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Pecan: A Nutty Can Full of Nutrients

Pecan is a nut produced by hickory trees native to North America and has a sweet, nutty, buttery flavour. Most of the pecan crop in the U.S. comes from New Mexico, Texas, and Georgia. The world’s largest pecan production is done in Mexico, followed by U.S. Wild pecans are a major food source for North American people.  

Pecans have a mild floral and forestry aroma. The outer part of the nut is slightly bitter, and the inner part is sweet, buttery, and almost fatty. The texture of pecan is firm yet light and pleasantly crunchy, with rich oils in it. The nut can be crumbled like a cookie and tastes like cookies or candy. It can be eaten fresh, roasted, or included in various recipes, especially desserts. 

Pecan is rich in vitamins and minerals and contains nutrients such as fibre, copper, thiamine and zinc. Due to its rich nutrient profile, pecan offers several health benefits. For example, it is good for heart health, brain function and blood sugar regulation.

Pecans vs Walnuts

Pecan nuts are more delicate than walnuts and taste sweeter than walnuts, whereas walnuts are slightly bitter. Pecans are smoother and straighter, while walnuts have a more curly structure. The shells of both are pretty different. Pecan shells are soft, thinner and medium to dark brown, with an oblong shape which makes them easier to crack. Walnut shells are more bulbous, with outer ridges, and their colour is light to medium brown. Walnuts can substitute pecans in many instances.

Nutritional Properties of Pecan

Pecan is rich in vitamins and minerals like iron, calcium, potassium, zinc etc. Pecan also contains high amounts of fibre. The calcium in pecans promotes strong bones, and iron is vital for forming red blood cells and transporting oxygen into the body. Vitamins in pecans help the body convert food into energy, improve immunity and keep the brain and heart functioning properly. 

As per USDA, 100 grams of pecan servings contains:

Calories: 691 kcalCarbohydrates: 13.9 gFat: 72 gProtein: 9.17 gFibre: 9.6 g

Vitamins and Minerals

Pecan also contains a fair amount of vitamins and minerals.

Potassium: 410 mgCalcium: 70 mgIron: 2.53 mgPhosphorus: 277 mgMagnesium: 121 mgZinc: 4.53 mgManganese: 4.5 mgSelenium: 3.8 ugFluoride: 10 ugNiacin: 1.17 mgFolate: 22 ugVitamin K: 3.5 ug

Nutritional Properties 

Pecans have a diverse nutritional profile that provides a variety of health benefits. Pecans are generally cholesterol-free, sodium-free, and low in carbohydrates. Pecan is high in calories, providing relatively high energy than other nuts.

Pecans have a high-fat content, primarily monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. That makes them one of the healthiest nuts. Monounsaturated fat consumption can help lower unhealthy LDL cholesterol levels, reducing the risk of stroke or heart attack. 

Pecans have a low glycemic index, which doesn’t cause blood sugar to surge, even in people with diabetes.

Zinc is necessary for immunological function, cell proliferation, cognitive function, and wound healing, among other things. Calcium, magnesium, and potassium are all rich in pecans, which can help lower blood pressure. In addition, pecans are high in magnesium, an anti-inflammatory that lowers inflammation in arterial walls, reducing the risk of arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular disease, and other inflammatory diseases.

Pecans also contain omega-3 fatty acids, which can help reduce inflammation and relieve arthritic symptoms. Pecans also include vitamins A, E, and zinc, which assist in strengthening the immune system, preventing skin disorders, and healing damaged cells. These nuts are also high in folates, which help in boosting metabolism.

Pecans are rich in antioxidants and are exceptionally high in proanthocyanidins, flavonoids, phenols and phenolic acids. Antioxidants can help protect the body from the cell damage that causes cognitive diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and cancers. Vitamin A and E are antioxidants that combat and destroy free radicals that cause premature skin ageing, preventing fine lines, wrinkles, and pigmentation.

The HealthifyMe Note

Pecan nuts are high in B-complex vitamins, which help the body’s metabolism. In addition, pecans are abundant in magnesium and omega-3 fatty acids, which assist in lowering inflammation and the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other inflammatory diseases. Furthermore, pecan nuts are a powerful antioxidant that helps protect and repair cell damage. Furthermore, pecan is also naturally low in carbs, sugar, and calories, making it a good choice for people seeking to reduce weight or follow a ketogenic diet.

