Wondering what are the health benefits of Pecan? You landed on the right page then. But, before knowing what are they good for, let’s understand what are Pecans.
What are Pecans?
Pecans (pronounced as “pee-KAHN”) are a form of nuts that belong to the hickory family. These are native to the continent of North America and are abundantly found in Mexico as well as South-central and South-Eastern parts of North America. Pecans happen to be the largest trees of the hickory group.
The word “Pecan” comes from an Algonquin word which translates into “all nuts that need a stone to crack.” If we speak on a more botanical level, pecans are “drupes,” which means a single fruit covered by husk. (1) They resemble walnuts but are smoother and easier to extract in comparison, and are loaded with an abundance of health benefits.
Where are Pecans Found?
Pecans were a major part of the Native American culture as they were consumed in winters and in some instances, used with monetary importance. The United States of America produces approximately 80-95% of the world’s pecans. A major portion (about one-third) of the pecans produced in America comes from the state of Georgia. The cultivation saw a rapid increase between years 1910 and 1925. But it was the year 1950 that saw the commercialization of the pecan industry in America. (2)
Pecans grow on deciduous trees and particularly in regions where the climate is moist, and the average rainfall surpasses the 30-inch mark. Some of these areas exist in the states of New Mexico, Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, Florida and Texas. These trees are very large, some even exceeding 70 feet in height and 6 feet in diameter. A typical pecan tree has a spread of 12-23 meters. The pecan tree leaves occur in an odd pinnate.
Some Other Pecan Tree Facts
- They can live as much as 300 years! (3)
- Due to their incredible size, pecan trees come in the list of largest fruit-bearing trees.
- In the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, the torch handles were made using pecan tree wood.
- The wood is also extensively used for baseball bats, hammers, furniture, floor panels and also used to kindle fires.
- Third American President, Thomas Jefferson, was also fascinated by these trees and had them imported for his own fruit gardens.
- Two Apollo space missions also saw pecans carried into space. (4)
- About a million acres in the state of Texas are planted with Pecan trees. This pecan plantation happened the natural way. Meaning that the seeds were either buried by small animals like squirrels, or they were covered with soil during floods. (5)
- They also happen to be the state trees of Texas. In fact, in Texas, there exists “Pecan Plantation” located about 36 miles South-West of Granbury. This is a recognized demography with a population of 5,294. It is a residential community.
But the real question is, are pecans good for you? If yes, then in what ways are they helpful? Read on further to know the amazing health benefits of pecans.
Beauty and Health Benefits of Pecans
1. They Are Good For The Heart.
Pecans are an abundant source of oleic acid, which is a kind of unsaturated fat. Other good sources of oleic acid are olives and olive oil. Where saturated fats are solid in normal temperatures and can be major contributors to heart diseases, unsaturated fats are in a liquid state and can be beneficial to a person’s cardiovascular health. So, several health institutes around the world suggest to replace saturated fats with unsaturated fats as that results in the reduction in the amount of blood cholesterol. (6) They have also been proven to reduce the risk of heart related diseases in women by a whopping 60%. Isn’t that reason enough to include pecans in your daily nutrition?
