Are Pecans Good for You? 7 Tasty Health Benefits of Pecans
We often think of pecans during the holiday season as part of Grandma’s sugar-loaded pies, but did you know they can actually be good for you? Once you remove the sweet coating, raw pecans are one of the healthiest nuts out there. Not to mention delicious. By the end of this post, you’ll be adding them to your meals and snacks daily.
1. Pecans are High in Nutrients
When you break down pecan nutrition facts, you’ll see that they’re packed with more than 19 essential vitamins and minerals. As a complex whole food, pecans hold multiple health-promoting nutrients and bioactive compounds. They’re a good source of vitamin E, which is an antioxidant that protects your cells from damage. Pecans are also a good source of thiamine, which helps convert food into energy, and an excellent source of manganese, which is important for bone health and cell protection. Copper is another key mineral found in pecans that can help nerve cell function, immune health and red blood cell production.
2. Pecans are Heart-Healthy
Many people don’t realize that pecans are a heart-smart choice. A recent study found that a handful of pecans each day (about 19 pecan halves) helped improve some markers of cardiometabolic disease, which includes certain cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. Pecans contain primarily unsaturated fats, but are among the highest in monounsaturated fats compared to other nuts, which can help lower your LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of heart disease. Pecans also contain antioxidants that can help reduce inflammation in your arteries, which can lead to heart disease.
3. Pecans May Improve Digestion
Pecans are high in fiber, which is essential for your digestive health. One serving of pecans holds about 3g of dietary fiber, which is 11% of your daily value. The fiber in pecans helps keep your digestive system running smoothly by adding bulk to your stool and promoting regular bowel movements. Eating pecans can help prevent constipation and other digestive issues.
4. Pecans May Lower Blood Sugar Levels
Pecans are a low-glycemic-index food, which means they don't cause a rapid spike in blood sugar levels. While there haven’t been significant studies on the subject, this makes them a good food choice for people with diabetes or those who are trying to maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Pecans also contain compounds that may help improve insulin sensitivity, which can further help regulate blood sugar levels.
5. Pecans May Help with Weight Loss
Despite their high-calorie content, pecans may actually help with weight loss. While pecans and nuts in general aren’t burning body fat, they are high in fiber and protein (about 3g of each), which can help you feel full and satisfied for longer periods of time. This helps those seeking to lose a few pounds stave off hunger and cravings, lowering their overall caloric intake. However, you do need to be mindful of portion size. A handful of pecans (1 oz. or ¼ cup) is around 200 calories with 20g of (mostly unsaturated) fat, so it’s helpful to measure out your snack to avoid overindulging.
6. Pecans Promote Brain Function
Pecan benefits consistently appear to outweigh the disadvantages. Higher levels of monounsaturated fats, which a serving of pecans includes 12g, have been shown to decrease cognitive decline and inflammation. There has also been a 40-year-long study of over 15,000 women that showed higher consumption of nuts in general improved long-term cognitive function.
7. Pecans May Help Prevent Cancer
Pecans contain several antioxidants that may help prevent cancer. Specifically, they are high in polyphenols, which have been shown to inhibit the growth of cancer cells in test-tube studies. More research is needed to confirm these findings, but the potential health benefits of pecans are promising.
So are pecans healthy? Yes, pecans are a delicious and nutritious food choice that offer multiple health benefits. They’re high in nutrients, heart-healthy, may improve digestion, lower blood sugar levels, aid in weight loss, promote brain function, and may even help prevent cancer. However, there can always be too much of a good thing. It’s important to remember that the pecan serving size is 1 oz. (or about 19 pecan halves). So the next time you're looking for a healthy snack or ingredient for your meal, consider reaching for pecans. Your body will thank you!