Both walnut milk and almond milk have become popular plant-based milk alternatives. But which one is healthier? In this comprehensive comparison, we’ll examine the nutritional profiles, flavors, sustainability, and potential drawbacks of walnut milk versus almond milk to help you decide which option may be better for you.
Let’s start by looking at the basic nutritional profiles of walnut milk and almond milk.
|Walnut Milk (1 cup)
|Almond Milk (1 cup)
As you can see, almond milk is significantly lower in calories and fat compared to walnut milk. However, walnut milk contains slightly more protein. When it comes to micronutrients, almond milk is richer in calcium and vitamin D while being comparable to walnut milk in potassium.
Fatty Acid Composition
Beyond basic macros, the types of fats in these milks differ significantly.
Almond milk is low in saturated fat and primarily contains monounsaturated oleic acid. Oleic acid is linked to several health benefits including reduced inflammation and lower LDL “bad” cholesterol levels.
On the other hand, walnut milk is higher in polyunsaturated alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fat. Getting adequate omega-3 fats in your diet promotes heart health by improving blood pressure, triglycerides, and inflammation.
So while almond milk’s fats may help lower cholesterol, walnut milk provides essential omega-3s that are otherwise lacking in many people’s diets.
Vitamins and Minerals
In addition to healthy fats, walnuts contain a variety of vitamins and minerals:
- Manganese – plays a role in metabolism, bone health, and wound healing
- Copper – required for iron absorption and production of red blood cells
- Magnesium – involved in over 300 bodily processes including muscle and nerve function
- Phosphorus – supports bone health and cell repair
- Iron – needed to produce hemoglobin which transports oxygen in blood
- Zinc – boosts immune health and would healing
Therefore, walnut milk can provide a wider array of micronutrients than almond milk. However, some nutrients like calcium are added to commercial almond milks to boost their nutritional value.
Both walnuts and almonds contain various antioxidants that can help reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in the body.
Key antioxidants in walnuts include:
- Ellagic acid – has anti-cancer and brain protective effects
- Gallic acid – may lower heart disease risk
- Melatonin – involved in sleep regulation
Meanwhile, almonds are high in antioxidants like:
- Vitamin E – protects cell membranes from damage
- Quercetin – has anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties
- Kaempferol – may improve heart health and lower diabetes risk
So in terms of antioxidants, both nuts and their respective milks offer unique benefits.
Blood Sugar Impact
For people with diabetes or prediabetes, the effect of these milks on blood sugar levels is an important consideration.
Despite being higher in carbs than almond milk, walnut milk has a low glycemic index. The healthy fats and fiber in walnuts help slow the release of sugars into the bloodstream.
Additionally, studies show that eating walnuts can improve insulin sensitivity. This allows your body to better regulate blood sugar levels.
Almond milk is also low glycemic and may modestly assist glycemic control. However, walnut milk seems to have added advantages for blood sugar management.
Both almond and walnut milk may support heart health, but potentially through different mechanisms.
As mentioned earlier, the monounsaturated fats in almonds can help lower LDL and total cholesterol levels in people with elevated levels. This may reduce risk factors for heart disease.
On the other hand, walnuts improve heart health thanks to their omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, copper, antioxidants, and other nutrients. They’ve been shown to benefit blood pressure, arterial function, and other cardiovascular risk markers.
So while almond milk may help manage cholesterol, walnut milk provides a broader array of nutrients to support heart health.
Bone health depends on getting adequate calcium, vitamin D, phosphorus, and magnesium. These nutrients comprise the organic part of bone tissue and assist in mineralization.
Commercial almond milk is often fortified with calcium and vitamin D. In its natural form, almond milk contains only 1% of the Daily Value (DV) for calcium and minimal vitamin D.
Walnuts have a moderate amount of these bone-supporting nutrients. But on its own, walnut milk is not a great source of calcium or vitamin D.
For ideal bone health, choose fortified almond milk or pair walnut milk with other calcium and vitamin D foods like yogurt, cheese, leafy greens and fatty fish.
Observational studies show that people who eat nuts tend to have lower body weights. But is this true when comparing almond versus walnut milk specifically?
Almond milk is significantly lower in calories and fat compared to walnut milk. So for those limiting calories or fat intake, almond milk may be the better choice for weight management.
However, walnut milk provides more protein and fiber which can increase satiety. The polyunsaturated fats in walnuts may also slightly boost metabolism compared to almond milk’s monounsaturated fats.
Overall, almond milk would be the wiser choice if restricting overall calorie intake. But walnut milk may be more satiating.
Tree nut allergies are one of the most common food allergies. So those with nut allergies need to avoid both almond and walnut milks.
However, almond milk may be more allergenic compared to walnut milk. Almonds are typically grouped among the more allergenic tree nuts along with cashews and pistachios.
So for those without a diagnosed tree nut allergy, walnut milk may be less likely to cause an adverse reaction. But any individual with suspected nut sensitivities should exercise caution with both milks.
In terms of flavor, walnut milk has a richer, more robust taste compared to almond milk’s milder flavor.
Walnuts have a distinctive earthy, nutty flavor that comes through in walnut milk. The flavor is bolder and more polarizing than the light almond milk taste.
Almond milk offers versatile flavor pairing and works well in both sweet and savory applications. Walnut milk complements sweeter preparations best.
So for cooking and baking, almond milk may be the more flexible option. But walnut milk offers bolder nutrition and flavor if you enjoy its distinctive taste.
Almond milk is generally cheaper than walnut milk. Here are average prices for 32 oz cartons of each:
- Almond milk: $2.50 – $3.50
- Walnut milk: $4.50 – $6.50
The lower cost of almond milk makes it more budget-friendly. But remember walnut milk has more nutrition per calorie, so you may get what you pay for.
Sustainability is another factor to consider when choosing between these milks.
California produces 82% of the world’s almonds. The state’s frequent droughts make almond farming very water-intensive. It takes 15 gallons of water to produce just 16 almonds.
Meanwhile, walnuts require significantly less water. Each walnut only needs about 5 gallons of water to grow.
So from a water conservation perspective, walnut milk is more sustainable than almond milk.
However, almond trees absorb carbon dioxide as they grow. And parts of the almond that don’t end up in milk are used for livestock feed or fuel. So almond farming does provide some environmental benefits.
Overall, walnut milk has a slight sustainability advantage over almond milk. But sustainably sourced almonds can also be an eco-friendly choice.
To recap, here are some key points when comparing walnut milk and almond milk:
- Almond milk is lower in calories and fat compared to walnut milk.
- Walnuts provide omega-3 ALA fats while almonds have monounsaturated oleic acid.
- Walnuts offer more micronutrients like magnesium, phosphorus, and copper.
- Almond milk is higher in calcium and vitamin D, especially when fortified.
- Both contain unique antioxidant compounds.
- Walnuts appear to have more benefits for blood sugar control.
- Almond milk may help lower LDL cholesterol.
- For bone health, fortified almond milk provides more calcium and vitamin D.
- Almond milk is lower calorie so better for weight loss.
- Walnuts are likely less allergenic than almonds.
- Walnut milk has bolder flavor compared to almond milk.
- Almond milk is the more affordable option.
- Walnut milk has a lower water footprint.
In conclusion, both walnut and almond milk have unique nutritional profiles and health benefits. Walnut milk offers more vitamins, minerals and omega-3 fats. But almond milk is lower in calories and allergens. The optimal choice comes down to your specific dietary needs and preferences.
Those looking for more robust nutrition may prefer walnut milk. People watching calories or budget may opt for almond milk. Overall, both can be healthy options that provide plant-based protein and healthy fats.