Do you like to bake? What about healthy snacks? If so, you might have tried eating and using pecans and walnuts.
Stay tuned to find out what pecans and walnuts are and how they are different. You will be surprised at all the new facts you will learn regarding these nuts.
What Is A Pecan?
The pecan is a hickory tree native to Mexico and the southern states of the United States. It is primarily found in Texas, Arkansas, Kansas, New Mexico, and Georgia. The seed of the tree is the edible nut that you know as pecan.
Cultivated pecans are relatively recent, but this nut was common among Native Americans for many years. Although it is a seed, the pecan is widely known as a nut. The flavor is buttery, rich, and sweet.
Pecans are a good source of fat, protein, and some carbohydrate. They provide a valuable amount of dietary fiber as well, which can be good for your gut. Furthermore, this nut contains tons of monounsaturated fatty acids, especially oleic acid, also called omega-9 fatty acid.
This food became popular in Europe in the 16th century, when Spanish conquistadores came in contact with pecans in Louisiana, Texas, and Mexico. Spaniards first named the nut “wrinkle nut,” because of its appearance.
You can now find all sorts of pecan products, including pecan butter, pecan extract, and candies. You can also use pecans in a variety of dishes, such as pie, cookies, salads, and ice cream. Pecans are part of nut mixes and trail mixes everywhere, so they are considered an energizing snack.
Although it is not the healthiest nut, it remains a good source of nutrients, and you can have a handful a day. Next time you make a salad, pie, or want a quick snack, choose this nut. Be careful with choosing candied pecans, which only add more sugar to your diet.
One cup of unsalted pecans (100 g) has the following nutritional content (*):
- 697 calories
- 8.9 g protein
- 72.8 g fat
- 13.4 g carbohydrate
- 9.3 g fiber
- 3.85 g sugar
- 68 mg calcium
- 2.46 mg iron
- 117 mg magnesium
- 269 mg phosphorus
- 398 mg potassium
- 0 mg sodium
- 22.2 g polyunsaturated fatty acids
- 0 mg cholesterol
Are Pecans Healthy?
In a nutshell (no pun intended), yes, pecan is very healthy! For the most part, they contain monounsaturated fatty acids as well as some protein and carbohydrates. You should be careful with buying salted or flavored pecans, as these have more sodium and sugar.
As you can see above, pecans contain large amounts of magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. These are minerals involved in important bodily functions, including muscle contraction, nerve connections, heart rhythm, and bone density. You can safely eat pecans and obtain a good chunk of the daily value (DV) of these nutrients.
Like other nuts, pecans are a valuable source of monounsaturated fatty acids. These are essential fatty acids that you must obtain through the diet. They are also much healthier than saturated and trans fats, but pecans mostly have omega-9 fatty acids, which are not the best.
On the other hand, you can also snack on pecans and get full quickly. They contain a good amount of fiber, which helps keep your bowel movements regular, binds to blood cholesterol, and slows down sugar absorption. Having a handful of pecans can be a great choice for diabetics and others that need to watch their sugar or weight.
Because they are mostly made up of fats, you should be careful with the portion size when it comes to pecans. For the most part, 15 pecan pieces are enough for a snack, which equals about one ounce. In most cases, individuals tend to overdo it and get more than this amount, which only leads to excess calories and fat.
Since pecans are naturally sweet and creamy, you can use them as a replacement for butter or sugar. Try adding pecans to smoothies, desserts, and even salad dressings. Pecan butter is not highly nutritious but it saves you calories and saturated fat.
If you have a nut tree allergy, pecans are out of the question for you. It is best to stay away from other tree nuts, including walnuts, almonds, cashews, and more. Be sure to also check for any product indications that nuts are processed in the same facility, as this can cause cross-contamination.
When you are looking for a quick and healthy treat, pecans can be the right option. Be mindful of your portion size and pre-package your pecans, so you can avoid overdoing it. When you choose packaged pecans, be careful with added sodium and flavorings too.
What Is A Walnut?
Although many believe that walnuts are the same as pecan, it is not. The walnut is the edible seed of the Juglans tree. This seed grows in a shell that you should discard before eating it.
Walnuts ripen between September and November. You can find two major kinds, the Persian or English and the black walnut. The English walnut is from Iran, while the black walnut is from North America.
Although the black walnut has a strong flavor but has a harder shell, it is not commercially available everywhere. You can now find various variants of this walnut, including in California and Arizona. The majority of walnuts come from China, the United States, Iran, Turkey, and Mexico.
You can find walnuts shelled or de-shelled, but they are also available whole, halved, in pieces, or ground. These nuts can be eaten raw, toasted, or roasted. Like other nuts, walnuts have to be kept in dry storage as they are sensitive to mold growth.
These nuts are very popular in baking, and you can find them in recipes like walnut banana bread, walnut coffee cake, and cheesecake. You can also find them in savory recipes, including chicken, meatballs, and gravies. Walnut oil has also become popular because it has a unique sweet and smoky flavor, but it does not have a high smoke point.
