Almonds are now more popular than peanuts. Indeed, almond consumption has increased ten-fold since the 1960s. In contrast, walnuts have seen little increase.
Are almonds that much better for you than walnuts?
Depending on which medical condition you are trying to prevent or reverse, the answer may vary. In this article, we will look at which nut is best for weight loss, brain health, heart health, and other medical conditions.
What Are Almonds and Walnuts?
Almond is a type of seed that offers numerous health benefits. It is off-white in color and encased in a hard shell. Generally there are two types of almond: sweet and bitter.
Of course, we consume the sweet one. Bitter ones are used to make oil as a flavoring agent for foods and drinks like Amaretto. They are not edible, as they contain hydrocyanic acid, which is a toxic substance and is removed while manufacturing. They are used in medicine as a mild laxative, remedy for various types of cancer, uterus and so on.
Almonds are available all year round, but the best season to enjoy them in the fresh form is mid-summer. These seeds are coming from ancient times and they are remembered even in the Bible. Romans called it “Greek nut”, but they are supposed to have originated in western Asia and North Africa.
Being an extra nutrition, crunch and flavor to any meal, walnuts are harvested in autumn, yet they are available all year round. These super useful nuts are a wide source of omega-3 fatty acids. There are a number of species of their trees, while the most widespread type is the English one.
It originated in India and near the Caspian Sea, that’s why it is often called Persian walnut. As a food it is used in snacks, baking and salads. The nut shell and leaf are used to make medicine as well.
They contain chemicals called fatty acids that are able to expand blood vessels, improve circulation, etc. They are used for lowering cholesterol, blood poisoning, digestive tract swelling, diarrhea, intestinal worms, skin diseases and infections, acne, eczema and so on.
Nutritional Content Comparison
While their fat, carb, and protein contents vary slightly, almonds pack more minerals.
ALA is an essential fatty acid, meaning that you must get it from foods because your body can’t produce it. Recent studies have linked dietary ALA to reduced inflammation and improved heart and brain health, although more research is needed (4, 5, 6).
Additionally, both nuts are good sources of calcium and potassium, which are also known as non-sodium minerals, as they help blunt the effects of high sodium intake on blood pressure (7).
Now, let’s discuss which nut is best for the following:
As most people struggle with weight issues, I will start off this article by exploring which nut is best for weight loss. For years, people trying to lose weight avoided nuts because they are so high in fat and calories. Despite medical studies consistently showing that nut eaters were leaner, it wasn’t until the 1990s that nuts started to catch on as a way to help keep your weight in check.
There are several ways that nuts help with weight loss (8). The first is that all of the protein and fiber fills you up. Second, the body has a hard time using all of the calories in a nut so you get some “free calories.” Lastly, nuts may increase your metabolism so you burn more calories even at rest.
So which nut is best for weight loss? When it comes to almonds, a recent study showed that almond eating dieters were able to lose 65% more weight than their non-almond eating dieting counterparts (9). Many other studies have also shown significant weight loss with almonds (10).
Walnuts also do not cause weight gain (11). Interestingly, one study showed that even eating large amounts of walnuts for six months did not cause weight gain (12). While you don’t gain weight eating walnuts, I could not find any convincing evidence that walnuts helped with weight loss. Thus, for weight loss I am going to declare almonds the winner.
When it comes to having optimal brain performance, nuts play an important role. Evidence showed that eating almonds, walnuts, and hazelnuts was shown to improve brain function by up to 60% after 6.5 years (13). Interestingly, even people with the Alzheimer’s gene (ApoE4) benefited from nuts in this study. While nuts improve brain performance and prevent dementia, is there a difference between almonds and walnuts?
Several studies have been conducted for the effects of almonds and walnuts on cognition. In reviewing all of these studies, the high omega 3 content of walnuts seems to give this nut the advantage. Walnuts even look like a brain. Regardless of your age, studies show that younger and older people’s brains function better with walnuts (14, 15).
The keto diet is a very low carb diet that usually restricts your carb intake to 25–50 grams per day and provides around 65–90% and 10–35% of calories from fats and proteins, respectively (16).
While nuts are a keto-friendly food that makes an excellent snack, you should still be mindful of their carb content and preferably choose those with a higher fiber content.