Health Benefits of Pecan

Improves Heart Health 

Pecan is rich in potassium. Potassium regulates the muscle contraction in the heart, which results in smooth blood flow through the arteries. By doing so, potassium controls the heart rate and blood pressure. Studies show that a pecan-rich diet improves heart health by reducing cholesterol, and increased levels of bad cholesterol cause multiple cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks and strokes.

According to studies, dietary fibre reduces cholesterol levels. Fibre binds with cholesterol and takes it out of the body, lowering cholesterol levels, thus improving heart health.

Pecan nuts contain monounsaturated fats and phenolic antioxidants, which help reduce the risk of heart diseases. Adding pecan nuts to your regular diet will decrease bad LDL cholesterol levels and increase good cholesterol; thus, it prevents stroke and coronary artery disease.

Pecan Improves Digestion

Dietary fibre improves bowel movements. It increases the weight and size of the stool and makes it smooth by absorbing the water in the intestine. The bulky stool passes easily as compared to the loose, watery stools. Fibre-rich foods like pecan prevent constipation. 

Pecan consumption also improves gut health and regulates bowel movement. 

The good bacteria in the body require fuel to survive, and fibre provides food to the good bacteria. These bacteria further break down the fibre in small food chains, thus increasing the immune cell activity. Studies have suggested that dietary fibre in pecan also prevents infections and inflammation by improving immunity.

Helps with Weight Loss

Pecan can be used effectively in a weight loss diet plan. It is full of dietary fibre, which is essential for weight management. Studies say that pecan is helpful in obesity prevention. The fibre present in pecan increases satiety and reduces the urge to snack on unhealthy and fast foods. Therefore, it prevents unhealthy weight gain. 

Pecan is also rich in oleic acid. Scientific evidence suggests that a diet rich in oleic acid can reduce abdominal fat and central obesity.

Pecan is a dense source of proteins and vitamins. A study on rats examined Vitamin B’s role in weight loss management. Pecan contains complex groups of vitamins such as riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, pantothenic acid, and vitamin B-6, which along with folate, help in boosting metabolism. As per studies, proteins help increase satiety and promote weight loss. But one must consume high-protein foods in moderation since excessive intake may cause gastrointestinal discomfort, according to research.

Pecan is a rich source of iron, magnesium, manganese and selenium. Iron is necessary to function blood cells properly, and these nutrients are essential in transporting oxygen to all body organs, including the brain. Low iron levels can cause diseases like anaemia due to reduced oxygen supply to the brain. 

Studies have demonstrated that antioxidant nutrients such as manganese and selenium reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. That is because antioxidants reduce the oxidative damage caused by free radicals in the body and protect the brain cells and tissues from damage, slowing down disease development in the body.

Improves Bone Health

Pecan has a very high mineral content and consists of calcium, phosphorus, manganese, and magnesium. Research suggests that calcium and phosphorus increase bone strength. Calcium prevents fracture by increasing bone mineral density, preventing the risk of diseases like osteoporosis. Vitamin K in Pecan also reduces the risk of bone disorders.

Strengthens Immunity

Pecan is a rich source of antioxidants such as manganese, selenium and fibre, which boost immunity. Studies show that fibre promotes good gut health by destroying harmful bacteria. Pecan reduces inflammation within the body, improving the immune reaction to pathogens and helping destroy them. In addition, it regulates good bowel movements.

Pecan Prevents Skin Problems

Pecan is rich in vitamin E, vitamin A, zinc, folate and phosphorus, essential in maintaining good skin and hair. Scientific evidence suggests that vitamin A improves aged skin and protects it against infection. 

Vitamin A is responsible for photoprotection and wound healing, thus preventing skin inflammation and pigmentation. As per research, one can use it to treat mild to moderate acne effectively.

Studies also say that vitamin E protects the skin from various damage caused by solar radiation by acting as a free radical scavenger. It has also shown efficacy in treating skin melasma and several other skin conditions.

Stimulates Hair Growth and Prevents Hair Loss

Pecan is a rich source of amino acids such as L-arginine. Studies say that arginine prevents the undesirable attack by hydrogen peroxide in shampoo and hair colours on hair proteins and surface lipids. 

