Many of our patients at New Hope Unlimited asks us which nuts are the best for them to include in their diet. We always include those delicious nuts called Pe-cans or Pe-khans. Which ever way you say the name, they are not only tasty but are also healthy.
The botanical name for the pecan is carya illinoinensis. The pecans rank number 2 behind peanuts, which is the favorite “nut”. The highest production of pecans is North and South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California. The chewy, buttery pecan has never reached the elevated status of other foods native to this continent. There are sizeable growing operations in Israel, New South Wales, Australia, Nata and South Africa. Pecans have always been an important staple in the Native American food supply and they are the ones who taught the early colonists how to harvest, utilize and store pecans as an essential source of nourishment through the harsh winters.
Pecans offer a unique and amazing benefit to the human diet and are in the top 15 foods known for their antioxidant activity. According to the USDA, one of those antioxidants is vitamin E and may convey neurological and cell protection. This vitamin may also play a role in coronary heart disease prevention as it keeps blood lipids from oxidizing in your body, which equates to “rusting”. A phytochemical contributing to its antioxidant activity is ellagic acid. This keeps several carcinogenic properties from proliferating betacarotenes, lutein and zeaxanthin in pecans and helps rid your body of harmful free radicals, protecting it from disease, cancer and infection.
There are many minerals in pecans, such as manganese. The pecan offers a whopping 245% of the daily value per serving, and is very good for the heart. They also contain 65% of the daily value for copper and 33% in magnesium and zinc. Iron, calcium, phosphorus and selenium content in pecans are nutritional assets. One serving of pecans can give you a 48% daily value of thiamin, 42% daily value in fiber and 20% of protein, in one serving. Only 7 of the 78 grams of total fat are saturated. As studied by scientists, the pecans are rich in monounsaturated fats and recommended as a cholesterol-lowering food that can have cardiovascular disease-lowering effects, and can be eaten without increasing your body weight. A study reported a handful of pecans every day can help protect your nervous system by delaying age-related motor neuron degeneration that includes ALS and Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Toast the pecans in the oven for a delicious treat. Cover them with coconut oil and sprinkle with salt, and then bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for five minutes. . They can also be toasted in an iron skilled with some coconut oil to prevent them from sticking. Add the pecans and lower to medium heat. Stir, and when you smell a nutty toasting smell, your pecans are ready.
Use these as a snack or add to salads and other recipes. Be sure that you keep your eye on them as they are toasting though, or they can dry out quickly or burn. The pecan was honored by having April declared National Pecan Month. Texas has more than 70 million wild pecan trees and was officially designated the state tree by the Texas Legislature in 1919. This is a delicious, protein-rich food, and doesn’t take much to find a way to incorporate into your daily diet. Be inventive in your recipes to include this great, nutritional food. Only benefits can arise from including this nut in your diet.
– Dr Fredda Branyon