Though often associated with high-calorie holiday desserts and delectably sweet treats, pecans have distinguished themselves as not only a tantalizingly tasty nut, but also a surprisingly healthful food.
One of the few tree nuts indigenous to North America, pecans are vitamin and mineral powerhouses, providing thiamine, folate, magnesium, calcium, potassium, and zinc, while also containing cholesterol-lowering omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. They’re loaded with antioxidants and an oil content containing surprisingly high levels of oleic acid—the same heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acid found in olives. Additionally, laboratory tests reveal that gamma-tocopherol, the form of vitamin E found in pecans, has been shown to inhibit prostate cancer cells while not affecting healthy tissues.
There is also evidence that the high levels of antioxidants in pecans may play a role in protecting the nervous system and delaying the progression of degenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
So what does all this research mean for pecan growers and lovers?