Walnuts (Juglans regia) and almonds (Prunus dulcis) are two popular types of nuts that are packed with vitamins, minerals, and heart-healthy fats.

While they may be used interchangeably in multiple recipes, you may wonder whether one nut is better for you than the other.

This article compares walnuts and almonds, including their nutritional differences and similarities, to determine which is healthier.

Nutritional comparison

Walnuts and almonds have fairly similar nutritional profiles. Here’s a comparison of a 1-ounce (30-gram) serving of each (1, 2):

WalnutsAlmonds
Calories185170
Fat18.5 grams15 grams
Protein4.3 grams6 grams
Carbs4 grams6 grams
Fiber2 grams3 grams
Vitamin E1.3% of the Daily Value (DV)45% of the DV
Phosphorus8% of the DV11% of the DV
Magnesium11% of the DV19% of the DV

While their fat, carb, and protein contents vary slightly, almonds pack more minerals.

However, walnuts take the lead when it comes to omega-3 fatty acids, specifically alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). In fact, they’re the nut with the highest ALA content (1, 2, 3).

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 (3, 4, 5, 6, 7).

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 (3, 8).

Summary

Almonds and walnuts have similar nutritional profiles. However, almonds provide a higher mineral content while walnuts pack more omega-3 fatty acids.

Benefits comparison

Walnuts and almonds are nutrient-dense foods that have been associated with beneficial effects on weight loss, blood sugar control, and brain and heart health (9).

Still, in some cases, research may favor one over the other.

Best nut for weight loss

Overall, nuts are often restricted when it comes to weight loss because of their high fat content and calorie density. However, recent research suggests that they may help reduce body weight, especially when it comes to almonds (10, 11, 12).

Studies show that when almonds are included in weight loss diets, people tend to lose more weight, especially around the waistline — an effect that’s associated with the loss of visceral fat. This kind that may increase your risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes (13, 14, 15, 16).

Researchers believe that almonds’ high fat, protein, and fiber contents may increase feelings of fullness, which leads to reduced hunger (13, 14, 17).

Additionally, they’re high in unsaturated fats, which have high rates of fat oxidation, which specifically reduce visceral fat (13, 18, 19).

Lastly, almonds have also been linked to the incomplete absorption of energy, as their cell walls prevent the release of fats. As such, your body can’t absorb all of their calories (20).

As for walnuts, one study in 293 people reported greater weight loss when including 1 ounce (30 grams) of walnuts as part of a weight loss diet, compared with the control group (21).

Yet, studies on walnuts’ effect on weight loss are limited, and current research seems to be mixed. Thus, more research is still needed (22, 23).

Best nut for keto

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 (24).

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 (25).

That said, while a 1-ounce (30-gram) 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 — 2 grams versus 3 grams (1, 2).

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.

Best nut for heart health

When it comes to supporting heart health, both walnuts and almonds may help reduce heart disease risk factors.

On the one hand, walnuts contain high amounts of ALA, polyphenols (namely ellagitannins), and phytosterols, all of which play different roles in reducing total and LDL (bad) cholesterol, as well as blood pressure (3, 26, 27, 28, 29).

For example, ALA has a vasodilatory effect, which helps expand blood vessels, leading to reduced blood pressure. As for ellagitannins, they reportedly reduce blood vessel inflammation and LDL (bad) cholesterol (3, 28, 30, 31).

Additionally, phytosterols, which are plant sterols chemically related to cholesterol, interfere with cholesterol absorption in the intestine and help lower both total and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels (3, 26).

On the other hand, almonds are rich in antioxidants, such as flavonoids and vitamin E, as well as unsaturated fatty acids, which contribute to lowering triglyceride, total cholesterol, and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels (14, 32, 33, 34, 35).

For instance, one 12-week study in 20 people with type 2 diabetes who consumed 2 ounces (60 grams) of almonds per day showed a 6% and 12% reduction in total and LDL (bad) cholesterol, respectively, compared with the control group (36).

Similarly, another 4-week study in 20 healthy adults showed a 21% and 29% decrease in total and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, respectively, in those consuming roughly 3/4 cup (100 grams) of almonds per day (37).

Best nut for brain health

When it comes to brain health, walnuts are your best pick.

Once more, walnuts’ ALA and antioxidant contents help reduce inflammation- and oxidative-stress-induced damage to your brain, which would ultimately lead to an age-related decline in brain function (38).

One study in adults aged 20–59 reported faster reaction times and better memory in those with higher walnut intake regardless of age, gender, or ethnicity (39).

Additionally, studies in rats suggest that walnuts may help improve memory performance (40, 41).

As for almonds, while animal studies suggest that they may help improve memory retention, research in humans showed no improvements in mental processing (42, 43, 44).

Best nut for blood sugar control

Managing blood sugar levels is essential for people with diabetes, and in this case, almonds take the lead.

Studies suggest that almonds’ fat, protein, and fiber contents may help improve blood sugar levels by slowing the stomach’s emptying speed and lowering a meal’s glycemic index — the rate at which it may lead to a rise in blood sugar levels (32, 45, 46, 47).

Additionally, their flavonoid content may help control blood sugar levels by inhibiting amylase, an enzyme that increases starches’ conversion rate into sugar (32, 48).

While walnuts contain relatively similar amounts of fats, proteins, and fiber, recent research concluded that their intake doesn’t lead to significant changes in fasting blood sugar levels, with the exception of one study (49, 50, 51).

Summary

Both walnuts and almonds are keto-friendly and great nuts for heart health. When it comes to weight loss and blood sugar control, almonds are the winners, but walnuts take the lead regarding brain health.

Potential downsides

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 (26, 52).

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. (52, 53).

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% (54).

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 (55).

Summary

Both nuts may cause allergic reactions, but walnuts are generally more allergenic than almonds. Also, both nuts contain the antinutrient phytic acid.

The bottom line

Both walnuts and almonds offer numerous health-promoting effects, and adding them to your diet has been proven to be beneficial.

Therefore, choosing a clear winner among them may not be as clear cut as you imagined.

However, when looking for an optimal nut for weight loss and blood sugar control, almonds may be the best choice. In contrast, walnuts may be better for brain health.

If you’re following the keto diet or wondering which to choose for heart health, you may go with the one you enjoy the most.