2. Low On Bad Cholesterol
Cholesterol is not necessarily unhealthy. Our body requires it in the form of fat. It is transported in our body using a certain kind of protein, called the lipoprotein. LDL (Low Density Lipoprotein) cholesterol or “bad cholesterol” is another factor responsible for cardiovascular diseases in people. This bad cholesterol accumulates in the blood vessels, becoming the cause of blocking, which, in turn, increases the chances of a person getting a heart attack or stroke. A reduction of LDL cholesterol is recommended for people bordering on obesity too.(7) HDL (high density lipoprotein) cholesterol or the “good cholesterol” abolishes this so-called bad cholesterol from the body, thus reducing cardiac risks. It was seen in a research that a regular intake of pecans for about eight weeks reduced LDL cholesterol amount in the participants significantly by about 6%. Calories in pecans are a little high in comparison to other nuts, hence they should be used in modest amounts. (8)
3. Reduced Risk of Cancer and Cardiovascular Diseases
Pecans are an abundant source of various nutrients, especially fibers, Vitamin E, Copper and Magnesium. In one ounce (28 grams), there are about 3 grams of fibers in pecans. They are also a rich source of antioxidants. It is essential to understand that these nutrients help in reducing the risk of cancer and cardiovascular diseases in humans. Oxidants produced by the body while digesting food are toxic in nature. A diet rich in antioxidants rids the body of all the harmful products during oxidation of food. (9)
4. Helpful In Reducing Blood Pressure
Pecans are very helpful in weight reduction and keeping low cholesterol. Thus, they are extremely helpful in reducing one’s blood pressure. The NIH (National Institute of Health) in USA suggests people with high blood pressure problems to introduce nuts into their daily dietary plans, alongside healthy body weight and essential body movements. (10)
5. Managing And Preventing Diabetes
Pecans’ nutrition table suggests that they contain less carbohydrates, and this has very little impact on a person’s blood-sugar levels. A continued and modest use of pecans can prevent, reduce chances or help manage diabetes in a person. Again, it should be kept in mind that alongside this, a maintained body weight, continual use of prescribed medicines and regular physical movement is a must to help keep diabetes in check. (11)
6. Help In Prevention Of Metabolic Syndrome
Metabolic syndrome is becoming a major issue in the modern world as the percentage of patients with diabetes and heart diseases is climbing everyday. Some scientists suggest that consuming nuts like pecans, in quantities around 1.5 ounces (42 grams) per day, can reduce the risk of heart diseases, thus preventing metabolic syndrome. (12)
7. Improves Skin Complexion
A healthy skin is a sign of a healthy body. In other words, the health of your inner body clearly reflects on the outside on your skin. Due to various processes and habits of a person, the body produces a number of different toxins. If these toxins are not removed in time, they may cause disruption of various important bodily functions and produce surplus oil. Most of the portion of a human cell membrane is made up of fatty acids. Acids like Omega 3 and 6 help the skin to hold moisture inside. Pecans are a rich source of Omega 3 and 6. (13)
8. It Is An Anti-Inflammatory Food
Inflammatory diseases are caused when the immune system attacks the body’s own tissues by reacting as if the normal ones are infected. This is usually triggered by the increase of toxins in the body. To reduce these toxins or oxidants, it is advised to consume anti-inflammatory foods rich in magnesium. Pecans are an excellent source of magnesium and Omega 3 fats, which are good anti-inflammatory agents.
9. Extensive Anti-Aging Properties
Premature aging is one of the major health problems in today’s world. A large chunk of the population is falling prey to the condition of aging way before their time. One way to prevent aging is by eating healthy and including as much as anti-aging nutrients in your food as possible. One such element is flavonoid. A lack of flavonoids can cause the human to age abruptly and abnormally. It has been proven that proper intake of flavonoids increases the odds of healthy aging, especially in women. Pecans happen to be a rich source of flavonoids and can be wonderfully useful in fighting abnormal aging. (15, 16, 17)
10. Prevents Hair Loss
Hair loss is another curse that looms over the new generation as early as in their early 20s. Bald patches, light hair, pattern hair loss, lost of strength from the roots, gray hair are all indicators that you need to take intense care of your hair, otherwise, you will have to say goodbye to them fairly early in your life. A research proved that usage of zinc serums and consuming zinc rich food can help prevent hair loss. As it so happens, pecans are a good natural source of zinc and are many times recommended for prevention of hair loss. (18, 19)
11. They Can Treat Depression
The word depression has a habit of perking up ears as soon as it is uttered. Depression is slowly becoming the cancer of our society as it is taking more and more individuals in its grabs. The worst part is that there is no certain age at which a person can be diagnosed with depression. Some studies have proven that the substance Tryptophan can help reduce the effects of depression in a person. Scientists found out that pecans are a rich source of Tryptophans and can be used as a way to alleviate depression. (20, 21, 22)
12. Prevention Of Breast Cancer
The most dangerous and widespread form of cancer that is related to hormones in females is the breast cancer. It is very hard to detect in the correct time and can leave a person almost hopeless towards life, if contacted. The number of females suffering from it has been rising exponentially. Ellagitannins are chemicals that have been proven to be very effective in fighting and preventing various cancers, including breast cancer. Pecans have been clinically tested and proven to contain an impressive amount of Ellagitannins. (23, 24)
13. Aids In Weight Reduction
Obesity is an ever increasing problem. Just like depression, there is no specific age at which a person grows overweight. What is more disturbing is that children are becoming more prone to being overweight than adults. The major reason for that is the forever-depleting standards of eating habits and loss of important physical movement. Pecans have been proven by several studies to aid in the process of weight loss. Regular inclusion of a limited amount of pecans in the daily diet for a period may be of great help to those who are looking to lose weight. (25)
[ Read: Health Benefits of Kefir ]
Some Recipes To Be Made Using Pecans
So now that we have established how healthy and important pecans can be in our daily lives, we need to learn how to introduce these small packages of energy. Here a few easy, do-it-yourself home recipes that can be made with pecans. Be sure to try a few of these.
