Posted on Apr 06, 2021, 5 p.m.
Almonds and walnuts are among the most popular types of nuts, they are full of vitamins and minerals making great snacks and they are interchangeable in a variety of recipes. But have you ever wondered if one is better than the other?
Both of these heart-healthy nuts have similar nutritional profiles with almonds providing more mineral content and walnuts providing more omega-3 fatty acids:
According to the USDA, one ounce of almonds contains 170 calories, 15 grams of fat, 6 grams of protein and carbs, 3 grams of fiber, 45% of the daily recommended value for vitamin E, 11% of the DRV for phosphorus, and 19% for magnesium. The USDA says that one ounce of walnuts contains 185 calories, 18.5 grams of fat, 4.3 grams of protein, 4 grams of carbs, 2 grams of fiber, 1.3% of the DRV for vitamin E, 8% for phosphorus, and 11% for magnesium.
Both of these nutrient-dense nutty buddies are also great sources of calcium and potassium non-sodium minerals that studies suggest help to dampen the effects of high sodium intake on blood pressure. Both of these nuts have also been associated with beneficial effects on weight loss, blood sugar control, and brain/heart health.
When it comes to omega-3 fatty acids, specifically ALA, walnuts do have the higher content, they actually are the go-to nut for ALA content. ALA is an essential fatty acid that one must obtain from food because the body can’t make it, and it is linked to reduced inflammation as well as improved heart and brain health.
Typically nuts are restricted when it comes to weight loss because of fat/calorie content, but recent studies suggest that they may actually help to reduce body weight, especially almonds. When almonds were included in a weight loss diet some studies show that those who are almonds tended to lose more weight, especially around the waistline which is associated with the loss of visceral fat that may increase the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. It is thought that almond fat, protein, and fiber content may be helping to increase feelings of fullness leading to less hunger, as well as the unsaturated fat content having high rates of oxidation specifically helping to reduce visceral fat. Almonds are also linked to the incomplete absorption of energy, due to their cell walls preventing the release of fats so the body is not able to absorb all of their calories. When it comes to weight loss it seems that almonds have the edge, as the studies of the effects of walnuts on weight loss are limited with mixed results.
Both of these nuts are heart smart, supporting heart health, and may help to reduce the risk factors for heart disease. Walnuts rich ALA, polyphenols, and phytosterol content playing different roles in reducing total and LDL cholesterol as well as blood pressure are a boon to health. ALA has a vasodilatory effect helping to expand blood vessels leading to reduced blood pressure while ellagitannins help to reduce blood vessels’ inflammation and LDL cholesterol and phytosterols interfere with cholesterol absorption in the intestine and also help to lower total and LDL cholesterol levels. Almonds are rich in antioxidants, flavonoids, vitamin E, and unsaturated fatty acids that contribute to lowering triglycerides, total cholesterol, and LDL cholesterol levels.
Walnuts appear to have the edge when it comes to brain health which is attributed once more to their ALA and antioxidant content helping to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress-induced damage to the brain that could lead to age-related decline in brain function. Studies suggest that those with higher walnut intake regardless of age, gender or ethnicity have faster reaction times and better memory; and animal studies suggest that walnuts may help to improve memory performance. While animal studies suggest that almonds may help to improve memory retention and human studies have mixed results but most often show no improvements in mental processing.
Almonds appear to have the lead when it comes to managing blood sugar levels which is essential for those with diabetes. Their fat, protein, and fiber content are suggested to help improve blood sugar levels by slowing the stomach’s emptying speed and lowering the glycemic index of a meal which could lead to an increase in blood sugar levels. The flavonoid content in almonds may also help to control blood sugar levels by helping to inhibit amylase enzymes that increase starches’ conversion rate into sugar. While with the exception of a single study, recent studies conclude that although walnuts contain relatively similar amounts of fats, protein and fiber their intake did not lead to significant changes in fasting blood sugar levels.
It is worth noting that both nuts also share potential downsides such as the potential for allergic reaction and antinutrient content. Nut allergies affect less than an estimated 2% of the American population which can range from mild to severe, with more people being allergic to walnuts and almond allergy being fairly rare. Both nuts contain phytic acid which is considered to be an antinutrient because it binds to minerals and inhibits their absorption. Also, both nuts can have a negative effect on body weight, especially if eaten in excess.
Both of these nuts carry numerous beneficial health-promoting effects that have been scientifically proven to be health boons, especially for the heart, making it very difficult to pick a clear winner as to which is better. But it might be safe to say that for optimal brain health walnuts appear to be better, and for optimal weight loss and blood sugar control almonds appear to be the better option. Basically, they are both excellent choices, you could even pair them up and make them nutty snack buddies to cover all the bases.
As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before making any changes to your wellness routine.
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