What Are Pecans?
Pecans are one of the most popular nuts native to the south central region of the United States and Mexico. The name pecan means “nut that requires a stone to crack.”
Its buttery-rich shell is shaped like large pills and is golden brown outside and beige inside. As compared to walnuts, pecans are longer, more slender, and smoother in appearance. Its shells are also easier to crack.
The nut’s high levels of monosaturated oils are the one responsible for its rich and buttery flavor and texture. It also has a fat content of over 70%, thus making it the highest among all the nuts.
Pecans are available in several forms such as whole pecans, pecan halves, meals, pieces, and granules. When raw, pecans can be salted or sweetened. They can also be added over desserts, sweets, cakes, biscuits, or used as a spread for bread.
An ounce or about 20 halves of pecans contains the following:
3 g fiber (as much as fiber as a small apple)
2 g protein
2 g fats (mostly monosaturated)
4 g carbohydrates
60 percent of your recommended daily intake of manganese
15 percent of the recommended intake of zinc
Furthermore, pecans are cholesterol free and; are also a good source of copper, vitamin A, B1 and E, magnesium, manganese, calcium, phosphorus, and zinc. They are also rich in ellagic and oleic acids which are antioxidants and cancer preventive mechanisms.
Zinc plays a role in the breakdown of carbohydrates, wound healing, cell division, and cell growth. Moreover, it also enhances the action of insulin and is needed for your sense of taste and smell.
Copper is used by the body for nervous system function, the formation of connective tissue and for energy.
Manganese is needed for connective tissue strength, brain function, as well as the carb and fat metabolism.
How Pecans Combat Diseases?
In a study conducted by the scientists at Loma Linda University in California and New Mexico State University, it was found that consuming a handful of pecans a day (about 1.5 ounces) can reduce cholesterol by about 10%, thus reducing your heart diseases risk. The main reasons behind its cholesterol-lowering properties are its omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids and a phytochemical called beta-sitosterol.
In an analysis conducted by the US Department of Agriculture, pecans were ranked highest among nuts in terms of antioxidant capacity. This is due to its richness in polyphenolic antioxidant ellagic acid, beta-carotene, vitamin E, lutein and zeaxanthin, which can all fight free radicals that cause many diseases such as cancer and heart disease. Vitamin E guards the cell walls, skin integrity, and mucous membrane. Aside from this, it also helps fight off diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Meanwhile, lutein and zeaxanthin protect the eyes against macular degeneration while ellagic acid protects the DNA from certain carcinogens in food.
In a laboratory study from Purdue University, in West Lafayette, Indiana, results show that due to the presence of gamma-tocopherol, a type of vitamin E found in pecans, it can kill prostate cancer cells without harming healthy cells.
Studies have also revealed that pecans can effectively treat symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia, a non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate gland in men. This is mainly due to the natural compounds that give pecans their cholesterol-lowering power. Enough amounts of beta-sitosterol are present in two ounces of pecans and this has been found to be effective at shrinking prostates.
Also, an ounce serving of pecans has 25% more oleic acid than a one tablespoon serving of olive oil. Oleic acid help suppress the activity of a gene thought to trigger breast cancer.