Walnuts vs pecans – which nut is better?
Walnuts and pecans are a type of nut, each with their own distinct flavour. Even though they are both brown in colour, it is easy to distinguish between the two; in the image above, pecans are shown on the left and walnuts on the right.
There are a number of similarities and differences between the nutritional profiles of these two nuts, which we will discuss below. You can also use our healthy food finder to compare their nutritional profiles side by side.
Because nuts are high in fat, they are also energy dense foods. When it comes to calories, walnuts and pecans have very similar amounts, with a 1 ounce (28 g) serving of walnuts having 183 calories and the same size serving of pecans having 193 calories. The consumption of these nuts can be an easy way to increase your calorie intake when trying to gain weight. If you are trying to lose weight, you can still enjoy these nuts, but should keep an eye on portion size.
Pecans are slightly higher in fat, having 20.2 g of fat per 28 g serving, compared to walnuts which have 18.3 g per 28 g serving. The way in which these two nuts differ greatly however is in the type of fat that they contain. A large portion of the fat in pecans is monounsaturated, whereas most of the fat in walnuts is polyunsaturated. Both of these fats are considered to be the good kind, bringing with them many health benefits. Walnuts are also much higher in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids than pecans.
At 4.3 g per 1 ounce serving, walnuts have quite a lot more protein than the 2.6 g that pecans do. Even though they are not a complete protein source, these nuts can be beneficial for people looking to boost their protein intake, especially vegans and vegetarians. Protein is a crucial part of the diet because the body requires it for many different processes, including repairing and building tissue, stabilising blood sugar levels and improving one’s mood.
Walnuts and pecans are a source of all 3 macro-nutrients, carbohydrate included. A 1 ounce serving of walnuts has 3.8 g of carbs (of which 1.9 g comes from dietary fiber and 0.7 g from sugars), whereas the same serving size of pecans has 3.9 g of carbs (of which 2.7 g comes from dietary fiber and 1.1 g from sugars). Together with seeds, beans, vegetables and fruits, these nuts are some of the best sources of dietary fiber.
Vitamins and minerals
Nuts are highly nutritious foods, being excellent sources of numerous vitamins and minerals. Both walnuts and pecans are especially rich in manganese, copper, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc. If you compare the nutritional profiles of these two nuts, you will notice that when it comes to vitamins and minerals, they are very similar. Including nuts in your diet can help to reduce the risk of suffering from nutrient deficiencies.
The health benefits of walnuts
Walnuts have been a part of the human diet for a long time. In the modern diet they are most often enjoyed as a snack either on their own or together with other nuts, but they can also be included in all sorts of recipes. Walnuts are the key ingredient used when preparing walnut oil and walnut butter.
Walnuts are a very good source of antioxidants. So good in fact, they ranked second in this study that investigated the antioxidant content of over 1000 foods that are commonly consumed in the US. Eating antioxidant rich foods helps to reduce the damage caused by free radicals in the body, thereby lowering the risk of serious diseases such as cancer.
Many studies have also shown that walnuts can lower bad cholesterol levels, reduce inflammation and improve the performance of blood vessels, making them a super heart friendly food.
In addition, walnut consumption has been shown to be beneficial for brain health. For example, this observational study found a link between regular walnut consumption and memory improvement. In another study carried out on mice with Alzheimer’s disease, the consumption of walnuts everyday for 10 months resulted in significant improvements in memory and learning skills.
The health benefits of pecans
Pecans are another potent source of antioxidants, and eating them helps to prevent oxidative stress in the body. This study specific to pecans found that eating them increased antioxidants in the bloodstream for up to 24 hours after consumption.
Another study found that diets high in pecans favourably alters the serum lipid profile of healthy men and women. The study concluded by saying that monounsaturated rich nuts such as pecans may be recommended as part of a cholesterol-lowering diet. This means that just like walnuts, pecans are a heart friendly food.
Finally, as was the case with walnuts, pecan consumption may improve brain function. This is thought to be (amongst other things) because of the large quantities of copper that pecans contain.
Walnuts and pecans have very similar nutritional profiles and health benefits associated with their consumption, so it is difficult to crown one as being better than the other. Personally, I would recommend that you include both of these nuts in your diet, so as to reap the most benefit.