L-arginine helps increase the flexibility of the artery walls, thus improving the blood flow in our body and scalp. Therefore it promotes hair growth and prevents hair loss.

The HealthifyMe Note

Consumption of pecan nuts promotes satiety and metabolism, assisting in weight loss. Pecan nuts are also high in monounsaturated fats like oleic acid, which helps lower breast cancer risk. Pecan nuts also help lower LDL, or “bad cholesterol,” and raise HDL, or “good cholesterol,” which helps prevent stroke and heart disease. Furthermore, pecan nuts are also high in dietary fibre, which helps to maintain regular bowel movements and avoid constipation by cleansing the digestive system.

How to Cook with Pecans

One must shell pecans before using nutcrackers or buy already-shelled pecans. After removing their shells, pecans can be eaten raw or roasted, and these can be used in various recipes or eaten as a snack. You can eat shelled pecans raw or roasted as a snack or as an addition to a dish. These nuts are generally found in commercial nut mixes and trail mixes. You can also use chopped pecans in garnishing salads or added to pasta, gratins, vegetable dishes, soups, desserts, and other recipes. They pair well with fresh, cooked, or dried fruits such as apples and pears.

You can use whole, chopped, or ground pecans in baking recipes. Pecan halves can garnish the top of cookies, pies, and cakes as decoration. They’re also an excellent and healthy addition to ice cream, either mixed in them or as a garnish.

Healthy Recipes of Pecan

Salted Coconut-Caramel Energy Balls

Serves: 36 balls

Total: 30 mins

Cook: 15 mins

Ingredients

Pitted dates: 4 dozen(about 3 cups)Creamy sunflower seed butter: ¾ cupWarm water: 6 tbspKosher salt: 1 ½ tspVanilla extract: 1 ¼ tspOats: 2 cupsChopped toasted pecans: 6 tbspUnsweetened shredded coconut: ½ cup 

Method of Preparation

Add dates, sunflower seed butter, water, salt and vanilla in a blender and blend until it smoothens. Then transfer this mixture to a medium bowl and add oats and pecans. Stir them together.Place shredded coconut in a small bowl. Take a tablespoon of the date mixture and roll it into the shape of a ball. Coat the ball with coconut. Repeat the same method with the remaining balls.

Nutrition Facts per Serving (2 balls)

Calories: 65 kcalFats: 1.5 gProteins: 1.8 gCarbohydrates: 5 g

Apple-Cinnamon Overnight Oats

Serves: 1 serving

Total: 6 hrs

Cook: 10 mins

Ingredients

Oats: ½ cupUnsweetened almond milk: ½ cup Chia seeds (Optional): ½ tbspMaple syrup: 1 tspGround cinnamon: ¼ tspPinch of Salt: As per tasteDiced apple: ½ cupToasted pecans (Optional): 2 tbsp

Method of Preparation

Add and mix oats, almond milk, chia seeds, maple syrup, cinnamon and salt in a bowl or any container you have and stir them. Cover it and refrigerate it overnight.Before serving, add some apples and pecans to it.

Nutrition Facts per Serving (1½ cups)

Calories: 215 kcalProtein: 5.7 gCarbohydrates: 40.8 gDietary fibre: 6.3 g Fat: 4.4 gVitamin A: 284.5 IU Vitamin C: 2.8 mg Folate: 21.4 mcg Calcium: 262 mg Iron 1.8 mg Magnesium: 44.8 mg Potassium: 248.9 mg Sodium: 231.8 mg 

Storage and Food Safety

Pecans are rich in fats, which can become rancid if stored in a warm place, under bright light or exposed to oxygen. After purchase, unshelled pecans can be stored in a cool, dry place for about six months without compromising quality. One should store shelled pecans in the refrigerator or freezer and an air-tight vessel.

Keep shelled pecans in their original packaging, a sealed bag or a watertight plastic vessel. Store the nuts in your refrigerator for about six months. 

Precautions and Certain Things to Keep in Mind

Allergies

Pecan contains a chemical known as histamine, which can cause allergic reactions. The immune system also reacts to the protein present in pecan, which causes some allergic reactions such as swelling of the throat and tongue, shortness of breath, dizziness, vomiting, hives and many more. People with any nut allergy should avoid pecans.

