Properties and Benefits of Pecan Nuts: The fruit of a widespread hickory tree, pecan nuts enjoy great popularity, especially in American cuisine. Native American were especially fond of this nut variety, which was an important part of their diet. Pecans, as some like to call them, are a rich source of essential nutrients required for staying in good health. They are mostly known for their high monounsaturated fatty acid content, an important factor for cardiovascular health.
However, pecan nuts boast a variety of health benefits which we will address in today’s article. What do pecan nuts look like? Pecans (Carya illinoinensis) are a variety of nuts similar in appearance to walnuts. They are covered in a bright-green outer shell which tends to fall off when the nut is ripe. Underneath it is a hard, elongated, smooth, brown shell which needs to be cracked in order to reach the delicious, golden-brown nutty flesh.
The nut-proper is oval, slightly more slender and finer than a walnut kernel. And here is an interesting fact: pecans are the symbolic tree of the state of Texas. As far as their nutritional value is concerned, pecans can be a great addition to any diet, provided the person consuming them does not have a nut allergy.
If you have never eaten nuts before or notice your body is sensitive to nuts, it is best to ask your doctor for an allergy test called ‘skin prick testing’. This simple test will reveal any potentially harmful allergies you might have to nuts, pollen, dust or other common allergens, which may be a life-saver.
If you are lucky enough to be in good health and can consume nuts, then you should definitely consider including them in your diet, no matter the variety: walnuts, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, chestnuts, almonds, pecans and so on. Pecan nuts for example are rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, a type of essential fatty acids with wonderful health benefits. A regular intake appears to efficiently lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and increase HDL (good) cholesterol levels, making pecans extremely heart-friendly.
In addition to this, they contain a variety of antioxidant substances such as ellagic acid, as well as impressive amounts of fiber: 9.6 g of fiber/100 g of kernels. Antioxidants protect our skin, brain, internal organs and blood vessels from oxidation caused by reactive oxygen molecules (a.k.a. free radicals).
Dietary fiber prevents too much cholesterol from being absorbed at the intestinal level. Because of their amazing fatty acid, antioxidant and fiber content, pecan nuts protect the heart and blood vessels, keeping them as healthy as can be.
Other important phytochemicals found in pecan nuts are vitamin E and special carotenoids with powerful antioxidant activity: beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin. Vitamin E has a protective effect on the lungs, while the above-mentioned carotenoids counteract free radical damage to our eyesight. Although they come in small amounts, lutein and zeaxanthin are especially healthy for the retina.
Also, ellagic acid, which is a natural phenolic compound, can inhibit certain carcinogens such as nitrosamines and polycyclic aromatic hyrocarbons from binding to our DNA and causing cell mutations leading to cancer.
Moreover, pecans boast a rich vitamin and mineral content. As you can see in the table above, 100 g of fresh kernels provides 163% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin E. This potent lipid-soluble antioxidant is required for maintaining the integrity of cell membranes, mucous membranes and skin. Also, pecan nuts offer a variety of B vitamins, the most notable of which are thiamine (or vitamin B1), pyridoxine, pantothenic acid, riboflavin and folic acid.
They boast a generous mineral content as well. For instance, 100 g of pecan kernels contains almost 200% or the RDI of manganese, a mineral with important antioxidant properties. Manganese also regulates thyroid gland function and activity. Pecans also provide impressive amounts of copper (133%), zinc (41%), phosphorus (40%), iron (32%) and magnesium (30%).
All things considered, pecan nuts are a healthy food choice. Only one handful of pecans every two days can ensure an adequate nutrient intake and help keep you in good health. Not only do they contribute to healthy skin and hair, but they also boast anti-aging effects, improve energy levels and bone health, regulate thyroid function and ensure cardiovascular health.