In my opinion, among nuts, pecans are the best and have been one of my favorite snacks for years; they’re also one of the healthiest. In fact, after looking at 277 different nuts and foods, USDA researchers say pecans are the most antioxidant-rich nut around. On top of this, pecans deliver more oleic acid than olive oil, contain 90% unsaturated (heart-healthy) fats, are low sodium, cholesterol free, contain essential vitamins and minerals, and have important alpha and gamma-tocopherol forms of vitamin E.
All of this adds up to a powerful little nut with big health benefits! Here we will explain 7 of the major health benefits of pecans.
Top Benefits of Pecans
1. Heart Support
Men and women who regularly eat nuts have lower rates of heart disease, according to researchers. Antioxidants like those in Pecans neutralize free radicals before they can corrupt low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and other proteins that block your arteries, making them stiff and rigid. This reduces stress on your heart and keeps it strong as you age.
2. Fights Inflammation
Pecans are similar to other nuts by potentially soothing internal irritation. Here are some of the ways it does this:
- The alpha- and gamma tocopherol versions of vitamin E are two of most powerful antioxidants around. These discourage the cellular damage that leads to irritation.
- The magnesium in pecans reduces the presence of specific markers, such as C-reactive protein and Interleukin-6, and protects against widespread irritation within the body.
- Provides omega-3 fatty acids.
Plus, pecans have vitamins A, C, the B-complex, and vitamin K, not to mention calcium, zinc, and potassium. As you soothe irritation, you reduce your risk of heart disease, arthritis, and Alzheimer’s disease – all diseases linked to internal irritation and swelling.
3. Fights Cancer?
It’d be overzealous to say pecans are the answer to cancer, but one important antioxidant in pecans has shown some promise in overall prevention. Studies show gamma tocopherol, a powerful antioxidant and one of the most potent forms of vitamin E, protects men against prostate cancer. Research from Purdue University suggests vitamin E offers protection against lung cancer too.
When your cells work right, you age more gracefully. That’s why everyone’s always talking about antioxidants. And that’s what research continues to show. A recent five-year French study reported those who consumed antioxidant-rich foods and supplements enjoyed better health as they aged, especially men. Pecans make it easy. They’re nutritious, tasty, and make a great snack. And you don’t need to eat a ton – a handful of pecans every now and then will do the trick.
Nuts like pecans contain the vitamins, unsaturated fats, minerals, and fatty acids you need in a small, low-calorie serving. When combined, all these nutrients will help you lose weight and keep it off. According to a National Health study from 2005-2010, adults who eat nuts regularly have a smaller waist size and lower Body Mass Index (BMI) than those who don’t.
Beta-sitosterol, a plant chemical, reduces blood cholesterol levels. In pecans, beta-sitosterol makes up 90% of these antioxidant plant chemicals. Studies show whole pecans lower LDL cholesterol by 30% within 2 hours of eating them, and regular consumption lowers overall cholesterol levels.[5, 6]
7. Blood Pressure
A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports tree nuts, like pecans, help with blood pressure management. Researchers reported nuts significantly lower blood pressure in participants who did not suffer from diabetes. Now that’s not to say diabetics didn’t benefit from the nuts, just that they didn’t show the same blood pressure control as the other participants.
Perspective: Nutritional Facts of Pecans
How many pecans should you eat? Should you eat whole pecans or pecan halves? And how many calories are in a serving? Here’s a table to help you decide the best serving size for your nutrition needs.
|Nutrient||1 Cup Chopped||1 Cup Halves||1 oz (19 Halves)|
|Vitamin A, RAE||3µg||3µg||1µg|
|Vitamin A, IU||61IU||55IU||16IU|
|Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)||1.53mg||1.39mg||0.4mg|
|Vitamin D (D2 + D3)||0µg||0µg||0µg|
|Vitamin K (phylloquinone)||3.8µg||3.5µg||1µg|
|Fatty acids, total saturated||6.736g||6.118g||1.752g|
|Fatty acids, total monounsaturated||44.473g||40.393g||11.567g|
|Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated||23.559g||21.398g||6.128g|
How to Get the Most from Pecans
When it comes to any food, organic is best. They are not coated in harmful pesticides and herbicides, so look for raw, organic pecans for the greatest benefits. Eat them right from the bag as a snack or crush them and toss them on a salad.
If you find raw pecans hard to digest, don’t worry, you can still enjoy them. Here’s what to do:
Take 4 cups of raw pecans and put them in a large bowl. Cover them with filtered water and mix in a tablespoon of sea salt. Cover and let it sit for about 8 hours. Then drain, and spread them on a baking sheet. Heat them in your oven at the lowest temperature and stir them around a few times to dry them evenly.
- Blomhoff R1, Carlsen MH, Andersen LF, Jacobs DR Jr. Health benefits of nuts: potential role of antioxidants. Br J Nutr. 2006 Nov;96 Suppl 2:S52-60.
- Purdue University. Vitamin E in plant seeds could halt prostate, lung cancer, says Purdue scientist. Purdue University.
- Assmann KE, Andreeva VA, Jeandel C, Hercberg S, Galan P, Kesse-Guyot E. Healthy Aging 5 Years After a Period of Daily Supplementation With Antioxidant Nutrients: A Post Hoc Analysis of the French Randomized Trial SU.VI.MAX. Am J Epidemiol. 2015 Sep 15. pii: kwv105.
- O'Neil CE1, Fulgoni VL 3rd2, Nicklas TA3. Tree Nut consumption is associated with better adiposity measures and cardiovascular and metabolic syndrome health risk factors in U.S. Adults: NHANES 2005-2010. Nutr J. 2015 Jun 28;14:64. doi: 10.1186/s12937-015-0052-x.
- Hudthagosol C1, Haddad EH, McCarthy K, Wang P, Oda K, Sabaté J. Pecans acutely increase plasma postprandial antioxidant capacity and catechins and decrease LDL oxidation in humans. J Nutr. 2011 Jan;141(1):56-62. doi: 10.3945/jn.110.121269.
- Morgan WA1, Clayshulte BJ. Pecans lower low-density lipoprotein cholesterol in people with normal lipid levels. J Am Diet Assoc. 2000 Mar;100(3):312-8.
- Mohammadifard N1, Salehi-Abargouei A1, Salas-Salvadó J1, Guasch-Ferré M1, Humphries K1, Sarrafzadegan N1. The effect of tree nut, peanut, and soy nut consumption on blood pressure: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled clinical trials. Am J Clin Nutr. 2015 May;101(5):966-82. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.114.091595.
†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.