This is because your body cannot digest fiber, so it doesn’t contribute to your calorie count. Thus, it helps reduce a food’s net carb content, which is calculated by subtracting the fiber content from its total carb count (17).
That said, while a 30-grams serving of almonds has a higher fiber content than an equal serving of walnuts, walnut’s net carb count is still lower than that of almonds, which is 2 grams versus 3 grams.
Still, that’s only a slight difference. Therefore, both nuts may be consumed on the keto diet, as long as you make sure they don’t cause you to exceed your daily carb allotment.
When it comes to nutrition, nuts are definitely a superfood. From a nutritional standpoint, most people tend to view all nuts as essentially the same. However, there are distinct nutritional differences between almonds and walnuts. Other than the omega 3 fatty acids, for which 70% of people are deficient, almonds come out on top for most other nutritional categories (18).
- Fiber: Fiber is critical for gut and heart heath. When it comes to fiber, almonds have more than twice the amount of fiber than walnuts. Indeed, 1/4 of a cup or approximately 23 almonds has 4 grams of fiber which is 14% of the fiber you need for the day.
- Protein: For protein, almonds again come out on top. A single serving will get you 6 grams of protein versus the 4 grams of protein in walnuts.
- Omega 3s: Here is where walnuts really shine. Indeed, 1/4 cup, 14 halves, or one handful of walnuts will get you 100% of your omega 3s for the day.
- Electrolytes: Electrolytes are important for proper heart function. In the electrolyte category, almonds again have the advantage. Each serving of almonds will get you 4% of the potassium, 16% of the magnesium, and 8% of the calcium you need for the day.
- Vitamin E: Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant. When it comes to vitamin E, almonds are again the clear winner. One serving will get you 40% of the vitamin E you need for the day.
If you are a woman or man in the U.S., there is a 40% chance you will die from heart problems. Fortunately, eating nuts every day will decrease your risk by 40% (19).
While both almonds and walnuts lower bad cholesterol (LDL), triglycerides, blood pressure, blood sugar, and inflammation, I could not find any quality studies specifically looking at one type of nut and the risk of a heart attack.
Some studies do show a specific benefit of omega 3 fatty acids in the treatment of arrhythmias (20). Similarly, other studies show that magnesium, which is high in almonds, may also be helpful in preventing arrhythmias (21).
Certainly, when it comes to the heart, there are specific benefits to each nut. Almonds are packed with the powerful anti-oxidant, vitamin E, as well as magnesium. In contrast, walnuts are sky high in the anti-inflammatory omega 3s.
Next to heart disease, cancer is the main cause of death in the U.S. Can nuts prevent or reverse cancer?
While the data are not as strong for nuts in preventing or treating cancer, one large study of 354,933 people showed that nuts can prevent 14% of cancer deaths (22). Another evidence showed that you can cut your breast cancer risk by 2-3 fold with almonds and walnuts (23).
In my review of the medical literature, there are many studies showing anti-cancer properties of both almonds and walnuts. While both appear beneficial, I could not find clear evidence that one nut was better than the other.
Blood Pressure, Cholesterol, and Diabetes
Unfortunately, most adults in the U.S. have either high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes/pre-diabetes (24). While these conditions often don’t cause symptoms now, they are “ticking time bombs” for your health. Do nuts also prevent these problems?
When it comes to high blood pressure, nuts are extremely beneficial. In one study, almonds and walnuts decreased systolic blood pressure (25). This beneficial effect was reported to be due to the nitric oxide effect of nuts which relaxes arteries and normalizes blood pressure.
For cholesterol it is a similar story. Studies show that nuts decrease bad cholesterol (LDL), raise good cholesterol (HDL), and lower triglycerides (26). The perfect combination.
Nuts also work magic in preventing and reversing diabetes. Indeed, if everyone ate nuts, diabetes could be reduced by 39% (27).
In trying to determine which nut is best for high blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes, I could not find a clear winner. Both seemed to be equally effective.
Arthritis and Autoimmune Diseases
The anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids have shown significant promise in treating arthritis, autoimmune diseases, and other inflammatory diseases. Evidence showed that omega 3 fatty acids directly stopped the molecules causing inflammation in osteoarthritis (28). Another study showed that the omega 3s could even reverse osteoarthritis (29).
