Pecans are a type of tree nut native to North America.
Thanks to their rich and buttery flavor, they’re a common ingredient in appetizers, desserts, and main dishes alike.
Although they boast a long list of essential nutrients, they’re also high in calories and fat, causing many to wonder whether they’re healthy.
This article takes a closer look at the research to determine whether pecans are good for you.
Pecans are rich in a number of important nutrients.
In particular, they’re a good source of fiber, along with copper, thiamine, and zinc.
- Calories: 196
- Protein: 2.5 grams
- Fat: 20.5 grams
- Carbs: 4 grams
- Fiber: 2.7 grams
- Copper: 38% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Thiamine (vitamin B1): 16% of the DV
- Zinc: 12% of the DV
- Magnesium: 8% of the DV
- Phosphorus: 6% of the DV
- Iron: 4% of the DV
Zinc is another key mineral found in pecans, and it’s necessary for immune function, as well as cell growth, brain function, and wound healing.
Pecans have been associated with numerous health benefits.
Improves heart health
Pecans are a great source of monounsaturated fatty acids, a type of fat that may benefit heart health.
One study in 204 people with coronary artery disease, which is characterized by the narrowing of arteries, found that eating 1 ounce (30 grams) of pecans daily for 12 weeks improved the ratio of total cholesterol to HDL (good) cholesterol in the blood.
Similarly, an older study in 19 people with normal cholesterol levels found that those eating 2.5 ounces (68 grams) of pecans each day had significantly lower levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol after 8 weeks, compared with those in a control group who didn’t eat any nuts.
Other research shows that an increased intake of tree nuts, including pecans, may be linked to reduced levels of total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol, and triglycerides — all of which are risk factors for heart disease.
Stabilizes blood sugar
Some research suggests that pecans may promote better blood sugar control, which may be partially due to their fiber content.
Although nuts contain mainly insoluble fiber that doesn’t dissolve in water, they also contain some soluble fiber. Soluble fiber dissolves in water, forming a gel-like material that moves through your body undigested and slows the absorption of sugar into the blood.
One small study in 26 adults with overweight or obesity found that eating a pecan-rich diet for 4 weeks improved the body’s ability to use insulin effectively. Insulin is the hormone that transports sugar from your bloodstream into your cells.
What’s more, this diet improved the function of beta cells in the pancreas, which are responsible for insulin production.
Similarly, a review of 12 studies showed that adding tree nuts to your diet could help lower levels of hemoglobin A1C, a measure of long-term blood sugar control.
Promotes brain function
Pecans are brimming with nutrients that may benefit brain function, including mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids.
Monounsaturated fatty acids, in particular, have been linked to decreased mental decline and reduced inflammation.
In fact, a large study in over 15,000 women lasting over 40 years linked a higher consumption of nuts with improved long-term cognition.
Similarly, a study in 4,822 older adults showed that those who ate at least 1/3 ounce (10 grams) of nuts per day were 40% less likely to have poor cognition.
That said, more research is needed to evaluate how pecans specifically may affect brain function.
Although pecans have been linked to several potential health benefits, there are some downsides to consider.
First, those with an allergy to tree nuts should avoid them, along with other types of tree nuts like almonds, cashews, chestnuts, and walnuts.
Keep in mind that they’re also relatively high in calories, packing nearly 200 calories in each 1-ounce (28-gram) serving.
As such, eating multiple servings can increase your daily calorie intake, which could contribute to weight gain if you don’t make other adjustments to your diet or level of physical activity.
For this reason, moderate your intake, especially if you’re trying to lose weight.
Moreover, it’s best to opt for natural pecans without added sugar or salt.
How to add pecans to your diet
Pecans are loaded with essential nutrients and can be an excellent addition to a well-rounded, healthy diet.
Be sure to pay attention to your portion sizes and stick to around 1 ounce (28 grams), or about 20 pecan halves, at a time.
Try sprinkling a handful of these tasty nuts onto your next yogurt parfait, salad, or oatmeal for extra crunch and nutrients.
They also work well in trail mix or chopped up in baked goods like muffins, pancakes, or banana bread.
Alternatively, enjoy raw pecans on their own for a quick, convenient, and nutritious on-the-go snack.
The bottom line
Pecans are a type of tree nut that’s rich in several key nutrients, including fiber, copper, thiamine, and zinc.
They’ve been associated with many potential health benefits, including improved blood sugar control, heart health, and brain function.
You can enjoy them in moderation as part of a nutritious diet — and in a number of different recipes.
Source: Health line