Walnut vs Almond - Health impact and Nutrition Comparison
Nuts add extra nutrition, crunch and flavour to any meal they are added to. In this article, we will be discussing two prominent members of the culinary nut group - walnuts and almonds, mainly by comparing their nutritional values and impacts on health.
From a botanical viewpoint, both walnuts and almonds are not true nuts, but stone fruits, also known as drupes. However, they are considered to be culinary nuts, as they are used as such in the kitchen.
Walnut is the seed of trees belonging to the Juglans genus and the Juglandaceae family. This family is also known as the walnut family and includes other trees, such as pecan and hickory.
Almonds, also known as Prunus dulcis or Prunus amygdalus, are the edible seeds of trees that are part of the Amygdalus subgenus, in the Prunus genus and the Rosaceae family. This genus includes a wide variety of other stone fruits including apricots, peaches, nectarines, plums and cherries.
Taste and Use
The walnut seed has a mild earthy flavour, while its skin might taste bitter. Almonds also have a similar taste. However, the bitterness of almonds can be attributed to a compound found in them called amygdalin.
Like all nuts, peanuts and almonds can be used as snacks or as ingredients in various dishes, significantly improving the nutritional value of the meal.
Based on the variety and cultivar of these nuts, the general characteristics and nutritional values can slightly differ from each other.
When discussing walnuts most people talk about the Persian or the English walnut, also known as common walnut. Other, less popularly used varieties include the black walnut, the Californian walnut and the butternut.
The most commonly used varieties of almonds are Nonpareil, Sonora, Aldrich, Winters and Carmel. The Nonpareil almond, living up to its name, is the most commercially used variety, due to its thin shell that can be easily removed without impairing the seed within.
The nutritional values below are presented for raw almonds and English walnuts.
Macronutrients and Calories
Almonds are generally more dense in nutrients as they contain only 50% water. At the same time, walnuts consist of 66% water.
One serving size of both of these nuts is equal to one ounce, weighing 28.35g. For almonds, this serving size makes for 23 whole kernels, while one ounce of walnuts is made up of 14 halves of the nut.
While both walnuts and almonds are very high in calories, walnuts contain 75 more calories per every 100g serving. One hundred gram servings of walnuts and almonds contain 654 and 579 calories respectively.
Nuts are a great source of high quality protein. Both of these nuts contain large levels of all essential amino acids, however, almonds are higher in almost all of them except methionine. Almonds are significantly richer in proteins overall.
Walnuts, on the other hand, are higher in fats. While larger quantities of polyunsaturated and saturated fats can be found in walnuts, almonds contain appreciably more monounsaturated fats.
Unlike almonds, walnuts are an incredible source of omega-3 fatty acids, containing 9g of alpha-linolenic acid in every hundred gram serving.
Walnuts and almonds, being plant-based products, contain no cholesterol.
Almonds contain almost double the amount of carbohydrates when compared to walnuts. Subsequently, almonds are significantly richer in dietary fiber and sugars.
The carbohydrate breakdown of walnuts and almonds is similar, high in dietary fiber. Sucrose is the predominant sugar found in both of these nuts. Other simple carbohydrates found in smaller quantities are glucose, fructose and starch.
Additionally, almonds contain small amounts of maltose and galactose.
In general, walnuts have a more favourable vitamin profile.
Looking at the daily values of vitamins these nuts can provide, walnuts supply four times more Vitamin B6 and two times more vitamin B1 when compared to almonds. At the same time, almonds are significantly richer in Vitamin B2, containing almost eight times more of it. Vitamin B3 and vitamin E can also be found in almonds in larger amounts.
Walnuts are also notably higher in vitamin A, vitamin B5 and the folate form of vitamin B9. Moreover, walnuts contain vitamin C and vitamin K, which almonds lack completely.
Walnuts and almonds do not contain vitamin B12 and vitamin D.
Almonds are the clear winner in this category, containing large amounts of calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, iron and choline.
The calcium content found in almonds is almost three times higher when compared to the calcium content of walnuts.
Walnuts, on the other hand, are richer in copper, manganese and selenium.
While both of these nuts are low in sodium, almonds have a smaller amount of it.
These two nuts contain similar levels of zinc.
Almonds and walnuts are high in dietary fiber, fats and relatively low in sugars. Because of this, the consumption of these nuts does not significantly alter blood glucose levels.