When it comes to autoimmune diseases, early data indicate a potential role for omega 3s in reversing these diseases (30). Ongoing studies will help to answer the question of how effective the omega 3s are for these conditions (31). Until further data are available, if you are battling arthritis, autoimmune diseases, or other inflammatory conditions, walnuts are your best nut (32).
Are There Any Side Effects?
Walnuts and almonds share some potential downsides, including their allergenic potential and antinutrient content.
Nut allergies affect less than 2% of the American population, and reactions to them may range from mild to severe. Regarding walnuts and almonds specifically, they are both allergenic (33).
However, more people seem to be allergic to walnuts than almonds in the United States. Still, while an almond allergy is rare, allergy to one nut is believed to be a risk factor for developing an allergy to another type of nut (34).
As for their antinutrient content, walnuts and almonds both contain phytic acid, which is often found in nuts. In fact, nuts are the second phytate-richest food after soy, with a content that ranges from 0.1–9.4% (35).
Phytic acid is considered an antinutrient because it binds to minerals, such as iron, zinc calcium, magnesium, and manganese, and inhibits their absorption.
Lastly, keep in mind that both nuts’ effects on body weight were studied as components of calorie-controlled diets. However, their high calorie density may lead to weight gain if consumed in large amounts (36).
Must-Try Almond and Walnut Recipes
How to make almond butter? It’s actually very easy! First, you’ll roast the almonds in the oven to bring out the flavor. Also, they blend better when they’re warmed up! After you toast the almonds, throw them into a food processor and blend them for what seems like forever. You’ll see that they go through stages: they’ll be really crumbly at first, and then turn to gooey. Finally, they’ll turn to creamy: the perfect almond butter texture.
Honey Almond Granola
Granola is something you can easily personalize to your own taste with whatever types of nuts, seeds, dried fruits, or sweeteners you’d like. Combine about 8 cups dry ingredients (oats, nuts, and seeds) with 1 cup wet ingredients (1 part oil to 3 parts sweetener), then add 1 to 2 cups dried fruit after baking. You can use any type of dried fruit you like here: we used raisins, but substitute in dried cherries, apricots, or blueberries.
Walnut Pesto Pasta Salad
Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water.
Meanwhile, combine basil, parsley, walnuts, Parmesan, garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a food processor. Pulse, scraping down the sides as necessary, until finely chopped. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in oil.
Transfer the pesto to a large bowl and add the pasta, tomato and peppers. Toss to coat. Top with more basil, if desired. Fresh tomatoes and roasted red peppers add a pop of bright color and juiciness here, but any of your favorite pasta-salad veggies, like blanched broccoli and fresh bell peppers, would be delicious too.
This cold pesto pasta salad will cool you off on a summer day.
Roasted Cauliflower & Walnut Dip
Soak 1 cup walnuts in water for 2 hours. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Place cauliflower on a baking sheet and toss with 3 teaspoons oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Slice the tip off the garlic head, exposing the cloves. Drizzle with the remaining 1 teaspoon oil and 1/8 teaspoon salt and wrap in foil. Place on the baking sheet. Roast, stirring the cauliflower once, until tender, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes.
Transfer the cauliflower to a food processor. Squeeze the garlic cloves out of the skins into the food processor. Drain the walnuts and add to the food processor, along with 1/2 cup water, oil, lemon juice, rosemary and the remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt. Puree until mostly smooth, adding more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, if needed. Transfer to a bowl and top with pepper, toasted walnuts and more oil and rosemary, if desired.
This creamy roasted cauliflower dip has the texture of hummus but swaps chickpeas for roasted cauliflower and walnuts for tahini. A head of roasted garlic, which is cooked at the same time as the cauliflower gives it great flavor!
For optimal health, nuts clearly play an important role. Thus, trying to answer the question, which nut should you eat is definitely a challenge.
Overall, many are saying it is a tie between almonds and walnuts. If there is a particular medical condition you are battling, you may want to choose one nut over the other.
People are advised to eat both nuts. There are several other healthy and delicious recipes you can try for these nuts aside from the ones mentioned above.
When craving something sweet, walnuts over chocolate are the best. For salads, both almonds and walnuts are excellent choices. If you are looking for a nut butter, go for almonds.