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Walnut vs Pecan - Health impact and Nutrition Comparison

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Article author photo Zvart Movsisyan by Zvart Movsisyan | Last updated on November 29, 2020
Education: Medical biochemistry MD
Walnut
vs
Pecan

Summary

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.

Introduction

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.

Main Differences

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, pastas, 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.

Nutritional Content

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.

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.

Minerals

In terms of minerals 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.

Mineral Comparison

Mineral comparison score is based on the number of minerals by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" chart below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food
Walnut
6
:
2
Pecan
Contains more Calcium +40%
Contains more Iron +15%
Contains more Magnesium +30.6%
Contains more Phosphorus +24.9%
Contains more Copper +32.2%
Contains less Sodium -100%
Contains more Zinc +46.6%
Equal in Potassium - 410
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper 30% 110% 113% 149% 39% 1% 85% 529%
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper 22% 95% 87% 119% 37% 0% 124% 400%
Contains more Calcium +40%
Contains more Iron +15%
Contains more Magnesium +30.6%
Contains more Phosphorus +24.9%
Contains more Copper +32.2%
Contains less Sodium -100%
Contains more Zinc +46.6%
Equal in Potassium - 410

Vitamins

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.

Vitamin Comparison

Vitamin comparison score is based on the number of vitamins by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" chart below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food
Walnut
4
:
6
Pecan
Contains more Vitamin C +18.2%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +15.4%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +155.7%
Contains more Folate +345.5%
Contains more Vitamin A +180%
Contains more Vitamin E +100%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +93.5%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +51.4%
Contains more Vitamin K +29.6%
Equal in Vitamin B3 - 1.167
Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin C Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Vitamin K 2% 14% 0% 5% 86% 35% 22% 35% 124% 74% 0% 7%
Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin C Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Vitamin K 4% 28% 0% 4% 166% 30% 22% 52% 49% 17% 0% 9%
Contains more Vitamin C +18.2%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +15.4%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +155.7%
Contains more Folate +345.5%
Contains more Vitamin A +180%
Contains more Vitamin E +100%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +93.5%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +51.4%
Contains more Vitamin K +29.6%
Equal in Vitamin B3 - 1.167

Health Impact

Health Benefits

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 and omega-6 - the highest among all the tree nuts. They also contribute to cholesterol levels decreasing, blood thinning, vasodilatation, preventing by this way thrombosis, atherosclerosis, and hypertension. According to a study published in 2016, consumption of walnut oil by people with diabetes mellitus type 2 was shown to decrease blood glucose levels (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.

In terms of minerals, walnut is the winner with higher calcium and phosphorus levels, which prevents osteoporosis, 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, 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.

References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11533266
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28115966
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26713565
Article author photo Zvart Movsisyan
Education: Medical biochemistry MD
Last updated: November 29, 2020

Infographic

Walnut vs Pecan infographic
Infographic link

Comparison summary table

Pay attention to the most right column. It shows the amounts side by side, making it easier to realize the amount of difference.
Walnut Pecan
Lower in Sugar ok
Lower in Saturated Fat ok
Lower in glycemic index ok
Rich in minerals ok
Lower in Sodium ok
Lower in price ok
Lower in Cholesterol Equal
Rich in vitamins Equal

All nutrients comparison - raw data values

Nutrient Walnut Pecan Opinion
Net carbs 7.01g 4.26g Walnut
Protein 15.23g 9.17g Walnut
Fats 65.21g 71.97g Pecan
Carbs 13.71g 13.86g Pecan
Calories 654kcal 691kcal Pecan
Starch 0.06g 0.46g Pecan
Fructose 0.09g 0.04g Walnut
Sugar 2.61g 3.97g Walnut
Fiber 6.7g 9.6g Pecan
Calcium 98mg 70mg Walnut
Iron 2.91mg 2.53mg Walnut
Magnesium 158mg 121mg Walnut
Phosphorus 346mg 277mg Walnut
Potassium 441mg 410mg Walnut
Sodium 2mg 0mg Pecan
Zinc 3.09mg 4.53mg Pecan
Copper 1.586mg 1.2mg Walnut
Vitamin A 20IU 56IU Pecan
Vitamin E 0.7mg 1.4mg Pecan
Vitamin D 0IU 0IU
Vitamin D 0µg 0µg
Vitamin C 1.3mg 1.1mg Walnut
Vitamin B1 0.341mg 0.66mg Pecan
Vitamin B2 0.15mg 0.13mg Walnut
Vitamin B3 1.125mg 1.167mg Pecan
Vitamin B5 0.57mg 0.863mg Pecan
Vitamin B6 0.537mg 0.21mg Walnut
Folate 98µg 22µg Walnut
Vitamin B12 0µg 0µg
Vitamin K 2.7µg 3.5µg Pecan
Tryptophan 0.17mg 0.093mg Walnut
Threonine 0.596mg 0.306mg Walnut
Isoleucine 0.625mg 0.336mg Walnut
Leucine 1.17mg 0.598mg Walnut
Lysine 0.424mg 0.287mg Walnut
Methionine 0.236mg 0.183mg Walnut
Phenylalanine 0.711mg 0.426mg Walnut
Valine 0.753mg 0.411mg Walnut
Histidine 0.391mg 0.262mg Walnut
Cholesterol 0mg 0mg
Trans Fat g g
Saturated Fat 6.126g 6.18g Walnut
Monounsaturated Fat 8.933g 40.801g Pecan
Polyunsaturated fat 47.174g 21.614g Walnut

Which food is preferable for your diet?

ok
ok
is better in case of low diet
Walnut Pecan
Low Fats diet ok
Low Carbs diet ok
Low Calories diet ok
Low glycemic index diet ok

People also compare

Vitamin and Mineral Summary Scores

The summary score is calculated by summing up the daily values contained in 300 grams of the product. Obviously the more the food fulfills human daily needs, the more the summary score is.
Vitamin Summary Score
33
Walnut
31
Pecan
Mineral Summary Score
131
Walnut
110
Pecan

Macronutrients Comparison

Macronutrient comparison charts compare the amount of protein, total fats, and total carbohydrates in 300 grams of the food. The displayed values show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of food.
Protein
91%
Walnut
55%
Pecan
Carbohydrates
14%
Walnut
14%
Pecan
Fats
301%
Walnut
332%
Pecan

Comparison summary

Which food is lower in Sugar?
Walnut
Walnut is lower in Sugar (difference - 1.36g)
Which food is lower in Saturated Fat?
Walnut
Walnut is lower in Saturated Fat (difference - 0.053999999999999g)
Which food is lower in glycemic index?
Walnut
Walnut is lower in glycemic index (difference - 10)
Which food is richer in minerals?
Walnut
Walnut is relatively richer in minerals
Which food contains less Sodium?
Pecan
Pecan contains less Sodium (difference - 2mg)
Which food is cheaper?
Pecan
Pecan is cheaper (difference - $2)
Which food contains less Cholesterol?
?
The foods are relatively equal in Cholesterol (0 mg)
Which food is richer in vitamins?
?
It cannot be stated which food is richer in vitamins. See the charts below for detailed information. See the charts below for detailed information. See the charts below for detailed information.

References

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.

  1. Walnut - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170187/nutrients
  2. Pecan - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170182/nutrients

All the Daily Values are presented for males aged 31-50, for 2000 calorie diets.

Data provided by FoodStruct.com should be considered and used as information only. Please consult your physician before beginning any diet.