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Healthy Eating Habits: Benefits of Pecans

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If you are trying to establish healthy eating habits, consider adding an assortment of nuts to your diet, including the pecan.

Like other nuts, pecans provide us with protein, minerals and healthy fats our body needs.

Technically, pecans are a fruit. Each spring, pecan trees – members of the Hickory family – bear catkins or clusters of flowers along a central stem. The catkins morph into fruits by fall and are harvested from October into December.

Benefits of Pecans

Antioxidants Pecans contain plant chemicals known to function as antioxidants, including ellagic acid, beta-carotene, vitamin E, lutein, and zea-xanthin. Research suggests antioxidants protect the body from infections and other diseases by helping it dispose of toxic free-radicals.

Healthy Fats Pecans are a great source of healthy monounsaturated fatty acids, including oleic acid. By contributing healthy fatty acids, pecans help lower our LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, and elevate our “good” cholesterol, or HDL. This is vital for cardiovascular health.

In research studies, diets rich in monounsaturated fat, antioxidants and dietary fiber have diminished the incidence of stroke and heart disease.

Vitamins & Minerals Beside being a storehouse of vitamin E, pecans provide us with several B-complex vitamins including niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, folate and vitamin B6. The minerals we get from pecans include potassium, manganese, calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc and selenium.

Energy Nutrition rich calories such as those we get from pecans give us the energy we need to function. Eating 1/4 cup (20 g) of pecans gives us 138 vitamin and mineral packed calories that our body can use to its benefit.

The protein and healthy fat in nuts also help us feel satiated (satisfied) longer than calories from simple or processed carbohydrates.

Pecan Quesadilla

A quick and tasty lunch, snack or dinner idea.

  1. Sprinkle 1 side of an 8 inch soft flour tortilla with 1/3 cup shredded Havarti cheese and 2 tablespoons of chopped toasted pecans. Fold the tortilla in half over the filling.
  2. Cook the quesadilla in a lightly greased skillet for 2 minutes on each side over medium-high heat or until the cheese melts and the tortilla is a golden brown.
  3. Cut the quesadilla into wedges and enjoy.

The pecan quesadilla flavors are well complimented by those of pear preserves.

Sources: Nutrition and You; Southern Living; Answers
Photo credit: nodigio / flickr creative commons