Walnuts and almonds are both considered to have a glycemic index of 0 (1, 2).
If you want more information about how almonds affect blood glucose, insulin levels and more, you can visit this page.
The pH value of raw English walnuts is equal to 5.42, making walnuts acidic (3).
Almonds, however, have a more neutral pH value of 7 (4).
We can also look at the acidity of these nuts by measuring the potential renal acid load or the PRAL value. This value portrays how much acid or base the given food produces inside the organism.
The PRAL values of walnuts and almonds are 5.6 and 2.3 respectively. This demonstrates that walnuts are more acid-producing.
Weight Loss & Diets
Like most nuts, almonds and walnuts are very high in calories. Having said that, these nuts can play an important role in a healthy diet, as they are rich in dietary fiber, protein and healthy fats.
Between these two nuts, almonds are the better choice for low calorie and low fats diets, while walnuts fit better into a low carb diet.
Various studies have concluded that including walnuts or almonds in reduced-calorie diets leads to a more desirable and healthier weight loss, compared to the same hypocaloric diets without these nuts (5, 6).
Regular consumption of nuts for a snack as a replacement for less healthful foods can also play a role in the prevention of obesity (7).
In this section, we will look into what beneficial effects these nutritionally dense foods can have on health.
In research, walnuts have been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by decreasing low density lipoprotein (also known as “bad cholesterol”) and blood pressure, as well as decreasing oxidative stress and some markers of inflammation (8).
Daily consumption of fewer than two servings of almonds has been studied to prevent cardiovascular disease in the short term and potentially in the long term as well (9).
Overall nut consumption has been vastly researched to have a significant positive effect on cardiovascular health, reducing incidences of coronary heart disease, sudden cardiac death, and ameliorating risk factors by decreasing body weight and blood cholesterol (10).
Higher walnut consumption has been correlated with a decreased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, especially in women (11, 12).
If walnuts prevent the development of diabetes, almonds seem to be more effective at preventing its complications. Increased almond intake has been studied to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease in people with type 2 diabetes (13, 14).
Many varieties of nuts have been researched to reduce the risk of cancer by inhibiting cell multiplication and inducing the programmed death of cancer cells (15).
Due to a number of compounds found in walnuts, these nuts may have the potential to prevent or decrease the risk of breast, prostate, colon and renal cancers (16).
Similarly, various studies show the potential of almonds to reduce the risk of breast, endometrial, pancreatic, colon and colorectal cancers (17, 18, 19).
Downsides and Risks
Tree nuts are one of the food allergens most often correlated with severe allergic reactions. While an allergy from peanuts is the most commonly occurring one, walnut and almond allergies in rare cases can also be life-threatening.
Symptoms of walnut and almond allergies are not different from other food allergies. These symptoms can include vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, stomach cramps, oral allergy syndrome, and in rare cases, anaphylactic shock.
Almond allergy can present with cross-reactivity with walnuts (20).
Phytic acid is a compound that can be found in certain cereals, nuts, legumes and oils. This substance binds to micronutrients, such as zinc and iron, preventing their absorption. Overusing foods high in phytic acid can lead to iron and zinc deficiencies, resulting in anaemia, growth stagnation and impaired immune functions.
Almonds tend to be higher in phytic acid when compared to walnuts (21).
Aflatoxins and Cancer Risk
Aflatoxins are a family of toxins, that are carcinogenic for the liver tissue. These toxins are produced by fungi that can grow on diseased agricultural crops.
To avoid exposure to aflatoxins, discoloured, mouldy and shrivelled nuts should be discarded.
To sum up, walnuts are richer in calories, fats and vitamins, while almonds contain more protein, carbohydrates and minerals. Some vitamins walnuts contain more of are vitamins B1, B6 and B9. Almonds, in turn, are higher in calcium, potassium and phosphorus.
Almonds and walnuts have numerous beneficial effects on health, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer.
Vitamin and Mineral Summary Scores
Comparison summary table
|Lower in Sugar|
|Rich in vitamins|
|Lower in Sodium|
|Lower in Saturated Fat|
|Lower in price|
|Rich in minerals|
|Lower in Cholesterol||Equal|
|Lower in glycemic index||Equal|
Which food is preferable for your diet?
|Low Calories diet|
|Low Fats diet|
|Low Carbs diet|
|Low glycemic index diet||Equal|
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