Health food of the month - Pecan nuts
When I was a kid, I think I would be pretty well correct to say no one I knew had ever heard of pecan nuts. They certainly weren’t available in the local shops and it was only when mixing with Americans and visiting America when I was nearly adult that I even heard of the American favourite Pecan Pie.
What a change! Today pecan nuts are readily available in large and small shops across the country and their growing popularity is not just because of their unique taste.
The pecan is a species of hickory native to the south central regions of North America and today, with the growing demand, it is being cultivated across many different regions. It used to be thought that the word pecan came from the native Algonquin Indians but now there is some doubt as to which precise native American tribe provided the name. There are certainly many different varieties of pecan nuts, and many of these are named after different tribes in the region.
One of the main reasons for the increasing popularity of pecan nuts is evidence of their excellent nutritional qualities.
Pecans are high in unsaturated fat. This is the “healthy” fat that can help to lower total blood cholesterol and preserve high-density lipoproteins (HDL) or “good” cholesterol. 60% of the fats in pecans are monounsaturated and another 30% are polyunsaturated which means there is very little saturated fat in pecans. In addition, pecans contain no trans fat.
On a more general level, pecans contain more than 19 vitamins and minerals including vitamin A, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, several B vitamins and zinc. They also contain many different forms of the antioxidant vitamin E - tocopherols and many phenolic substances which offer strong antioxidant abilities. Several different studies have demonstrated that naturally occurring antioxidants in pecan nuts may help to prevent heart disease.
Pecans also do not contain any sodium but have a good level of fibre.
For people seriously watching their calorific intake, pecan nuts aren’t particularly fattening, a one ounce serving of pecans (around 20 halves) contains 196 calories.
Shelled pecans can be kept for a long time, up to nine months in a normal refrigerator or up to two years in the freezer. They can also be thawed and then refrozen without losing their nutritional properties.
Rather than just eating pecan nuts raw, have a look around the website for pecan recipes. The Americans especially have some novel ideas now for cooking with these nuts and they certainly add a lovely flavour as well as all that nutritional goodness.
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