What is a Seed?

A seed is that part of the plant which grows into a plant when sown. Seeds are ripened ovules and are produced in gymnosperms and angiosperms. Gymnosperms mean plants having naked seeds which are not contained inside any structure like the fruit while angiosperms are true flowering plants and thus the angiosperm seeds are produced in a fleshy structure called fruit. 

The seeds that we consume or see in our daily lives are generally angiosperm seeds. The angiosperm seeds consist of 3 main parts:

  1. The embryo

The embryo is the part formed from the zygote. The zygote is formed from the fusion of the egg cell and the male gamete.

  1. The endosperm

The endosperm is the triploid part. It is a food storing part and it provides nourishment to the embryo within the seed. 

  1. The seed coat

This is a protective covering formed from the tissue of the ovule and has two parts, the outer part is called the testa and the inner part is called the tegmen.

Seeds when sown grows into a plant and thus seed dispersal becomes very important. Seeds are dispersed by wind, water, insects, animals including humans. Some nutritious edible seeds that we consume are chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, hemp seeds, brazil nuts, pine nuts, etc.

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Main Differences Between Nuts and Seeds

  1. All nuts are seeds but seeds cannot be nuts because every nut contains a seed within it. 
  2. The kernel which is the edible part of the nut is actually the fruit and the seed fused together. Thus the seed and the fruit can’t be separated in a nut while a seed can be separated from its fruit. 
  3. Nuts are larger in size with a stony hard shell, an edible kernel and a seed in it while seeds are smaller in size.
  4. Nuts are matured or ripened ovaries while seeds are ripened ovules. 
  5. Nuts have a characteristic stony hard wall while seeds are characterized by an embryo, a seed coat and stored food. 


It might be very confusing to differentiate between nuts and seeds but the basic differences mentioned above could be quite helpful. A nut is thus a seed surrounded by an edible kernel which is composed of fruit and seed and an outer hard shell that doesn’t naturally break. The seed, on the other hand, is a ripened ovule that is a precursor to plant life.


  1. http://search.proquest.com/openview/96e7a91da433b00d0da15353c0a4255d/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=39578
  2. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/british-journal-of-nutrition/article/nuts-source-of-energy-and-macronutrients/AAAEDDA038B08C0A00C802F00A7F4171

Last update on 2021-03-01 / Amazon Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API