Carcinogenic

According to a study, aflatoxins may contaminate nuts. Aflatoxins are carcinogenic and may cause liver cancer in Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) patients.

Conclusion

Pecan is highly nutritious and helps in meeting your standard dietary requirements. Pecan is rich in vital vitamins and minerals like potassium, manganese, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus and has reasonable amounts of protein and fibre. High protein and fibre content make pecan a go-to option for diabetic patients and people who want to lose weight. 

Pecan has many other health benefits like improving heart, immunity, brain functioning, etc., and it is also good for skin and hair health. Pecans are versatile with their health benefits and flavour profile; they use them to make innovative dishes or be consumed raw. If you have a history of nut allergies like allergies to tree nuts, peanuts, almonds etc., then you should avoid pecan.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q. How many pecans should you eat a day?

A. The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend 30g of nuts daily. However, one should consume pecans moderately as it may lead to weight gain and cause allergic reactions. It would be best if you consumed a maximum of 15 pecans daily for its health benefits.  

Q. Which is healthier, walnut or pecan?

A. Scientist says that walnuts are the healthiest nut among all. Walnuts contain the highest level of antioxidants compared to other nuts, which are known to protect the body against many diseases. In addition, walnuts are a better source of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B, and iron than any other nut. They also have 1 gram more protein than pecan. Therefore, walnuts are more healthy than pecan.

Q. Is Pecan good for weight loss?

A. Pecan is good for weight loss when consumed in moderation. The dietary fibre in pecan prevents obesity by making digestion easy and fast. Pecans are also full of proteins, which increase satiety and reduce hunger. Also, the vitamins present in pecan boost metabolism, thus regulating bowel movement. 

Q. Is it okay to eat pecans every day?

A. Yes, it is okay to eat pecans every day. Pecans are rich in protein and fibre, which promote a healthy gut. They also have a low glycemic index and are suitable for patients with diabetes. Research also suggests that daily pecan consumption doesn’t result in significant weight gain. However, excess of anything is bad, so one should consume it in appropriate amounts.

Q. Do pecans raise blood pressure?

A. Pecan contains nutrients like calcium, magnesium, and potassium, which help regulate blood pressure. Also, the fats in pecan are monounsaturated fats, which are healthy for the heart and help lower blood pressure. Pecans also contain high levels of vitamin E, which is good for cardiovascular health.

Q. Does pecan have Omega 3?

A. Yes, pecans are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. It improves brain, eyesight and heart health, among other health benefits. It is also beneficial for stress, depression, ADHD, Alzheimer’s and other conditions affecting the brain, nervous system or mental health. In addition, omega-3 fatty acids regulate blood pressure, reduce triglycerides, and slow down plaque development in arteries. Thus it decreases the risk of heart attack and strokes.

Q. Are pecans good for your liver?

A. Pecan contains monounsaturated fatty acids, which are good for liver health. Also, the vitamin E present in pecan protects the body from liver diseases. But one should consume them in a moderate amount. According to a study, pecan shell extract prevents treating liver damage induced by ethanol effectively.

Q. Are pecans brain food?

A. Pecans contain omega-3 fatty acids, which improve brain function, benefit the limbic system, and enhance the ability to recall and balance emotions. It increases brain capacity and decreases the risk of chronic neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.

Q. What are the side effects of eating pecans?

A. Pecan does not have many side effects but can cause some allergic effects such as vomiting, swelling of the throat and tongue, and dizziness. Additionally, people with nut allergies like allergies to almonds, peanuts, tree nuts etc., should avoid consuming pecans.

Q. Are pecans good for hair growth?

A. Yes, pecans are good for hair growth. Pecan is a rich source of amino acids that prevent hair damage caused by hydrogen peroxide in shampoo and hair colours. Furthermore, the vitamin E present in pecan promotes healthy skin, including the scalp. In addition, the amino acids present in pecans regulate blood flow on the scalp, thus promoting hair growth.

Q. Do pecans make you poop?

A. Pecan doesn’t make you poop instantly. But, they can help treat constipation. The high amount of dietary fibre in pecan helps regulate bowel movements, making the stools bulky by absorbing water from them and making them easier to pass.

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