Walnuts and pecans are often used interchangeably in recipes; however, there are differences in their appearance, taste, nutrient profile, and even health benefits!
Here’s what each nut is all about. Pecan nuts originated from America and have a slightly sweet, buttery flavor. They are primarily produced in the central-southern region of the United States in states such as Texas, Georgia, and New Mexico. Pecan shells are more oval and elongated in shape than the circular shape of a walnut shell. When you crack them open, walnuts almost resemble the shape of a brain whereas pecans are smoother with a groove down the center of the nut. On the other hand, we have walnuts. Walnuts taste slightly bitter and come from Asia and Europe. In the United States, California is the primary grower of walnuts, but they are grown in countries all over the world.
Walnuts vs pecans: Nutritional Facts
The nutrient profiles of walnuts and pecans are quite similar. In general, walnuts have slightly fewer calories, but more protein, sodium, and polyunsaturated fats than pecans. Pecans contain more beneficial fiber and monounsaturated fat. Both mono and polyunsaturated fats are considered “good” fats and can contribute to lower levels of LDL or “bad” cholesterol in the blood. In addition, pecans have the highest antioxidant content of all nuts including walnuts.
Walnuts contain slightly higher amounts of minerals than pecans overall, but pecans have a higher zinc content, which is crucial for immune function.
Pecans come out on top when it comes to vitamin content. Pecans are packed with thiamine, vitamin E, A, and K. Walnuts, however, have more vitamin B6 and folate.
Comparing health benefits of walnuts and pecans
The nutrient profiles of walnuts and pecans are very much alike, but how do the health benefits of each compare? Let’s find out about the similarities and differences between the two nuts.
- Both walnuts and pecans are known for being heart-healthy nuts - meaning they may decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease by improving cholesterol levels and blood lipids
- Walnuts and pecans are low-carb nuts making them great for weight loss and maintenance when eaten in moderation
- Both nuts support strong bones, discourage inflammation, and help in maintaining good digestive health
- Walnuts have a higher content of ALA (an omega-3 fatty acid) than pecans and are known as being beneficial for brain health
- Pecans contain significantly higher amounts of zinc, flavonoids, and tocopherols than walnuts, which are known to decrease inflammation and are potent antioxidants
So, are walnuts or pecans better for you? Well, the answer is that they’re both great for different reasons! Both walnuts and pecans are heart-healthy, nutrient-dense, and may reduce the risk of certain diseases when eaten in conjunction with a balanced diet. The best way to enjoy these tasty nuts is in their raw, unprocessed form to reap maximum health benefits.