Pecans rank number two only behind the “nut” one might readily guess to be the favorite - peanuts. States boasting the highest pecan production flow through a vertical, south-central cross section, including North and South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California.
But while America enjoys the distinction of being the original pecan tree source, this chewy, buttery nut has never reached the elevated status of other foods native to this continent. Only Israel, New South Wales, Australia, and Nata, South Africa have sizeable growing operations.
Throughout millennia, pecans were an important staple in the Native American food supply. The Native Americans are the ones who taught early colonists how to harvest, utilize, and store pecans as an essential source of nourishment through harsh winters.
Health Benefits of Pecans
Offering unique and amazing benefits to the human diet, pecans are in the top 15 foods known for their antioxidant activity, according to the USDA. One of those antioxidants is vitamin E, which scientists say may convey neurological and cell protection. The vitamin E in pecans may also play a role in coronary heart disease prevention because it keeps blood lipids from oxidizing in your body, which can be equated with rusting.
Another phytochemical contributing to its antioxidant activity is ellagic acid, which helps keep several carcinogenic properties from proliferating. Betacarotenes, lutein, and zeaxanthin in pecans also help rid your body of harmful free radicals, protecting it from disease, cancer, and infection.
Pecans are also chock-full of minerals. Manganese, of which pecans offer a whopping 245% of the daily value per serving, is very good for your heart. Pecans contain 65% of the daily value for copper, critical for energy production in your cells, and 33% each in magnesium (helping to maintain a healthy immune system, nerve function, heart rhythm, and muscle and bone strength) and zinc (for optimal immune function, protein synthesis, DNA synthesis, cell division, and wound healing). The phosphorus, iron, calcium, and selenium content in pecans hold their own as nutritional assets.
On the same scale, one serving of pecans offers a 48% daily value of thiamin (which helps cells convert carbohydrates into energy and aids in heart, muscle, and nervous system function), 42% of the daily value in fiber, and 20% of protein in one serving. Of the 78 grams of total fat, 7 are saturated. Pecans are packed with fatty acids like oleic acid that your body needs, which is great for weight control. Plant sterols in pecans offer further cholesterol-lowering ability.
Pecan Nutrition Facts
Serving Size: 3.5 ounces (100 grams)
|Calories from Fat
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie
Studies Done on Pecans
Pecans, noted by scientists as being rich in monounsaturated fats, are recommended as a cholesterol-lowering food that can have cardiovascular disease-lowering effects, and can be eaten without increasing body weight.1
Another study reported that eating a handful of pecans every day can help protect your nervous system by delaying age-related motor neuron degeneration, including ALS (amyotropic lateral sclerosis) and Lou Gehrig's disease.1
How to Toast Pecans
The recipe above is a great way to incorporate pecans in a recipe, but did you know that they make a delicious snack by themselves? Simply toast the pecans to give them a more intense flavor and an extra crunch. If you do not know how to toast pecans, here are two methods you can try:
- Toast them in the oven: Place the pecans in a baking sheet, cover with coconut oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake in a preheated oven (350 degrees Fahrenheit) for five minutes, stirring them occasionally. Watch them carefully, as they can easily burn.
- Toast the pecans in a pan: In an iron skillet, melt some coconut oil, which will prevent the nuts from sticking. Add the pecans and lower to medium heat. Use a spoon to stir the pecans to ensure that they are toasted evenly. Once you smell a nutty, toasting smell, it means the pecans are ready.
A handful of toasted pecans makes a great snack, or can be added to salads and other recipes. Just be careful to keep an eye on them while toasting them, as they can dry out or burn quickly.
Pecan Healthy Recipes:
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pecans
|2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
||1 cup pecans, roughly chopped
||2 tablespoons olive oil
||2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
||Kosher salt and black pepper
- Heat oven to 400° F. On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss Brussels sprouts, pecans, oil, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Turn the Brussels sprouts cut-side down.
- Roast for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until the Brussels sprouts are golden and tender.
(From My Recipes)
Pecans Fun Facts
Being thoroughly American in heritage, pecans were honored by having April declared National Pecan Month. Especially loved by Texans – since there are more than 70 million wild pecan trees there – the pecan was officially designated the state tree by the Texas Legislature in 1919.
Native to the Americas, pecans offer a unique combination of attributes to the diet unlike any other food. The minerals alone are impressive: 245% of the daily value per serving of manganese, as well as copper, magnesium, and zinc. Very high in fiber that keeps your digestive system well-regulated, pecans offer extraordinary antioxidant power. Phytochemicals like vitamin E, betacarotenes, lutein, and zeaxanthin neutralize free radicals and protect your body from infections and diseases, including cancer.
Being a delicious, protein-rich food, it doesn't take much to incorporate pecans into your diet. Delicious in the shell, straight from the tree, or already hulled for your convenience, pecans are a wonderful addition to a plethora of delicious and nutritious dishes.