Nocino liqueur is an alcoholic beverage made with unripe green walnuts soaked in alcohol with extra syrup. Like pecans, walnuts contain mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids, including omega 3. This nut is also a good source of dietary fiber, which is always good for you.
One cup of walnuts (120 g) has the following nutritional content (*):
- 785 calories
- 18.2 g protein
- 78.2 g fat
- 16.4 g carbohydrate
- 8.04 g fiber
- 3.13 g sugar
- 118 mg calcium
- 3.49 mg iron
- 190 mg magnesium
- 415 mg phosphorus
- 529 mg potassium
- 2.4 mg sodium
- 56.6 g polyunsaturated fatty acids
- 0 mg cholesterol
Are Walnuts Healthy?
Walnuts are very nutritious and healthy. If you are looking for a tasty snack that is also filling, this is the right choice. You can also get your daily dose of vitamins and minerals, fiber, and a bit of protein.
These nuts contain a high amount of omega-3 fatty acids. These essential fatty acids are the most anti-inflammatory and antioxidant of all of them. It also helps that walnuts contain vitamin E, which along with omega 3 can protect your body from heart disease and other illnesses.
Because walnuts are high in dietary fiber, you can also fill up on them and have a healthy snack. Fiber is also a great way to remove blood cholesterol from your body and reduce blood glucose spikes. Even more so, it keeps your bowel movements regular and your gut healthy.
Like pecans, walnuts can rack up calories and fat when you consume them in a large amount. You should stick to a serving size of about one ounce or 12 to 15 walnuts. Exceeding this amount will only lead to more calories and fat.
This type of nut also contains compounds called phytochemicals. These are antioxidant compounds that can help prevent oxidative stress at the cellular level and fight off inflammation. Furthermore, there is some evidence that walnuts contain melatonin, which can help your body sleep and relax more efficiently.
You will likely find walnuts mixed with other nuts in trail mix or mixed nut snacks. If that is the case, watch out for added sodium and flavorings. These can often make your walnuts less nutritious because of excess sodium, sugar, and fat.
One last thing to remember is that walnuts are high in phytic acid. This compound interacts with iron, zinc, and sometimes even calcium, preventing absorption. Consuming walnuts in moderation should not pose any issues, but going overboard can.
What Are The Key Differences Between Pecans and Walnuts?
The first key difference between pecans and walnuts is their origin. Pecans are originally from Mexico and South America, eventually reaching North America. Walnuts come from the Americas, but also Europe and Asia.
The trees that grow these two seeds might look similar, but they are not the same. A pecan tree can grow very tall, reaching up to 100 feet high. The walnut tree tends to be on the shorter side of 70 feet, sometimes reaching 80 feet.
In terms of flavor, both nuts do not taste the same. Pecans tend to be much sweeter and buttery. Walnuts have an earthy and almost smoky flavor.
Although you might only see a few species of these two nuts, there are various kinds. Pecans come in over 500 species, including Desirable pecans, Moreland pecans, and Pawnee pecans. There are around 21 species of walnuts in the world, but the most common is the Persian or English walnut and the black walnut.
The nutritional value of either nut is also a bit different. For the most part, pecans have a lower caloric content, but they contain mostly omega-9 fatty acids, which are not as desirable. Walnuts have a higher caloric content, but they offer a majority of omega-3 fatty acids that are much healthier.
You can also get a lot of fiber from both nuts, but the content differs slightly. Pecans contain about 9 grams of dietary fiber per cup. Walnuts have about 7 grams of dietary fiber per cup.
One final difference is the texture of these two seeds. Pecans are creamier and often used as nut butter. Walnuts tend to be less creamy and somewhat astringent, although they are also in desserts.
|South America and Mexico
|Americas, Asia, and Europe
|Sweet and creamy
|Earthy and smoky
|Desserts, sauces, salads, snack mixes, granola, and oil
|Desserts, salads, snack mixes, and granola
|Cost per 12 oz bag
|$7.99 to 14.50
|$5.99 to 17.99
|Calories per 1 oz
Are Pecans or Walnuts Healthier?
At first glance, these two foods seem to be the same. However, when you take a closer look, you will see that they are not the same. Both nuts are very healthy, and you can consume them without any problems.
Pecans might seem healthier due to their lower caloric content and higher fiber. Nonetheless, walnuts contain more omega-3 fatty acids and other antioxidants, making them a superior choice. You can safely consume walnuts without missing out on any of the nutrients in pecans.
Be sure to stay on top of your health by eating the recommended serving size and not more. Choose unsalted and unflavored walnuts to avoid excess sodium and calories. You can choose pecans if walnuts are not available or not your favorite and still obtain good nutrients.
While they might look the same, pecans and walnuts are clearly different. You should choose one or the other depending on what you are looking for. These two nuts are tasty and nutritious in their own way.
*image by jirkaejc/depositphotos
*image by itor115.gmail.com/depositphotos