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The Incredible Health Benefits of Pecans

By Patty Weasler, RN

Pecans are a nut found native to Mexico and the southern United States. Their nutty flavor combined with their unique texture makes them a favorite for pies and snacks. But it’s not just their flavor that makes pecans a great food, the health benefits of pecans are really what stands them apart from the rest of the nut pack.

Raw, unsalted pecans can provide your body with plenty of nutrients crucial for your heart, immune system, brain, and more. The nutrients are also helpful in preventing disease and managing certain help conditions. Read on to learn more about this nut and how it can benefit you.

Immunity Booster

Your immune system is constantly battling against viruses and bacteria to keep you healthy. Having an immunity booster that comes naturally through food is a great way to keep your immune system strong. “Vitamin A, vitamin E, and zinc, which are all found in pecans, support your immune system so that your body can fight off infections and repair damage,” reports WebMD.

Pecans also contain something called phytonutrients which have strong antioxidant effects. Combined with the immune-boosting properties of this nut you have a powerhouse food that can work to keep illness away. Make sure to combine your pecans with other nutritious food to really maximize the immunity boost and ensure that you have a well-rounded diet.

Heart Protector

The health benefits of pecans extend all the way to your heart. Pecans contain a healthy fat called monounsaturated fatty acids. This type of fat might benefit your heart by keeping the bad LDL cholesterol low, says WebMD. With less LDL cholesterol you have a lower risk of stroke and heart attacks.

Not only are pecans great at lowering your LDL, but the source continues to say they are also “a good source of calcium, magnesium, and potassium, which help lower blood pressure.” So grab a small handful of pecans to keep your heart healthy and protect your body against heart disease.

Blood Sugar Control

Pecans are a great snack for people with diabetes. This nut has a low glycemic index, which means that your blood sugar levels will not increase dramatically when you eat them. Foods with high glycemic indexes tend to be carbohydrates and high sugar foods. WebMD tells us if you eat your pecans with high glycemic index foods the pecans can actually help offset their effects.

How pecans manage your blood sugar is likely through their fiber content. Insoluble fiber, which is the main type of fiber found in nuts, doesn’t dissolve in water. But pecans also have soluble fiber which does dissolve in water, “forming a gel-like material that moves through your body undigested and slows the absorption of sugar into the blood,” reports Healthline.

Brain Function

Our brain function is dependent on so many different factors. There are plenty of things we can’t control in regards to its function, but keeping your body full of essential nutrients is one way you can make changes and support your brain. The monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids are linked to less inflammation and a slower mental decline, reports Healthline.

The source continues to tell us that there was a “study in over 15,000 women lasting over 40 years linked a higher consumption of nuts with improved long-term cognition.” There are several factors that go into our brain function and development. While pecan consumption may help it is not a given and more research needs to be done on how it affects the brain.

Prevent Disease

The immunity boost you get from pecans also translates into disease prevention. Pecans contain a nutrient called folate. Folate may protect your body against DNA changes that lead to cancer. “Antioxidants can help protect the body from the cell damage that causes Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and cancers,” says WebMD.

Did you know that the USDA has a ranking system of foods by their antioxidant levels? It’s true, and pecans are ranked number 14. This is great news for pecan lovers. You can have your favorite nut and help your body at the same time.

Arthritis Management

Arthritis is a painful condition that causes joint stiffness, swelling, pain, and redness. It can happen in any joint but it most commonly affects frequently used joints like the hands, wrists, and knees. Many people turn to medication to manage their arthritis symptoms but adding pecans to your diet can also help.

“Pecans contain Omega-3 fats, which can help ease the pain of arthritis by reducing inflammation. The magnesium, calcium, fiber, vitamin E, and zinc in pecans also give the nuts anti-inflammatory properties,” says WebMD.

Pecans won’t be the magic cure for arthritis. But incorporating them into your current management program can give you an added therapy that doesn’t include medication or an invasive procedure.

Nutrient Profile of Pecans

The USDA pecan nutrient profile shows you how this little nut contains so many nutrients in only 1-ounce:

  • Calories: 196
  • Fat: 20-grams
  • Protein: 2.6-grams
  • Fiber: 2.7-grams

The one thing you need to be careful with is your portion sizes. An ounce of pecans is approximately ¼-cup. In that serving, you get almost 200-calories. Be mindful of your portions to avoid extra calories. Stay away from pecans that are covered with sugar or have added oils which will only add more calories and fat to the nut.

Downside to Pecans

The two major downsides to pecans are their fat content and that nuts are a common allergen. If you are watching your calorie intake then you need to moderate your pecan intake. As we discussed above, an ounce of pecans contains almost 200-calories and 20-grams of fat. While this kind of fat is better than animal fat or processed oils it can still pack on the pounds.

The other major downside to pecans is that they are a tree nut, a common allergen that can cause serious consequences if eaten by people who are allergic to them. If you are allergic to nuts then stay far away from pecans. Always talk to your doctor about your allergies and how you can best manage them.

Adding Pecans to Your Diet

Now that you know all of the health benefits of pecans it’s time to eat! When purchasing pecans look for ones that are raw, have no added salt, and no oils. These will be the healthiest version of the nut. You can eat them straight out of the bag or roast the pecans to bring out their nutty flavor even more.

There are several recipes that include pecans. We recommend adding lightly toasted pecans to your salad with fresh chopped berries, a little bit of feta cheese, and light balsamic dressing. This combination is fresh and nutritious. Change up the berries, cheese, and dressing to keep it interesting.

Patty Weasler, RN


Patty is a freelance health writer and nurse (BSN, CCRN). She has worked as a critical care nurse for over 10 years and loves educating people about their health. When she's not working, Patty enjoys any outdoor activity that she can do with her husband and three kids.

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