Native to North America from Mexico to Canada, pecans are one edible nut that can truly do it all. Whether you're candying them, turning them into Cinnamon Whiskey Pecan Pie, or making Candied Pecan Bourbon, the fruit of the hickory tree is incredibly versatile, and as it turns out, incredibly good for you. Wait, did you catch that? There are so many health benefits of pecans!
What is a Pecan?
Not technically part of the tree nut family, the pecan is a drupe, defined as a fruit with a single stone or pit surrounded by the husk. They're defined as a fruit because they have a pit, like peaches and nectarines, while nuts contain only a hard shell and a seed. Those pecan shells you crack open while picking pecans in your hometown are the husks, and the pecan itself is in fact the soft fruit.
Pecans are one of the most popular nut varieties, often used as a snack or in recipes that can be delectably savory or sweet. These popular fruits are used in a number of cuisines, and are tasty in so much more than just pecan pie. Pecans are beloved for their sweet flavor and slightly chewy texture, which is what makes them perfect for savory and sweet dishes.
Because of this subtle sweetness, pecans can be enjoyed as a topping on pie or sweet potatoes, or they can add crunch to a stir fry or salad. They're dryer and sweeter than walnuts but have a similar appearance and can be a great substitute for when you're in a bind. There are 500 different varieties of pecans, each of which is slightly different in taste and appearance, which is just another aspect of these fruits that makes them so versatile.
So now that we've classified the tricky tree nuts correctly, in what ways do pecans help your body naturally? Let's just say there's a reason they're the state tree of Texas. These heart-healthy pecan nuts are part of a healthy diet. Don't believe us yet? Check out 10 reasons why pecans are so great for you.
10 Health Benefits of Pecans
1. Pecans provide more than 19 vitamins and minerals.
The humble pecan is packed full of incredible nutritional gains including, but not limited to: vitamin A, vitamin B, vitamin E, folic acid, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, thiamin, and zinc.
And that's not all, an ounce of pecans (about a handful of pecans) provides about 10 percent of your Daily Recommended fiber intake. They're sodium-free naturally and contain natural protein to keep your body alert and moving.
2. Pecans promote heart health.
Because pecans have high-fat content like avocados and olive oil, they promote stable heart health through unsaturated fats, decreasing the risk of heart disease. The little brown tree nuts pack about 60 percent monounsaturated fats. Of the remaining 40 percent, pecans contain 30 percent polyunsaturated fats, with about 10 percent or less of saturated fats.
Diets high in monounsaturated fats, like the Mediterranean diet, consider pecans an integral part of daily nutrition as they can significantly reduce blood pressure across the board. They're also proven to decrease coronary heart disease, coronary artery disease, and other cardiac-related deaths, especially those linked to cardiovascular disease.
3. Pecans maintain high energy and promote effective weight loss.
Linked to the above nutrition layout, the fatty acids and healthy fats supplied by pecans, especially manganese, are vital to weight loss. These healthy fats signal to the grehlin hormone that the body is full and satisfied. The nuts also produce oleic acid, which lowers blood pressure and provides energy through monounsaturated fats.
Copper is also found in pecans, and a fast metabolic system requires copper in 50 different ways to create ATP, also known as adenosine triphosphate. Thiamine, also found in pecans, boosts APT production, too.
4. Pecans pack high antioxidant levels.
A rich source of antioxidants, pecan halves prevent oxidative stress or an imbalance between free radicals in the body and their harmful effects. Oxidative stress becomes a factor in developing cancer and diseases such as Alzheimer's disease, heart failure, Chronic fatigue syndrome, and depression.
Researchers, in a study from Loma Linda University in California, pointed to pecans as vital in the body's health because the fruit acutely increased antioxidants in the bloodstream within 24 hours of consuming the pecan tree nuts.
5. Pecans reduce inflammation.
Inflammation is received positively in the body in small amounts because it is part of our natural defense system as the body works to repair damaged cells, from oxidative stress or otherwise. Most cell mutations come from chronic inflammation, however, so pecans role in reducing inflammation is vital to your health.
Not only are they generally a good addition to any diet, they especially help those who suffer from mild to severe arthritis. Increase your nut consumption for a happier body.
6. Pecans lower cholesterol.
Because they are high in fiber and unsaturated fats, pecans reduce LDL cholesterol levels while raising HDL cholesterol levels. Ultimately, pecans lower the bad and raise the good, so how can you truly go wrong with these health benefits of pecans?
7. Pecans can reduce the symptoms of PMS.
In the same way, manganese promotes energy, it can also ease the effects of mood swings and cramps when taken with calcium during PMS. The dietary fiber also promotes healthy digestion, an essential body function during PMS, so hey, spoon up some pecan ice cream the next time you're feeling low.
8. Pecans are linked to breast cancer and osteoporosis prevention.
Oleic acid, found in abundance in pecans, has been found to reduce the risk of breast cancer.
Because pecans are high in phosphorous, the nuts effectively reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis, especially in women. Dedicated to healthy bones and teeth, phosphorus, in particular, maintains your body's waste system, reinforces your bones, and can prevent muscle pain and cramping from exercise.
9. Pecans improve brain function.
Thiamine and copper found in pecans work together to stop free radical damage in the brain and can delay the rapid onset of Parkinson's disease. Manganese also stabilizes the brain's synaptic process. Mood swings, learning disabilities, and epilepsy are affected by low manganese levels, making pecans crazy good brain food. When it comes to the health benefits of pecans, this one is key!
10. Pecans contribute to your overall glowing appearance.
Not only do pecans do wonders for your complexion with all those antioxidants, but they also prevent anemia. Caused by an iron deficiency in the blood, anemia can be remedied by increasing foods high in iron and pecans are just that.
Additionally, they also provide L-arginine, an amino acid that can encourage the growth of healthy hair and also treat male pattern baldness by promoting blood flow to the head.
This post was originally published on March 28, 2022.
READ MORE: Pecan Pie Moonshine Recipe
Enjoy Country Music?
Sign up for daily stories delivered straight to your inbox.