Pecan Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Pecan annotated

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman 

When you think of pecans, the first thing to come to mind is probably sweet pecan pie. However, pecans are a healthy nut when eaten on their own or as part of a hearty vegetable recipe. Although pecans are typically associated with desserts, there are many ways to enjoy them in savory dishes as well. With several health benefits to offer, pecans can easily become your new favorite snack.

Pecan Nutrition Facts

The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for 1 ounce (28g) of pecan halves (about 19 halves).

  • Calories: 196
  • Fat: 20g
  • Sodium: 0mg
  • Carbohydrates: 4g
  • Fiber: 2.7g
  • Sugars: 1.1g
  • Protein: 2.6g

Carbs

Pecans are naturally low in carbohydrates. One ounce of pecan halves has just 4 grams of carbohydrates, the majority of which come from fiber.

Fats

Pecans are a high-fat nut with 20 grams per ounce. Fortunately, the vast majority of fat in pecans comes from heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. There are only 1.7 grams of saturated fat per 1-ounce serving of pecans.

Protein

An ounce of pecans provides 2.6 grams of protein.

Vitamins and Minerals

Pecans have several fat-soluble vitamins, like vitamin E and vitamin A. They also have some B-vitamins, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, and zinc.

Health Benefits

Many of the health benefits from pecans come from their unsaturated fat and fiber content. Additionally, pecans are high in polyphenols with antioxidant effects.

Aids Diabetes Management

Pecans are beneficial for blood sugar control in several ways. Their healthy fat content and low carbohydrate levels prevent spikes in blood sugar. The fiber in pecans also helps to stabilize blood sugar. Increasing the consumption of tree nuts (without increasing total calorie intake) has been shown to lower hemoglobin A1c levels and fasting glucose, two key markers for diabetes management.

Supports Weight Loss

According to data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), consuming pecans and other tree nuts is associated with a lower body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference. Although pecans are high in calories, they are a satisfying and nutritious food that helps regulate blood sugar and appetite. Stick to a handful or 1/4 cup serving to be mindful of your portion size.

Protects Heart Health

Raw, unsalted pecans are certified by the American Heart Association's Heart-Check Program, meaning they fit within recommendations for foods that are low in saturated fat and sodium. Pecans have potassium, which helps lower blood pressure, and fiber, which helps reduce cholesterol. Consuming a handful of whole pecans daily has been found to improve lipid profiles by reducing LDL and total cholesterol levels.

Reduces Cancer Risk

Post-menopausal breast cancer is inversely associated with the intake of peanuts and tree nuts, like pecans. Researchers followed over 62,000 women for more than 20 years. The data indicates that eating 10 grams of nuts per day reduces the risk of certain types of cancer. While previous studies had confirmed lower cancer mortality from higher nut intakes, this research demonstrates preventative benefits of nut consumption.

Promotes Regularity

The fiber in pecans and other plant-based foods is essential for digestive health. Fiber regulates bowel movements and may even reduce the risk of intestinal cancer. By eliminating toxins and supporting healthy gut bacteria, fiber is crucial for physical well-being. With 3 grams of fiber in a 1/4 cup, pecans can help you work towards the daily goal of 25–35 grams per day.

Allergies

If you have a tree nut allergy, you should avoid pecans or foods made with pecans until you know if they are safe for you. It's possible to have an allergy to one type of tree nut and have a reaction to others. 

Allergic reactions to pecans or other tree nuts can range from mild to severe and may include life-threatening anaphylaxis. If you get diagnosed with a pecan allergy, your doctor may recommend carrying epinephrine at all times.

Varieties

There are more than 1,000 different varieties of pecans. Varieties are often named based on the place where they were grown, tribes that originate in the area, or fun names chosen by the developer (like Moneymaker or Kernoodle).

Pecans can be purchased raw or roasted, salted or unsalted, and shelled or unshelled. You may also find ground pecan products, like pecan meal or pecan flour. Pecan granules are finely chopped nuts that can be purchased by growers via mail. Pecan butter and pecan oil are also available.

When It's Best

Pecans are harvested in late September, which works out perfectly for the increased demand during the holiday season. Pecan kernels should be uniform in size and plump. Fresh pecans should be crisp, not limp, rubbery, or rancid-tasting.

Shelled pecans should free of damage and wormholes. Shake the shell, feel its weight, and listen for a rattle. Rattling means the nuts inside are dry and not as fresh. The best shelled pecans are heavy for their size.

Storage and Food Safety

Store pecans in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer to maximize shelf-life. If you buy pecans in a can, jar, or bag, make note of the expiration date and try to use them shortly after opening.

How to Prepare

Pecans make a great addition to both sweet and savory foods. Use them as a yogurt topping or for some added crunch in trail mix, pancakes, or oatmeal. You can also make pecan-encrusted fish and chicken. Try incorporating pecans into stuffing recipes or baked goods. For a sweet treat or appetizer, stuff dates with a pecan and cream cheese.

Recipes

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Article Sources
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