Pecans are one of the most popular edible nuts native to North America and Mexico. The pecan tree is a large deciduous tree belonging to the hickory family. A typical pecan has a buttery rich shell which is golden brown outside and beige inside. The kernel occupies 40% to 60% of the space inside the shell. This kernel has a grooved surface but is slightly more oval in shape. The pecan has a sweet, rich and buttery flavor and texture which can be attributed to its high levels of monounsaturated oils. Pecans have a fat content of over 70% which is the highest among all the nuts.
Their rich buttery flavor makes them suitable for both savory and sweet dishes. The famous “pecan pie” is a classic South American dish which uses pecan as a primary ingredient. Raw pecans can be salted or sweetened and make for a delicious snack. They can be sprinkled over desserts, particularly sundaes and ice creams. They are also widely used in confectionery as an addition to biscuits, sweets and cakes. Pecan nut butter is a popular spread for breads, toast etc.
Health Benefits of Pecans:
Like most other nuts, pecans contain various nutrients, minerals, antioxidants and vitamins that offer some wonderful health benefits.
1. Cardiovascular Health:
Pecans are rich in fiber which boosts the health of your heart by reducing the risk of coronary heart disease and preventing some forms of cancer. It also contains monounsaturated fats like oleic acid along with phenolic antioxidants that are healthy for your heart and help prevent coronary artery disease and strokes. As per research, pecans may help prevent coronary heart disease by inhibiting unwanted oxidation of blood lipids.
2. Digestive Health:
The fiber contained in pecans promotes colon health and facilitates regular bowel movements. It enables the colon to work at greater levels of efficiency by cleaning out the gastrointestinal system. Besides, it prevents constipation and reduces the risk of colitis, colon cancer and hemorrhoids.
3. Helps in Weight Loss:
Research has indicated that a diet comprising of nuts such as pecans helps in losing weight. This is because nut consumption enhances satiety and increases metabolism.
4. Reduces the Risk of Breast Cancer:
Pecans contain oleic acid, a fatty acid which has been found to reduce the risk of breast cancer.
5. Bone and Teeth Health:
Phosphorus is one of the most abundant minerals in the body after calcium. Nearly 85% of phosphorus is found in bones and teeth while the other 15% is found in cells and tissues. Besides cleansing the waste from the body, phosphorus, along with calcium, promotes the health of your bones and teeth. This mineral is also vital for the growth and repair of cells and tissues as well as production of DNA and RNA. Lastly, it prevents muscle pain that can occur due to exercising.
6. Anti-inflammatory Benefits:
Pecans are rich in magnesium which is known for its anti-inflammatory benefits. Studies have proved that increased magnesium intake reduces inflammatory indicators in the body such as CRP (C-reactive protein), TNF (tumor necrosis factor alpha) and IL6 (interlukin 6). It also reduces inflammation in the arterial walls, thus reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease and other inflammatory ailments.
7. Reduces Blood Pressure:
Magnesium in pecans has been shown to help lower blood pressure. Though pecans cannot cure hypertension, they do help lower it.
8. Reduces the Risk of Stroke:
Studies have proved that consuming 100 milligrams of magnesium per day reduces the risk of stroke by 9%. Pecan being a good source of magnesium can form part of your diet to reap this benefit.
9. Anti-cancer Properties:
Pecans are rich in phytochemical substances such as polyphenolic antioxidant ellagic acid, vitamin E, beta-carotene, lutein and zea-xanthin. These compounds play an important role in removing toxic oxygen-free radicals, thus protecting your body from diseases, cancer and infections. Ellagic acid possesses anti-proliferative properties which inhibit DNA binding of certain carcinogens such as nitrosamines and polycyclic hydrocarbons, thus protecting the human body from cancers.
10. Strengthens the Immune System:
Pecans are a rich source of manganese which is a powerful antioxidant. This trace mineral helps boost your immunity and protects your nerve cells from free-radical damage. Adequate intake of manganese is vital for nerve conduction and brain function.
Skin Benefits of Pecans:
Pecans, like most other nuts, are rich in nutrients like zinc, vitamin E, vitamin A, folate and phosphorus, which play an important role in maintaining good skin. The various benefits of pecans for skin are as follows:
11. Prevents Skin Problems:
The outside appearance of our skin depends upon how we treat it from the inside. Thus, adequate nutrition is inevitable for maintaining a healthy skin and preventing skin problems. The toxins inside your body can make your skin suffer by causing breakouts, dullness and excess oil. Pecans are a good source of fiber which can do wonders for your health and hence, for your skin. It aids in the elimination of toxins and waste from the body, thereby improving the appearance of your skin.
12. Helps Maintain Clear Complexion:
Pecans contain zinc which helps in maintaining skin health by guarding against infections. Vitamin A on the other hand is an antioxidant which gives you a clear complexion.
13. Anti-aging Benefits:
Pecans contain numerous antioxidants including ellagic acid, vitamin A and vitamin E. These antioxidants fight and eliminate the free radicals which are responsible for causing premature skin aging. Thus, pecans can prevent the occurrence of signs of aging such as fine lines, wrinkles and pigmentation.
Just like our skin, healthy hair is also a reflection of a healthy body. Thus, our hair follicles require adequate supply of vital nutrients to maintain their health and prevent hair problems. The nutritional value of pecans makes them beneficial for your hair.
14. Stimulates Hair Growth:
Pecans are an excellent source of L-arginine, an amino acid which, when applied topically helps treat male pattern baldness as well as encourage the growth of healthy hair. Vibrant blood flow throughout the body and to the hair roots is vital for healthy hair growth and scalp. L-arginine is beneficial in this regard as it improves the health of the artery walls by making them more flexible and less prone to blood clots which can block the flow of blood.
15. Prevents Hair Loss:
Anemia is one of the common causes of hair loss. It is caused by iron deficiency in the blood. Pecans, being a good source of iron, can be included in your diet to improve your blood iron levels and hence, combat hair loss.