The pecan nuts with their contoured structure, crunchy texture and buttery flavour make for an interesting ingredient to include in a number of dishes, and they look pretty on the plate too. Native to America, these pricey nuts are related to the walnut and grow enclosed in a brownish-red oval shell. Now whether you say pee-can or peh-kahn, they are probably one of the most sought after nuts and can be tossed in just about anything. You can stuff them in peppers with goat cheese or toss them in a salad for some crunch.
Pecans pair beautifully with caramel too, so just add a handful on top of a caramel cheesecake for a flavour-packed bite every single time. Or spruce up an ice cream with a splash of bourbon and candied pecans in the summer. You can even add a crumbly pecan topping the next time you bake a coffee cake, or add it to a batch of double chocolate chip cookies.
NUTRITION IN A NUTSHELL
According to a study in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, pecans (19 halves, 193 calories per serving) contain more antioxidants than any other tree nut. Pecan nuts in fact rank among the top 15 foods with the highest levels of antioxidants according to the USDA. They are also a powerhouse of vitamins and minerals such as manganese, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, and selenium, offering some wonderful health benefits.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF PECANS
■ HEART HEALTHY
Pecan nuts contain monounsaturated fats such as oleic acid along with phenolic antioxidants which help reduce the risk of heart disease. According to the National Pecan Shellers Association, adding a handful of pecan nuts in your diets helps decrease LDL i.e. ‘bad cholesterol’ and increase HDL i.e. ‘good cholesterol’, which in turn prevent stroke and coronary artery disease.
■ IMPROVES DIGESTION
Nutritionist Anshul Jaibharat says, “Since pecan nuts are fiber-packed, they promote colon health and facilitate regular bowels movements. Pecan nuts prevent constipation and reduce the risk of hemorrhoids and colitis by cleaning out the gastrointestinal system.
■ HELPS WITH WEIGHT LOSS
Consuming nuts enhances satiety and increase metabolism, research has indicated that a diet comprising pecan nuts helps in losing weight. The nuts are also very rich sources of several important B-complex groups of vitamins such as riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B-6, and folates which together help increase the rate of metabolism.
■ REDUCES THE RISK OF CERTAIN CANCER
Pecan nuts protect the human body from cancer due to the anti-proliferative properties of ellagic acid which inhibit DNA binding of certain carcinogens such as nitrosamines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. They contain oleic acid, a fatty acid which has been found to reduce the risk of breast cancer, pecan nuts also reduce the risk of colon cancer since they help clean the gastrointestinal system.
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, and also reduces inflammation in the arterial walls, thus reducing the risk of arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular disease, and other inflammatory ailments.
■ BOOSTS IMMUNITY
Dr. Manoj K. Ahuja, healing touch Hospital, says “Adequate intake of manganese is vital for nerve conduction and brain function, and pecans are a rich source of manganese which is a powerful antioxidant. This trace minerals protects your nerve cells from free-radical damage, thus boosting immunity and protecting the body from diseases, infections, etc.”
SKIN BENEFITS AND HAIR BENEFITS OF PECANS
Pecan nuts are an excellent source of vitamin-E, vitamin-A, zinc, folate, and phosphorus which play an important role in maintaining good skin. Here are the skin benefits pecan nuts have to offer.
■ PREVENTS SKIN PROBLEMS
The toxin inside your body cause breakouts, dullness and excess oil. Pecans are packed with fiber and aid in eliminating these toxins and waste from the body, thereby improving the appearance of your skin. Pecan nuts also contain vitamin A and zinc which help achieve a clear complexion and protect against skin infections.
■ ANTI-AGING BENEFITS
Pecan nuts contain numerous antioxidants including ellagic acid, vitamin A and vitamin E which fight and eliminate the free radicals responsible for causing premature skin aging. Thus, pecans can prevent the occurrence of fine lines, wrinkles and pigmentation.
■ 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. L-arginine helps increase flexibility of the artery walls and makes them less prone to blood clots. This in turn increases the rate of blood flow throughout the body and to the hair roots which is vital for healthy hair growth and scalp.
■ PREVENTS HAIR LOSS
Lack of iron in the body leads to anemia which is one of the common causes of hair loss. But pecans are a good source of iron and hence, combat hair loss. Now if you’re as excited about the super-healthy nut as we are, you’re in luck! Here are decadent recipes we can’t do without, including pie, of course.
The following recipes good for pecan nuts:
● Pecan Cupcakes
● Candied Pecan
● Pecan Pie