1. Cinnamon Sugared Pecans
Imagine munching on these tasty nuts glazed in cinnamon and garnished with small crystals of sugar. It all sounds mouth-watering and health packed, all in something as small as a pecan.
- 1 egg white
- 4 cups or about a pound of Texan pecans
- One-fourth cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon of cinnamon
- Begin by preheating the oven up to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Gently, add the egg white to the Texan pecans in a bigger mixing bowl, moving them with a light hand until the nuts are all glazed with the egg’s white.
- Stir cinnamon and sugar thoroughly in a separate smaller bowl.
- Dust this mixture onto the pecans adding the sugar in phases instead of putting them all in at the same time. Do not forget to stir every time you add the sugar.
- Place the nuts on an aluminum foil covering the baking sheet.
- Without changing the side, bake them for 30 minutes.
- After removing this delicacy from the oven, allow it to cool thoroughly for a while. After this, it is advised to store them in an air-tight container.
Recipe Source: Aggie Horticulture
2. Chocolate Chip Pecan Raw Ice Cream
We know what you must be thinking. Pecan Ice cream? Won’t that be the best way to beat the summer and still keeping it all the way healthy? Well, the answer is absolutely yes!
Oh! And what delicious beauty will it be to throw in a small amount of chocolate chips on top of it! Everyone is in for a treat today, right? Here’s how to make it at home for all the ice cream lovers around you.
- 2 cups of chopped pecans
- 2 packs of instant pudding mix in vanilla flavor
- 3 tablespoons of melted butter
- Two and a half cups of sugar
- 3 cans of milk powder
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
- 8 cups of milk
- Chocolate chips, as per need.
- Put in butter in a pan and sauté the chopped pecans with constant stirring for about 5 minutes. Or wait till they are toasted properly.
- Keep this aside and let cool.
- Blend the remaining ingredients and mix them thoroughly.
- Pour this mixture into a freezing cannister and freeze for about 10 minutes or until the ice cream starts to thicken.
- Take off the lid and add the sautéed pecans to this mixture.
- Replace the lid on the canister and freeze until the ice cream becomes firm according to your need.
- Leave the ice cream to ripen for about an hour. Enjoy after sprinkling chocolate chips.
Recipe Source: The Taar Heel Kitchen
3. Maple Pecan Popcorn
What can be better for a movie night with your friends than popcorn, right? So how about entertainment, sweetness, and health at the same time? Although it might seem impossible, but yes, it can be done. You can make these delectable looking and tasty maple pecan popcorns in your own kitchen. Here’s all that you will need.
- 1 cup pecans (98 grams), chopped and toasted
- Approximately 8 cups of usual popcorn
- 3/4th stick of unsalted butter
- One and a half cups of maple syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt
- Special equipment: A candy thermometer
- Throw in the pecans and popcorn in a large bowl.
- Cover with foil a big and shallow baking pan.
- Very lightly, oil a wooden spoon.
- In a saucepan of capacity 1 to 2 liter, melt the unsalted butter, using medium heat. Add to butter the syrup and salt.
- Boil this mixture with no stirring for 15-20 minutes until the thermometer shows 300°F on thermometer.
- Pour this syrup over the pecans and popcorn, stirring swiftly with the oiled spoon so as to coat the popcorns.
- Spread the prepared popcorns promptly onto the baking pan. Let it cool completely. Break the larger chunks into small pieces of the size of a bite.
Recipe Source: Solardecathlon
4. Chocolate Pecan Pound Cake
A pound cake normally is prepared by taking a pound each of flour, butter, eggs, and sugar. But any cake that uses these four ingredients in any equal measures is also called a pound cake, for it produces the same result. The chocolate pecan pound cake is velvety and rich, and is the explosion of savory taste as well as a healthy replacement for the regular chocolate cake. You will require the following.
