Pecan, scientific name Carya illinoinensis of the Juglandaceae family, is a tree native to Mexico and America whose fruits are drupes containing an edible seed. It is precisely this seed that is called Pecan nut and that, nowadays, can be bought in all shops and supermarkets. Pecan nuts, widely used in cooking to prepare tasty desserts but also as a snack, alone or in a mixture with other dry fruits, are characterized by interesting healthy properties.
Pecan nuts, properties
First of all, pecan nuts are really very energetic compared to other dry fruits, in fact they provide about 700 kcal per 100 grams of products while cashew nuts about 500 kcal and walnuts around 640 kcal, therefore they are particularly suitable to be eaten at breakfast or mid-morning and are a great snack for students, sporty people and for those who have an active life. Pecan nuts also provide calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc but also vitamins of group B, folate, vitamin E and K (USDA Database). Pecans help to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease by improving the body's use of insulin and providing valuable monounsaturated fatty acids that protect the heart (McKay et al, Nutrients, Mar 2018). In fact, these nuts reduce total cholesterol, LDL, or bad cholesterol, and triglycerides while increase HDL, or good cholesterol (Rajaram et al, J Nutr, Sep 2001). Moreover, pecans also provide antioxidant substances, such as gamma tocopherol and flavonoids, able to counteract free radical damages. Scientific studies have been able to observe that the intake of pecans in a quantity corresponding to 20% of the daily caloric requirement has increased the number of antioxidants in the blood (Haddad et al, Nutrition Research, 2006). Not only that, other scientific studies (Hudthagosol et al, J Nutr, 2011) observed that 8 hours after eating pecans the research participants showed a decrease of up to 33% in the levels of oxidized LDL. This is a type of cholesterol that is formed when LDL cholesterol, or bad cholesterol, is attacked by free radicals and scientists believe that oxidized LDL is the basis of the progression of arteriosclerosis (Gao et al, Chronic Diseases and Translational Medicine, June 2017).
Pecan nuts, how to eat
Pecans look very much like normal nuts, both in appearance and taste. You can therefore eat whole pecans, perhaps together with 4-5 almonds and some cashews or cashew nuts. Alternatively, you can roughly crush them and add them immediately to muesli or you can enrich the sauces and pesto using pecans instead of walnuts and pine nuts.