Pecan vs. Walnut — Health Impact and Nutrition Comparison
It is essential to emphasize that walnut and pecan are a goldmine of energy and nutrients, which is why they are highly recommended by dieticians and nutritionists.
Both of them are rich in unsaturated fats. Pecan is richer in monounsaturated fat, while walnut is richer in polyunsaturated fat, including omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
In vitamin content, pecan wins hands down. It is especially richer in vitamin A and vitamin E and considerably higher in vitamins B1 and B5.
It is important to point out the potential risks of allergy, simultaneous medication use, as well as overeating, which can result in obesity or digestive dysfunctions. Enjoy your nuts, and don’t forget about moderation.
Table of contents
What kind of snacks do you prefer? Some specialists claim that nuts are the best choice. Among the many other nuts, pecan and walnut are unique for nutrients and health benefits. Both of them are edible tree nuts. Despite several similarities, they have quite a few differences. Let’s discuss them.
Pecan originated in South Central America and Mexico, dating back to the 16th century, while walnut owes its origin to Asia and Europe and dates back to 7000 B.C. The Romans called walnuts “Jupiter’s royal acorn.”
Did you know that “pecan” means a nut that needs a stone to be cracked because it is extremely hard to do by hand? Pecans also have oval or elongated shells in a dark brown color.
On the other hand, walnut shells are easy to crack or open, even by hand. It is round-shaped and light brown colored. Walnuts look like “little brains” and are famously known for their brain-boosting function.
Pecans are drier and sweeter, while walnuts may be a little bitter due to their rich oil content. That’s why sometimes pecans are used in roasted form.
Both of them are widely used not only in raw form but also as an ingredient in pastries, candies, salads, cookies, and pasta, as well as in producing walnut butter and oil.
Both are widely consumed worldwide; however, pecan is primarily consumed in North America. Prices depend on the territory; pecan is cheaper in North America, and, inversely, walnut is cheaper in Europe and Asia.
Taste and Texture
In comparison to other nuts, walnuts are generally more bitter and are utilized to give desserts, salads, granolas, and oatmeal a crunchy consistency, among other things. On the other hand, pecans have a unique flavor and are slightly sweeter in taste.
They both have a hard shell; however, the texture of pecans is somewhat waxy, while walnuts are crunchier.
Pecan is slightly higher in dietary fiber. Conversely, walnut is richer in protein and essential amino acids. It is also worth mentioning that pecan contains less sodium and has a lower glycemic index.
By contrast, walnut is lower in sugar and saturated fats. Both contain equal amounts of cholesterol.
In terms of mineral content, there is no significant difference between these two nuts. Nevertheless, walnut is the winner in this category, with a higher content of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, as well as copper, and iron.
On the other side, pecan is higher in zinc.
From the viewpoint of vitamins, pecan is the title holder. Pecan is fairly richer in vitamin B1, vitamin E, and vitamin A, and to a lesser extent, higher in vitamin B5 and vitamin K.
At the same time, walnut is drastically higher in vitamin B6.
From the very start, it is necessary to point out that both pecan and walnut are rich sources of unsaturated fats. In fact, from the comparison charts below, you can easily notice that pecan is extremely rich in monounsaturated fats. On the other hand, walnut is higher in polyunsaturated fat, including omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which we will discuss later. Walnut is also higher in linoleic acid, alpha-linolenic, and arachidonic acids, essential nutrients that our body can only get from food or supplements
Fat Type Comparison
Both nuts are high in calories. Pecan has 691 calories per 100g, and walnut contains 654 calories per 100g.
The carb content of these nuts is equal: 14g per 100g.
Pecan and walnut are rich in unsaturated fats while being low in saturated fats. According to a study published in 2001, monounsaturated fatty acids, highly contained in pecan, contribute to lowering blood total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (bad cholesterol), and triglyceride levels, reducing the risk of coronary heart disease (1).
On the other hand, we have walnut with an extremely high content of polyunsaturated fatty acids, particularly omega-3 (such as alpha-linolenic acid) and omega-6 - the highest among all the tree nuts. They also contribute to decreasing cholesterol levels, blood thinning, and vasodilatation, preventing by this way thrombosis, atherosclerosis, and hypertension (2).
It is worth mentioning that walnuts and pecans are among the most important sources of bioactive compounds such as polyphenols and vitamin E, which are famous for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities. According to a review published in 2017, the main polyphenol of walnuts is pedunculagin, an ellagitannin (3). Several studies prove the role of ellagitannin against disease development and progression, including neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease and different types of cancer.
Walnut is higher in vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), essential for many enzyme reactions in our organism, including the processing of proteins, carbs, and fats formation of red blood cells and neurotransmitters, which ensures transmission of impulses in the nervous system. Adequate intake of vitamin B6 may prevent and treat anemia and symptoms of PMS, reduce Alzheimer’s disease risk, and support brain function. It also helps improve our mood.
On the other hand, pecan is higher in vitamin B1 (thiamin), which plays a significant role in energy metabolism, also involved in transforming proteins, carbs, and fats. Besides the health benefits of vitamin B6 shown above, vitamin B1 also prevents or delays cataracts and contributes to proper digestion by secretion of hydrochloric acid. As a powerful antioxidant, thiamin has anti-aging properties (4).
According to a study published in 2016, the consumption of walnut oil by people with diabetes mellitus type 2 was shown to decrease blood glucose levels (2).
According to one study (5), consuming a serving of pecans per day can enhance blood insulin, insulin resistance, and beta-cell activity in at-risk persons.
Furthermore, because pecans have a low glycemic index, they do not induce blood sugar spikes, even in diabetics.
You can find more info about pecan and diabetes on this link.
Other Health Benefits
In terms of minerals, walnut is the winner with higher calcium and phosphorus levels, which prevents osteoporosis, and also higher in manganese and magnesium, with antioxidant and brain-boosting functions.
On the other side, pecan is higher in zinc, which contributes to good eyesight and skin, nail, and hair reparation. Zinc is also crucial for sexual health due to its significant role in the formation of germ cells and the improvement of sperm quality.
Downsides and Risks
If you are sure that pecans and walnuts are superfoods and are eager to enjoy them, you should wait a minute, as there are some downsides.
Above all, an allergic reaction is the most common risk of pecans and walnuts, as well as other nuts. The allergy symptoms can vary from hives around the mouth, diarrhea, abnormal breathing, and asthma attacks up to anaphylaxis.
Although dieticians recommend pecan and walnut as part of different weight-loss diets, you can quickly gain weight if you eat more than the daily recommended quantity.
There are substances in walnuts called tannins, which decrease the absorption of other medications. Taking some medications simultaneously with black walnut should be avoided.
And finally, you can get diarrhea and vomiting by eating a large number of nuts due to their high fiber content.
Carbohydrate type comparison
Comparison summary table
|Lower in Sugar|
|Lower in Saturated Fat|
|Lower in Glycemic Index|
|Rich in minerals|
|Lower in Sodium|
|Lower in price|
|Lower in Cholesterol||Equal|
|Rich in vitamins||Equal|
All nutrients comparison - raw data values
|Vitamin A RAE||3µg||1µg|
Which food is preferable for your diet?
|Low Fats diet|
|Low Carbs diet|
|Low Calories diet|
|Low Glycemic Index diet|
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Vitamins & Minerals Daily Need Coverage Score
The source of all the nutrient values on the page (excluding the main article the sources for which are presented separately if present) is the USDA's FoodCentral. The exact links to the foods presented on this page can be found below.
- Pecan - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170182/nutrients
- Walnut - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170187/nutrients
All the Daily Values are presented for males aged 31-50, for 2000-calorie diets.