Of all the healthy nuts out there, my very favorite is one you don’t hear about much.
Walnuts have been popular and valued for their health benefits since ancient Roman times.
I ate red-shelled pistachios by the handful as a kid. Today, I know just how nutritious they are.
But what about my favorite? Where is it found? Let’s see…
Butter pecan ice cream… and of course, pecan pie.
Not such healthy choices.
But I’m still going to make my case for pecans…
Beyond pecan pie
The smooth, buttery flavor of pecans is truly unique. But it’s their health benefits you’ll really want to take note of.
Potassium, iron, phosphorous, zinc and magnesium are among the minerals you will find in pecans. A one-ounce serving has 17 percent of the daily recommended value of copper, a difficult mineral to come by.
And, that same one-ounce serving of pecans offers a whopping 63 percent of your daily dose of manganese. In combination with other minerals, manganese is essential for bone health.
Research also indicates that manganese plays a role in controlling blood sugar and may even protect the brain from free radical damage.
What pecans can do for you
There are several health conditions that you can improve by chomping on a few pecans. But how much should you eat?
Just like almonds or walnuts, a good recommendation is about an ounce a day — or about the amount that will fit in the palm of your hand.
Now, here’s how they can help…
1. Lower cholesterol. The monosaturated fats in pecans are the same found in olive oil. Studies have shown that eating whole pecans can lower the level of LDL (“bad” cholesterol) in the blood.
The Step 1 Diet is a set of guidelines once recommended by the American Heart Association to lower cholesterol and thus the risk of heart disease in otherwise healthy people.
In a study from the School of Public Health at Loma Linda University in California, subjects eating a pecan-enriched diet lowered their LDL cholesterol a full ten percent beyond those eating a Step 1 Diet.
2. Aid digestion. An ounce of pecans has 2.7g of fiber. Including this nut in your diet can contribute to good digestion and a healthy weight.
The fiber in pecans can help persons with diabetes improve blood sugar levels by slowing the absorption of sugar.
3. Reduce inflammation. Any food that can keep inflammation under control belongs in your toolbox. We know that chronic inflammation is the cause of all sorts of disease and dysfunction, including arthritis, cancer, and autoimmune diseases.
The plentiful amount of manganese in pecans provides an essential component for the production of an enzyme known as superoxide dismutase, which controls the free radical activity that causes inflammation.
4. Improve brain function. The minerals found in pecans help maintain and improve cognitive function.
Vitamin B1, or thiamine, helps your brain to use glucose. Memory problems and poor sleep are symptoms of a thiamine deficiency.
A thiamine deficiency known as Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome affects many people who abuse alcohol.
The copper in pecans helps stop free radical damage in the brain. It especially protects regions of the brain that produce the neurotransmitter dopamine. Lowered dopamine production is associated with the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
5. Skin care. The Vitamin A in pecans works as an antioxidant that protects your skin from premature aging. Zinc and Vitamin E help keep skin clear.
6. Strengthen bones. Manganese, copper, and zinc are used to slow bone loss and increase bone mass in women with osteoporosis.
How to enjoy pecans
You don’t have to resort to pulling the pecans out of your pecan pie to enjoy this delicious and healthful nut.
One of the most delicious ways to eat pecans is to roast them. It’s easy to do.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a 350° oven, spread the nuts and toast them for about five minutes. The key here is to watch them carefully since they are easily scorched. When you smell that aromatic pecan smell, they’re probably done.
Pecans add a delicious crunch to cereals, salads, and yogurt. And there’s nothing wrong with eating them raw, combined with berries or dried fruit.
Here’s a recipe you can try to get you started:
- A monounsaturated fatty acid-rich pecan-enriched diet favorably alters the serum lipid profile of healthy men and women — Journal of Nutrition
- Manganese supplementation protects against diet-induced diabetes in wild type mice by enhancing insulin secretion — Endocrinology
- Manganese Superoxide Dismutase: Guardian of the Powerhouse — International Journal of Molecular Sciences
- Microelements for bone boost: the last but not the least — Clinical Cases in mineral and bone metabolism