Pecans have a very pleasant, rich, buttery flavour. That’s why there are so many praline candy lovers: pecans are a major ingredient of that sweet treat. But it’s not the only reason to include pecans in your daily menu. They have so many health benefits that it takes several pages to write about those nuts. But don’t worry; we’ve made it a 5-minute read.
Pecans Nutritional Value
Pecans are a powerhouse of vitamins and minerals, offering numerous wonderful health benefits. They are a rich source of vitamin B1, thiamine (57% DV), dietary fiber (38% DV), manganese (214% DV), magnesium (34% DV), phosphorus (40% DV), and zinc (48% DV). Pecans are also a good source (10-19% DV) of protein and iron. Also, pecans are naturally cholesterol-free and gluten-free.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Percent Daily Value (%DV) is a guide to the nutrients in one serving of food. For example, 40% for protein means that one serving provides 40% of the protein you need each day. It helps you make informed food choices. DVs are based on a 2,000-calorie diet for healthy adults.
7 Science-Based Health Benefits of Pecans
There are very many reasons to eat pecans by the handful. They are good for everything from your heart to your waistline. Go nuts, seriously!
- Health benefits of pecan’s fat
Pecan nuts contain monounsaturated fatty acids, mainly oleic acid (57% of total fat), and the polyunsaturated fatty acid, linoleic acid (30% of total fat). These fatty acids help reduce the risk of heart disease. According to the National Pecan Shellers Association, adding a handful of pecan nuts in your diet helps decrease LDL i.e. “bad” cholesterol and increase HDL i.e. “good” cholesterol, which in turn prevent stroke and coronary artery disease.
- Pecans improve digestion
Pecan nuts are fiber-packed: 10 grams per 100 grams of nuts, which is 40% of Daily Value (DV). Due to that fact pecans facilitate regular bowel movements, prevent constipation and reduce the risk of haemorrhoids. On the other hand, eating too many pecans can cause digestive problems.
- Pecans might reduce the risk of cancer
Pecan nuts might protect from cancer due to the high content of ellagic acid. Ellagic acid is a naturally occurring substance. According to the paper “Biological Function of Ellagic Acid: A Review” published in the “Journal of Food Biochemistry,” the highest levels of ellagic acid are found in walnuts, pecans, cranberries, raspberries, strawberries, and grapes, as well as distilled beverages.
Some publications in respectable scientific magazines about ellagic acid suggest that it has antiproliferative properties. (An antiproliferative substance is a substance used to prevent or retard the spread of cells, especially malignant cells, into surrounding tissues.) This effect of ellagic acid was found in a number of in vitro and small-animal models. The antiproliferative properties of ellagic acid may be due to its ability to directly inhibit the DNA binding of certain carcinogens.
- Pecans are good for people with diabetes
frequently recommend nuts, including pecans, for people with insulin resistance such as Type 2 diabetes. It is because nuts have a very low glycemic index (GI) due to their high unsaturated fat and protein content and relatively low carbohydrate content.
The glycemic index represents the rise in a person’s blood sugar level two hours after consumption of the food. The GI is a number associated with the carbohydrates in a particular type of food that indicates the effect of these carbohydrates on a person’s blood glucose (blood sugar) level.
- Foods with carbohydrates that break down quickly during digestion and release glucose rapidly into the bloodstream tend to have a high GI
- Foods with carbohydrates that break down more slowly, releasing glucose more gradually into the bloodstream, tend to have a low GI. A lower glycemic response usually equates to a lower insulin demand and can improve long-term blood glucose control and blood lipids.
Like other nuts and seeds, pecans contain very small amounts of carbohydrates. The glycemic index for all nuts and seeds is very low (typically between 0-20).
- Pecans are rich in vitamin B1, thiamine
Pecan nuts are very rich in thiamine. One serving of pecans contains about 57% of your Daily Value (DV) for vitamin B1. Vitamin B1 is very beneficial for your overall health. It is involved in many biochemical reactions in the body. Thiamine is needed for the metabolism of sugars and amino acids. As people are unable to make it, thiamine is an essential nutrient. All organisms use vitamin B1, but it is made only in bacteria, fungi, and plants. Humans must obtain it from their diet. Nuts, particularly pecans are one of the best sources of B1. Thiamine’s phosphate derivatives are involved in many cellular processes. Vitamin B1 is on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines, the most effective and safe medicines needed in a health system.
- Pecans are rich in manganese to maintain metabolism
Manganese is an important element for human health, essential for development, metabolism, and the antioxidant system. The classes of enzymes that have manganese cofactors are large and diverse.
- Zinc in pecans is a natural Viagra and a precursor of “happy” hormones
Pecans are the second best nuts (after cashews) that are particularly rich in zinc. Zinc is required for the function of over 300 enzymes. It is the second most abundant trace metal in humans after iron and it is the only metal which appears in all enzyme classes. In the body, the highest contents of zinc are found in the brain, muscle, bones, kidney, and liver, with the highest concentrations in the prostate and parts of the eye. Semen is particularly rich in zinc, a key factor in prostate gland function and reproductive organ growth. Zinc is responsible for the hormones of happiness and many other biochemical reactions of vital importance.
Are pecans good for weight loss?
It’s a good idea to include pecans in your weight loss diet. Due to high content of dietary fiber, pecans enhance satiety making you feel full while eating only a small amount of nuts.
How many pecans can you eat per day?
Following the one ounce (28g or a handful) of nuts per day rule, 15 pecan halves are just enough.
How to eat pecans?
Pecans can be enjoyed in many different ways, fresh or cooked, particularly in sweet desserts. They are perfect for topping everything from salads to yogurts! One of the most common sweet treats with the pecan as a central ingredient is the pecan pie, a traditional American and Canadian dish. Pecans are also a major ingredient in praline candy. However, to take all advantages of pecan nuts that they can offer, you have to eat them raw.
Surprising facts about pecans
- A pecan is not truly a nut, but is technically a drupe, a fruit with a single stone or pit, surrounded by a husk.
- Although wild pecans were well known among native and colonial Americans as a delicacy, the commercial growing of pecans in the United States started in the 1880s. It makes pecan one of the most recently domesticated major crops.
- The United States and Mexico are major pecan producers (similar in volume), together accounting for 93% of global production.
- Pecan trees are native to the United States. Thomas Jefferson planted pecan trees in his orchard at his home, Monticello, in Virginia. George Washington reported in his journal that Thomas Jefferson gave him “Illinois nuts”, pecans, which Washington then grew at Mount Vernon, his Virginia home.
- In 1919, the 36th Texas Legislature made the pecan tree the state tree of Texas where the town of San Saba claims to be “The Pecan Capital of the World”.