- 3 cups of butter
- 2 spoons of baking powder
- 3 cups shortening.
- A cup of cocoa powder
- 2 cups of sugar
- 3 cups buttermilk
- 7 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
- 3 cups of all purpose flour
- 2 cups of pecans (chopped)
- Start with preheating the oven to 325 degrees.
- Take a tube pan, preferably a 10 inch one, and grease it, followed by flouring.
- Mix and stir the sugar, butter, and shortening till you get a fluffy mixture.
- One at a time, add the eggs into this mixture, whipping after every egg.
- Keep aside 2 tablespoons of flour for dusting the pecans.
- Tip in the remaining baking powder, flour, and cocoa powder, and stir it into the batter alternating the buttermilk, starting and finishing with the mixture.
- Pour the vanilla extract and mix.
- Add the pecans after dusting them with the flour.
- With the help of a spoon, pour the cake batter into the ready pan. Bake for an hour and 30 minutes.
- Let the cake cool for 10 minutes before taking it out of the pan. Before you glaze the cake, let it cool further. Enjoy!
Recipe Source: Project Muse
[ Read: Health Benefits of Pu-erh Tea ]
5. Banana Pecan Pancakes
Around the world, pancakes are undoubtedly the favorite breakfast snack. Anywhere you go, you will find lovers of pancakes grabbing any chance they get to have some pancakes. Mix with that the wholesomeness of pecans, and the refreshing twist of bananas, and ladies and gentlemen, we have the banana pecan pancakes. Here’s a list of what you will need.
- One and a third cup of gluten-free flour
- Quarter cup of sugar, granulated
- 2 tablespoons baking powder
- Half tablespoon of baking soda
- Half tablespoon of ground cinnamon
- Fresh nutmeg, grated
- Quarter teaspoon of salt
- 1 cup low-fat milk
- 1 cup low-fat, gluten-free yogurt (plain or vanilla flavored)
- 3 tablespoons of melted unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 yolks of large eggs, beaten lightly
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 egg (large) whites
- Third of a cup of mashed bananas (very ripe)
- Half a cup of toasted pecans
- Maple syrup (pure)
- Preheat a griddle.
- Take a large bowl and mix the flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in it.
- In a different bowl, whip together milk, butter, yogurt, vanilla, vegetable oil and egg yolks. Pour in mashed bananas and stir along.
- Carefully mix the dry and wet ingredients, and stir till they are blended into each other.
- Whip egg whites to the point where they become stiff. Put this into the batter and fold it.
- For a normal sized pancake, measure about a third of a cup and pour on the griddle.
- As soon as the edges of the cake start to dry, flip it. Now cook the underside till it is browned.
- When pancakes are ready, serve them with pure maple syrup and grated, toasted pecans.
Recipe Source: NMSU
6. Pecan Pie
Nothing can be better tasting as well as extremely beneficial for health at the same time than a homemade pecan pie. The states of Texas and Oklahoma have both dubbed it as their state dessert. As it also happens, the pecan pie is pretty easy to bake if you have all the ingredients, which you need to make it, readily available.
- 3 eggs, slightly beaten
- Half a cup of brown or white sugar
- One-fourth teaspoon salt
- 1 cup light corn syrup
- Half a teaspoon vanilla
- 1 cup pecans, broken in pieces
- Start by heating the oven to 450 degrees.
- Spread any normal pastry over a 9-inch pan. This will serve as the base of the pie.
- Mix and pour all the wet and dry constituents into the pan and onto the pastry.
- Bake it for 10 minutes.
- Afterwards, reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake for another 35 minutes.
- This is followed by cooling the pie. When the pie is ready to be served, spread half a cup of whipped heavy cream and finish by garnishing with Pecan halves.
Recipe Source: The Fannie Framer Cookbook
Important Things To Keep In Mind For Storage Of Pecans
After purchasing, unshelled pecans can be kept in a dry, cool place for 12 months without losing their freshness. Shelled pecans should be stored within air-tight containers in the refrigerator or the freezer where they will stay fresh from nine to twenty-four months. Frozen Pecans can be thawed and frozen again multiple times with no fear of losing freshness. Shelled pecans should not be kept at room temperature for more than two months. They should certainly not be stored without air-tight containers.
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