All information is per data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Almonds are the highest in fiber of the three, and contain the most vitamin E, magnesium, and calcium per serving. You’ll also get a healthy dose of phosphorus and potassium — all nutrients that aid cell growth, energy production, and immune function, notes the Cleveland Clinic. Additionally, almonds contain antioxidants. A study in the January 2023 Frontiers in Nutrition even indicates that almonds may improve muscle recovery post–sweat session. Consider adding almonds to your next salad or enjoying almond butter in place of your usual nut butter.
At first glance, walnuts are lower in protein and fiber and higher in calories than the two other varieties, which may make them seem like a bad choice. But it’s their fat that makes walnuts a standout. You’ll find 2.57 grams (g) of omega-3 fats per 1 oz serving of walnuts, exceeding the minimum amount recommended by the National Institutes of Health.
In fact, walnuts are one of the best plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids, a nutrient that has been linked to heart and brain health, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
That fact may explain why research has found these nuts in particular to be so proficient at staving off cognitive decline, boosting mood, and protecting cardiovascular health. For instance, walnuts were found to improve brain health, possibly by decreasing inflammation and oxidative stress in the body, as a study published in Nutrients in February 2020 found. Another small study, published in the same journal in November 2022, noted that regular consumption of walnuts may decrease stress, improve mood, and boost gut microbiome diversity in women (there were not enough male participants to reach statistical significance). There’s also evidence that eating walnuts may help to lower bad LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and heart disease risk, as Harvard Health Publishing points out.
As a bonus, walnuts are the lowest in carbohydrates of these three types of nuts at only 2 g net carbohydrates (total carbs minus fiber) per serving. This makes them the best fit for those following the ketogenic diet. Try them in tacos, on salads, or in trail mix.
If you like to enjoy more than a handful, pistachios may be the pick for you. They’re lower in calories than almonds or walnuts, but still give you a decent serving, and if you shell them yourself, that’ll slow you down, which was shown in a study published in the February 2018 BMJ Open to aid weight loss. In comparison to other nuts, pistachios are lower in calories and fat and higher in heart-healthy unsaturated fats, potassium, and plant-based compounds that can improve overall health and decrease inflammation in the body, a previous review noted. Similarly, a study out of Cornell University found that pistachios were a higher source of antioxidants than blueberries, pomegranates, cherries, and beets. Some laboratory and animal studies have shown that antioxidants in the diet protect against the kind of free radical damage that is associated with cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute. Use pistachios to add a crunch to oatmeal, a salad, or tabbouleh.
Which Nut Is Healthiest?
No matter how you crack them, nuts are a healthy addition to any diet. As a concentrated source of healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, nuts have long been linked to a lower mortality risk, improved heart and brain health, and even a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. In short, nuts can have health benefits for anyone who does not suffer from a nut allergy. Still wondering what the best choice is?
It depends on your personal health goals. If your goal is to improve immune function or boost bone or digestive health, opt for almonds. Following the keto diet or hoping for better heart or brain health or a little mood boost? Walnuts should be your nut of choice. For those looking to lose weight or for the biggest antioxidant boost, reach for pistachios.
While each nut offers a slightly different nutritional profile, they are all healthy in their own way. As they say, variety is the spice of life, and by mixing things up in your nut routine, you’ll be getting the most nutritional bang for your bite and more of the benefits mentioned above!