During April’s National Pecan Month, Consumers Encouraged to Check Out Good Nutrition and Versatility of Pecans

You say “PEE-can,” I say “pa-KAWN,” or so the saying goes. However, a new national survey finds that “PEE-can” is the overwhelming choice among Americans. Nearly half of consumers (45 percent, including almost seven out of 10 living in the Northeast) prefer this pronunciation of the all-American tree nut, with the rest of the nation roughly split between pa-KAWN and PEE-kawn.

Regardless of how you say it, there is no debating the health benefits of pecans, according to the National Pecan Shellers Association (NPSA). Pecans are loaded with heart-healthy unsaturated fats and recently published scientific studies show that pecan consumption can help lower blood cholesterol.

But according to the new consumer survey (conducted for NPSA by Synovate), many people still are not aware of the health benefits of pecans. The survey found that only 34 percent of pecan consumers understand that pecans can help lower cholesterol.

Further, pecans can be helpful as part of a weight-control diet because the mono- and polyunsaturated fats – the “good fats” – in pecans contribute to satiety. Yet 42 percent of pecan consumers are not aware of this weight-control benefit, according to this the survey.

Although pecans are popular as part of snack mixes and baked goods (56 percent and 85 percent of pecan consumers, respectively, said they use pecans in this way), not as many use pecans in ways that can add more nutritional value to meals. Only one-third of respondents (31 percent) use pecans as an ingredient in main dishes, and only one-fourth (23 percent) use them in salads.

“It’s a shame that pecans are not being used in more ‘main event’ type meals such as entrees and salads,” said Sue Taylor, registered dietitian with NPSA. “Not only do they contribute great texture, crunch and taste, pecans also provide many important vitamins and minerals.”

“With April being National Pecan Month, now is the perfect time for consumers to start taking advantage of the versatility of pecans,” Taylor said, “and reaping the health benefits at the same time.”

In addition to being loaded with heart-healthy unsaturated fats, pecans contain more than 19 vitamins and minerals such as vitamin E, folic acid, calcium, copper, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, zinc and several B vitamins. Pecans are naturally cholesterol-free and sodium-free, and one serving provides about 10 percent of the government’s recommended Daily Values for zinc and fiber.

The national survey, comprised of a nationally representative sample of 1,000 adults, was conducted March 14-16, 2003. The sample reliability is +/- 3 percent.