The pecan is a member of plant family Juglandaceae with the botanical name – Carya illinoinensis and is native to North America.
It was not actually domesticated until the 17th century when the 1st plantations of pecans were established in Mexico. There are about 1,000 varieties, most of them named after Native American tribes.
The nut can be enjoyed roasted, fresh, or added in various recipes.
It is a good source of protein (9,2g/100g), dietary fiber (9,6g/100g), minerals (like – selenium, manganese, zinc, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron), vitamins (such as – thiamin, vitamin B6, choline, pantothenic acid, folate – also known as vitamin B9, and vitamin E), and healthy fats.
Reduces Free Radicals in the Body
Free radicals are groups of atoms which can be formed when oxygen interacts with specific molecules and have an odd number of electrons. Free radicals may age and harm the human body over time since they damage cellular membranes, DNA, lipids, and enzymes.
Antioxidants are powerful compounds that interact with free radicals and stop the chain reaction before vital molecules are damaged.
This nut is a good source of antioxidants. For instance, according to a 2011 study done by the Department of Nutrition, Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, California, consuming pecans regularly increased the antioxidants level in the blood in about 24 hours after consumption.
These nuts are an excellent source of magnesium (30% DV/100g) that is known for its anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation is the immune system’s natural response to irritation, infection, or injury.
Inflammation is characterized by an increase in white blood cells, swelling, heat, organ dysfunction, or pain.
Also, this mineral has an important role in mood and brain function, and low levels of magnesium are strongly associated with an increased risk of depression.
Thiamine, better known as vitamin B1, is the first in the series of B-complex vitamins, and it is actually the first B vitamin discovered. This vitamin is vital for the normal functioning of the heart as well as for healthy skin, eyes, hair, liver, and nervous system.
Moreover, according to a recent study, a high dietary vitamin B1 intake may help lower the risk of cataracts. These nuts contain about 44%DV/100g thiamine.
Good Source of Fiber
A 2016 analysis of 18 studies concluded that individuals who consumed the most dietary fiber (more than 26g per day) lowered their chances of disease by 18%, compared to people who ate the least (less than 19g a day).
Additionally, a high fiber regular diet has been shown to boost weight loss among overweight and obese people, due to the fact that dietary fiber increases the feeling of satiety.
Also, there a few experimental and epidemiological studies which suggest that fiber can play a significant role in colon cancer prevention.
There are no known side effects, except some people may suffer allergic reactions from it.
They originated in Central Asia and Mediterranean region (cultivation dates back to circa 2000 B.C.), and have been part of the human diet for millennia.
They are now usually grown in Iran, China, and within the US, especially in Arizona and California.
They are an excellent source of minerals (like – manganese, zinc, copper, magnesium, calcium, potassium, phosphorus), protein (15,2g/100g), dietary fiber (6,7g/100g), omega-3 fatty acids (9079mg/100g), and vitamins (including – folate, vitamin B6, thiamin, choline).
According to research, individuals with higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their blood have brain benefits, like – larger gray matter volume for their age and better cognitive outcomes.
Also, a 2015 study established that a lack of omega-3 fatty acids causes irritability, hyperactivity, and tantrums. Interestingly, having sufficient omega-3 in the regular diet has been associated with a lowered risk of macular degeneration, which occurs when a part of the retina is damaged.
Furthermore, the omega-3 fatty acids help people suffering from Alzheimer’s and other forms of cognitive decline and improve attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
These nuts contain l-arginine, an amino acid that offers numerous vascular benefits to people who have increased the risk for heart disease because of many cardiac risk factors, or those with heart disease.
Beyond heart health, other important health benefits of this amino acid include raising the immune function and fighting disease-causing inflammation.
Supports the Immune Function
They are an excellent source of vitamin B6 (27%DV/100g), one of the vitamins included in the vitamin B complex family. This vitamin can help address a variety of conditions, such as – premenstrual syndrome (PMS), nerve compression injuries (carpal tunnel syndrome), arthritis, and depression.
In addition, this vitamin is crucial for women’s and baby health, especially during pregnancy and infancy, since it is used in immune system function and brain development.
Allergic reactions are rarely linked with the over-consumption of these nuts. These allergic reactions include – dizziness, swelling of the tongue, repetitive cough, wheezing, and vomiting.
Pecans vs Walnuts – Which Have a Better Nutritional Profile?
Both types of nuts are loaded with vitamins, minerals, protein, dietary fiber, and essential fats (like – omega 3), but walnuts have a slightly better nutritional profile, especially for people looking to increase their protein and essential omega-3 fatty acids intake.