Most nuts are low in carbs and high in fat, aka keto-friendly. But not all nuts are like this. Chestnuts, for example, are mostly starch and sugar and have very little fat.; their unusual-for-a-nut macros are why you won’t find them in any keto recipes.
But what about walnuts? Are walnuts keto-friendly?
In short, yes. And in fact, these are one of the healthiest keto nuts out there — and it’s not just because of their favorable carb count. Walnuts are also unique in their fat composition and have advantages over other nuts in terms of taste, price, and nutrition. To learn more about walnuts, keep reading.
What Are Walnuts?
Walnuts are those mildly sweet and earthy nuts shaped (somewhat) like little brains. Botanically speaking, they are the edible seeds of the walnut tree. While there are over 50 different species of walnuts, only two varieties make up most of the world’s walnut production: the English walnut and the black walnut.
The English walnut, also called Persian walnut, is native to Iran. But because English merchants were the first to introduce walnuts to the globe, the name stuck. This variety is milder in taste and aroma than the black walnut, which is native to the United States.
For example, walnuts are not as expensive as macadamias or cashews, and their costs fall in the middle range for a nut. They have a sweet and earthy flavor that complements savory dishes as well as sweets. In addition, they are nutritionally unique with many health benefits (more on that later).
Are Walnuts Good for the Keto Diet?
Are walnuts OK on keto? Absolutely! An average 1-oz serving, which is about 14 walnut halves, has only 1.9 g of net carbs . The same serving also has a generous 18.5 g fat and 4.3 g protein. In other words, their macros ratio is keto-compliant. Besides their near-perfect macronutrient composition, walnuts can also enrich your keto diet with the following:
- 185 calories
- 1.9 g dietary fiber
- 0.1 mg thiamin (6% DV)
- 0.2 mg B2 (8% DV)
- 27.7 mcg folate (7% DV)
- 44.6 mg magnesium (11% DV)
- 0.9 mg zinc (6% DV)
Another great thing about walnuts is their uniquely high omega-3 fatty acid content. A 1-oz serving has 2.5 g of this nutrient, which is well above the 1.1 to 1.6 g daily intake recommended by the Institute of Medicine . Omega-3 fats are anti-inflammatory fats that are important for brain health.
Which Has Fewer Carbs, Pecans, or Walnuts?
Pecans have 1.22 g of net carbs in a 1-oz serving compared to the 1.9 g found in walnuts [3, 1]. So pecans take the lead in terms of the carb count. Since carbs can quickly add up if you’re not careful, choosing pecans over walnuts in some instances is a good idea.
Other than that, pecans have more fiber and monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) than walnuts. Both are important for metabolic health , with fiber helping lower glucose release and MUFAs being easily oxidized instead of stored as fat.
On the other hand, walnuts are rich in omega-3 fats, protein, and most micronutrients. So, which one you should choose boils down to needs and preferences.
How Many Walnuts Are OK on Keto?
Say your daily net carb limit is 50g. In that case, you could eat 100 g of walnuts (around 50 halves) a day and still not be anywhere near your carb limit. This amount has just over 6 g of net carbs.
However, that same amount has over 65 g of fat and 650 calories. Keto dieters still often aim for a calorie limit, typically around 2000 calories per day. And to stay within their limit, a fat intake of up to 130g per day is ideal. Eating too many calories or fat from walnuts or other nuts can make it harder to maintain a balanced keto diet.
So, how many walnuts are OK on keto? Stick to one or two 1-oz serving so you can have more room in your diet for a wide range of other ingredients.
Walnut Recipes (Sweet)
Walnuts are a frequent ingredient in desserts. Their sweet and nutty flavor enriches everything from cakes and muffins to baklava and stuffed apples. If you’re a big fan of the walnut flavor, here are a couple of keto desserts that feature walnuts:
Besides using walnut halves in keto desserts, you can also find unsweetened walnut milk, butter, or walnut flour in stores. Although, these are less popular than other nut products on the market, even among keto eaters.
Walnuts and keto go hand in hand. Not only are walnuts OK on keto thanks to their low carb count, but they are also a unique source of healthy omega-3 fats and protein. You can use walnuts for keto recipes in many ways, but they are prevalent in desserts.
While pecans — another popular and strikingly similar nut — have fewer carbs than walnuts, walnuts are still higher in protein and essential omega-3 fats. They are also more concentrated in crucial vitamins and minerals. So when choosing which nuts to add to your low-carb diet, walnuts are perfectly OK.
- United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service. FoodData Central. Nuts, walnuts, english. April 2019. - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170187/nutrients
- Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary reference intakes for energy, carbohydrate, fiber, fat, fatty acids, cholesterol, protein, and amino acids (macronutrients). Washington, DC: National Academy Press; 2005. https://www.nap.edu/catalog/10490/dietary-reference-intakes-for-energy-carbohydrate-fiber-fat-fatty-acids-cholesterol-protein-and-amino-acids
- United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service. FoodData Central. Nuts, pecans. April 2019. - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170182/nutrients
- Chen Y, Michalak M, Agellon LB. Importance of Nutrients and Nutrient Metabolism on Human Health. Yale J Biol Med. 2018;91(2):95-103. Published 2018 Jun 28. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6020734/