Are pecans as healthy as walnuts?
Walnuts vs. Pecans
The mighty walnut, with its buttery yet sharp and earthy flavor touts itself as the victor of all tree nuts in the health world with regards to its nutritional profile. Its wrinkly, rough, and cranium-resembling exterior helps it to make headlines as a natural supplement to a healthy, varied lifestyle. While all nuts offer varying yet uniquely beneficial vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients, walnuts are most similar to its sibling, the hearty pecan.
Walnut Nutritional Value
The nutritional profile of walnuts, per 28 grams/ 1 ounce:
- 185 calories
- 18 grams of fat;
- 13g polyunsaturated
- 4 grams of carbohydrates
- 4 grams of protein
- 2 grams of fiber (7% Daily Recommendation)
Walnuts are ten calories less, which is negligible, and two less grams of fat than pecans. Those two grams of fat missing include the nutritious monounsaturated fats present in pecans. There is also one gram less of fiber.
The one component of walnuts that are not found this high in any other tree nuts are alpha-linoleic acids, or ALAs. ALAs are also known as Omega-3s that you can find in other foods like salmon or flax. They have cardiovascular defense mechanisms that work similarly to pecans, but they also contribute to inflammation-lowering specific to the prevention of strokes. Walnuts also contain more folic acid, phosphorus, B6, and iron. Folic acid supports fertility and helps to grow tissue, phosphorus builds bones and teeth, B6 balances hormones and aids in metabolism, and iron plays a vital role in carrying oxygen to blood cells.
Pecans- Health in a Nutshell
The hearty pecan nut has a velvety and subtle sweetness your taste buds will encounter upon first bite, making them easier to add into a healthful lifestyle. They have a smooth exterior and a rich mouthfeel you likely know and love.
There are three health-promoting components of pecans that cannot be found in walnuts, these are: flavonoid content, epigallocatechins, and ellagic acid, known as tannins. Flavonoids are phytonutrients with possibly every health benefit under the sun including longevity. Epigallocatechins are the most potent antioxidants in the antioxidant family, and eating raw, shelled pecans will provide you with a safely dosed natural supplement. Tannins have positive properties such as antioxidants, antimicrobial functions, and immunoresponses. Antimicrobial means it can prevent build-up of bad bacteria that may lead to infections, and the immunoresponse is essentially keeping your cells on their toes to fight in cases of urgency.
Pecans and Walnuts
Tree nuts contain robust plant-based fats, known as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, that are additionally non-cholesterol containing and naturally free of sodium. These fatty acids contain phytosterols, plants’ version of cholesterol that vie for absorption in our body against animals’ cholesterol. This competition causes our bodily cholesterol to naturally lower. Fats have twice the number of calories per gram than carbohydrates and proteins, so having ¼ cup of walnuts or shelled pecans can raise satiety and encourage weight loss and management.
Similar to phytosterols, polyphenols are antioxidants exclusively found in plant foods. Antioxidants are frequently used as a buzzword, and their true function is to protect cells in multiple regions of the body from oxidative damage that causes inflammation and some cancers. When consuming nuts like walnuts or Texas pecans, inflammation lowers, and incidences of cardiovascular disease are less likely to occur.
Together, both pecans and walnuts contain the same plant fats and antioxidants that work to prevent chronic disease to help you live a longer, happier life. Each nut contains its own unique micronutrient profile, of which will all make you feel better for having consumed them. Nutritionally, they are equitable but have different strengths. Walnuts are a better source of Omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, and iron; they also have 1 gram more of protein and polyunsaturated fats. Pecans are a better source of potent antioxidants, and they have 1 gram more of fiber and contain more monounsaturated than polyunsaturated fats.
Whichever nuts you decide to integrate into your daily lifestyle, it needs to be sustainable for you in taste, nutrition, and cost. The flavor of pecans is preferred to walnuts because it is so lightly sweet and familiar, but the health benefits have not been touted as much as the walnuts. Nutrition has to account for flavor, not just health benefits, right?
To keep all of the powerful nutrients intact, it is recommended to consume tree nuts in their raw form to avoid harm that may occur in the heating process. In order to do so, I recommend plain, fresh Texas pecan halves or chopped pecan pieces, whether in-shell or shelled. Although, the majority of nutrients are retained in heating processes except for B vitamins; eating toasted pecans is better for you than eating no pecans because of the plethora of nutrients still bioavailable! Heated pecan nuts include toasted pecans, roasted pecans, and candied pecans.