Pecans are among the healthiest nuts known to man. They boast of a number of health benefits with minimal side effects. Pecans can be consumed safely by most people of all ages in order to improve metabolism, lose weight, boost energy, boost immunity, and improve brain function. While these are general benefits applicable to all people, pecans can also have targeted benefits for people suffering from a number of ailments including cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, gallstones, and osteoporosis, among others.
Pecans are a variant of the hickory nut and are most commonly grown in Mexico, and the southeastern and southcentral regions of the United States. It is the state tree of the state of Texas, USA. The word ‘pecan’ is derived from an Algonquian word that refers variously to pecans, hickory nuts, and walnuts, or more precisely, to nuts that require a stone to be cracked open. Native Americans were known to use pecans for their medicinal properties. Today though, the pecan is used in cooking as a savory ingredient in savory dishes as well as desserts. However, there are many health benefits of consuming the nut as a snack.
The pecan has a number of health benefits which can be seen in its nutritional value. Every 100 gms of pecans contains 690 kcal of energy, which is quite a high amount in comparison with many other nuts. They contain approximately 14 gms of carbohydrates and 9 gms of proteins. However, the best nutritional fact is that it contains approximately 91% monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which makes it one of the healthiest nuts known to man. It is also extremely rich in minerals such aspotassium at 410 mg, phosphorus at 277 mg, magnesium at 121 mg, and calcium at 70 mg.These attributes offer multiple health benefits to the human body.Among nuts rich in antioxidants, the pecan is particularly high in proanthocyanidins, hydrolysable tannins, phenols and phenolic acids, and flavonoids. This cocktail of nutrients is particularly favorable for treating oxidative stress.
It is a myth that the high fat content of pecan nuts make them a high risk food. The level of risk a food item poses depends on the kind of fats and the amount in which they are present in the food item. As 100 gms of pecans contain 91% unsaturated fats, it is an extremely healthy food product. Consumption of pecans ensures that the risk of developing heart conditions is lowered. Pecans also contain proteins, vitamin E, thiamine, and antioxidants which protect the heart by regulating its function. Additionally, this combination of nutrients is also known to reduce the risk of developing hypertension.Further, it also reduces systolic blood pressure on regular consumption.
Related to cardiovascular health is cholesterol. In today’s day and age, cholesterol is one of the biggest causes of heart disease. Pecans lower the levels of bad cholesterol in the body. While professional opinion and medication is crucial to combatting cholesterol, one can supplement prescribed medication by regularly eating pecans. The presence of serum lipids is one of the biggest indicators of high cholesterol. Studies have indicated that pecan-rich diets reduce serum lipids in the blood stream, thus reducing cholesterol. Abundant in monounsaturated fats, pecans can become a great source of good fats needed by the body to carry out its day to day functions.
The most important facet of a diabetic’s lifestyle is maintaining blood sugar levels throughout the day. Blood sugar usually soars after every meal, which necessitates insulin injections. The pecan is an organic substance that controls blood sugar levels in the body. Further, pecans may reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Controlling diabetes is crucial because it can cause many other conditions, such as cardiovascular diseases.
Environmental and dietary issues are common in today’s world, and is one of the leading reasons of oxidative stress. These issues promote oxidative damage within the body. Oxidative damage has been linked with high incidence of cancer and heart disease, among others. Therefore, it is more important now, than ever, to consume foods high in antioxidants. Studies have shown us that in the 24 hours after pecans are consumed, there is an acute increase of antioxidants in the bloodstream. Other studies have shown undeniable correlation between pecan consumption and a reduction in the number of instances of degenerative diseases.
Pecans can reduce the risk of developing cancer. This is because it contains phenolic compounds and tannins which are directly associated with the prevention of various types of cancers. However, extensive research is still being conducted into this aspect.
Cyclophosphamide is a compound that is associated with many life threatening diseases, such as cancer. Research suggests, that consuming the pecan shell, in ground form, can protect vital organs such as the heart, bladder, and kidney from the toxicity induced by this compound.
When trying to lose weight, it is prudent to stay away from foods with unhealthy fats. However, healthy fats should be consumed even through a weight loss program as healthy fats are vital to the body. The healthy fats found in pecans impact the grehlin hormone, which is responsible for maintaining weight. The impulse to eat when you’re stressed out can be traced to the levels of grehlin in the brain. High levels of grehlin are associated with elevated stress levels, and induce the desire to eat a lot. Pecans also contain a fair amount of manganese. Experts believe that consuming pecans daily can meet more than half the required amount of manganese on a daily basis. In turn, this mineral helps cut down fat and reduce weight.
Improved metabolism is also associated with losing weight. Additionally, a higher metabolic rate improves energy levels in the body. To achieve this, consumption of pecans is advised, as they contain a significant amount of copper. Copper is key to more than 50 metabolic enzyme reactions in the human body, which promote higher metabolic rates. It is also essential to the creation of the body’s source of energy, adenosine triphosphates (ATP).
Among other nuts, the pecan is also known as a brain food. This is because a number of the minerals found in the pecan contribute to brain function. Patients with Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, a common disorder among alcoholics which is caused by thiamine deficiency, are prescribed pecans because of the high amounts of thiamine in it. The abundance of copper in pecans makes it a good food product for those suffering from degenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, as copper stops free radical damage to the brain. In addition, it also keeps the neural pathways involving galactose and dopamine up and running. Those suffering from learning disabilities owing to concentration problems, mental illness, epilepsy, and severe mood fluctuations should also consume pecans, as its high manganese content improves the brain’s synaptic processes.
The combination of nutrients present in the pecan nut is ideal for keeping gallstones at bay, according to research studies. The studies also found that the reduced risk of developing gallstones was greater in men than women.
Osteoporosis occurs most commonly in middle-aged women. A pecan rich diet treats the symptoms of osteoporosis due to its healthy cocktail of manganese and copper, among other nutrients.
Premenstrual Syndrome, or PMS, is a regular occurrence in most mature women on the cusp of their menses. PMS includes a range of symptoms, including but not limited to, mood swings and cramps. Pecans are a great way to alleviate these symptoms owing to its high manganese content. When combined with calcium-high foods, it significantly impacts these symptoms.
The pecan can be consumed raw without any considerable side effects, although those with a sensitivity to nuts should consume pecans only on professional advice. Its uses in American cuisine is prominent, with the globally renowned pecan pie at its heart. However, as a health supplement, the pecan is better consumed raw. The pecans shell is also consumed in powder form, although it is not common. Additionally, it is difficult to find in the local supermarket as it has little culinary or medicinal value. On the other hand, pecan nuts are available commonly and are supplied across the world.
Studies have shown that most people are able to safely consume pecans without any side effects. However, this is not universal as some people may be sensitive to certain chemical compositions present in pecans. An allergic reaction usually occurs when the immune system reacts to the proteins present in a food product, in this case pecans. People who are allergic to pecans show symptoms of vomiting, hives, swelling of the throat and tongue, and shortness of breath and dizziness caused by the release of a chemical known as histamine.
Pecans originally grew wild and Native Americans were known to use the pecan as medicine. It was not until recently that it was domesticated and cultivated for commercial and culinary use. One of the most stunning facts about the pecan is that the tree can live up to 300 years, during which it can produce fruit every year once it reaches maturity.