Pecans take the stage when it comes to the holidays, as Americans enjoy the savory, pecan-laden traditional pecan pie. And while this pie is certainly delicious, the pecan is a tasty and healthy treat that can compliment many cuisines and desserts that satisfy a wide array of palatable dishes, and it is just as great as a stand-alone snack.
About the Pecan
Pecan trees grow to be as tall as 66 to 131 ft. and have been known to have a trunk as large as 6 foot in diameter. The pecan tree is native to America and is grown in various US states but fare best in climates that have long, humid and hot summers, with Georgia, Texas, Florida, and New Mexico being the primary producers, having grown and harvested more than two hundred-fifty pounds of pecans annually.
Pecans are grown in more than one thousand varieties but only twenty or so are grown commercially. The different varieties are primarily diverse in size, with the pecan halves ranging from one to two inches long.
The pecan is considered to be a powerhouse of healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals and is, according to the USDA ranks as one of the top fifteen foods that offer substantial levels of antioxidants. Some of the most advantageous aspects of the pecan are below:
- Boosts Heart Health: In addition to the high antioxidant levels found in pecans, the nuts also contain oleic acid which has been shown to decrease the bad cholesterol, known as LDL, which is a contributor to coronary disease and strokes.
- Reduces the Risk of Certain Cancers: With the oleic acid along with ellagic acid, found in pecans, both of which inhibit the body’s DNA from binding to cancer-causing nitrosamines and carcinogens, the consumption of pecans can help reduce the risk of cancer.
- Natural Anti-Inflammatory: The anti-inflammatory properties found in pecans can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s and arthritis.
- Improves Digestion: Packed with a good source of fiber, the pecan helps promote good digestive health and can also help prevent colitis and other gastrointestinal issues.
- Increases Metabolism: With the presence of complex B-vitamins, healthy fats, pantothenic acid, and folates, pecans can improve the body’s metabolism and promote weight loss.
- Improves Skin Health: As an excellent source of zinc, phosphorous, folate, and vitamins A and E, pecans help clear up and improve skin complexion.
- Offers Anti-Aging Benefits: With high anti-oxidant levels, the pecan helps fight free radicals and rid the body of dangerous toxins. The nut also contains vitamins E and A, which help prevent wrinkles and skin discoloration.
- Enhances Hair Growth: Pecans contain the amino acid, L-arginine, which increases the health of arterial walls, increases blood flow and as a topical application has been shown to increase hair growth.
The pecans were a major food source for Native Americans and were frequently bartered in exchange for other goods with Europeans. Indigenous to North America, European settlers were not introduced to the nut until the 16th century. The name pecan is derived from the Native American Indian word ‘pacane,’ meaning “nuts requiring a stone to crack.”