Pecans are definitely a Southern thing in the United States. Georgia and northern Mexico are the primary producers of the tree, which is a type of hickory. The nut is simply irresistible and features in a pie especially popular between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.
“Pecan” is from an Algonquian word assigned collectively to pecans, walnuts, and hickory nuts. How to pronounce this simple bi-syllabic word is a subject of intense regional debate: you say “pih-KAHN,” I say “PEE-can.” But let’s not call the whole thing off over such a trifling.
Pecan pie with vanilla bean ice cream is to die for, admittedly – especially if the pie is warmed lightly in a low oven or at a low microwave setting before plopping on the frozen dairy or whipped cream dollop. But have you ever simply snacked on a handful or two?
Warning: calories ahead – even without the sugars and starches added to pies and other delicious dishes. Proceed with caution when eating any nuts. I’m not talking about allergies (although that is a concern), I’m talking about losing the battle of the bulge.
Let’s break it down in nutritional terms: one ounce of pecans (about 19 halves) provides:
- 193 calories
- 9 grams of carbohydrate
- 7 grams of dietary fiber
- 6 grams of protein
- 1 grams of sugars
- 1 gram of starch
- 2 grams of mostly unsaturated fats (the good kind)
More than 70 percent of a pecan is made up of healthy monounsaturated fats, an especially rich source of oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid linked to improved immune system functioning, reduced inflammation, and the potential to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Pecans are packed with essential nutrients. Check out what that ounce of pecans has to offer for vitamins:
- Vitamin A – 15.7 IU
- Vitamin C – 0.3 mg
- Vitamin E – 0.4 mg
- Vitamin K – 1.0 mcg
- Thiamin – 0.2 mg
- Riboflavin – 0.0 mg
- Niacin – 0.3 mg
- Vitamin B – 60.1 mg
- Folate – 6.2 mcg
- Vitamin B – 120.0 mcg
- Pantothenic Acid – 0.2 mg
- Choline – 11.3 mg
- Betaine – 0.2 mg
Pecans are one of the best known dietary sources of healing, antioxidant vitamin E. A vitamin E deficiency is linked to a higher risk of age-related macular degeneration, fatty liver diseases, cataracts, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer.
Are you nuts for essential minerals? Pecans are!
- Calcium – 19.6mg
- Iron – 0.7mg
- Magnesium – 33.9mg
- Phosphorus – 77.5mg
- Potassium – 115mg
- Sodium – 0.0mg
- Zinc – 1.3mg
- Copper – 0.3mg
- Manganese – 1.3mg
- Selenium – 1.1mcg
- Fluoride – 2.8mcg
Zinc is vital for immune-cell development and function. Diets high in zinc are associated with a reduced risk of many diseases, especially those related to age and lifestyle.
Antioxidant ellagic acid found in pecans boosts the immune system and has anti-proliferative effects that inhibit malignant cells from spreading into surrounding tissues. It is being studied for the treatment of follicular lymphoma, protection from brain injury of intrauterine growth-restricted babies, improvement of cardiovascular function in adolescents who are obese, and topical treatment of solar lentigines (permanent skin age spots due to long-term UV exposure).
Pecans are also loaded with more free-radical-fighting antioxidants called flavonoids than most vegetables and fruits. People who consume diets high in flavonoids are less likely to develop chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, some cancers, and cognitive decline.
Nuts are naturally low in salt and sugar. Purchase them unsalted so you have the option to avoid some sodium. Unroasted nuts are generally considered to be the healthier option.
Here’s a quick and easy recipe for a yummy, high-protein pecan snack:
Combine garlic powder, dried mustard, and a sprinkle of sea salt in proportions to taste. Toss the pecans in this seasoning mix before spreading them out in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or foil for easy cleanup. Roast the pecans at 350F until browned and fragrant, stirring occasionally, about 7 to 10 minutes.
Raw or baked, pecans add bulk and protein to any meal. Try adding them to salad, a stir fry or crush them to coat fish before cooking. There are several ways to crush shelled nuts. My favorite is to put the nuts in a heavy-duty plastic bag placed on a sturdy board and pound them with a hammer until they reduce to the desired size.
Thanksgiving is just around the corner and you say you want to bake a pecan pie but you don’t know how? Fear not. Instead, check out this Easy Pecan Pie Recipe that represents “Southern baking at its finest.”
Bring on the pecans!