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Ingredient Spotlight: Pecans

The pecan tree (Carya illinoinensis) is a species of hickory native to northern Mexico and the southern Mississippi River region of the United States. The U.S., primarily Georgia and Texas, grows and supplies up to 80% of the world’s pecans. Before European settlement, Native Americans widely consumed and traded them.

I’m not sure why April is Pecan Month, given that they don’t come into season until the fall. But I’m going to go with it anyway. Here are some things you might be interested in knowing about this tasty and healthful nut.

Ingredient Spotlight: Pecans

Health Benefits of Pecans

Since this nut is often associated with dessert – pecan pie, pralines, praline pecan pie – many people ask, “Are there any benefits to eating pecans?” I’m happy to share that yes, are nutritional powerhouses that make excellent snacks, as well as ingredients for both savory and sweet recipes.

Pecans are an excelled source of the metabolic boosting elements manganese and copper. They are a good source of zinc, which helps the immune system. And they contain the antioxidants ellagic acid, which is associated with reduced risk of some cancers, and flavonoids, which are associated with reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, some cancers, and cognitive decline.

The fats this nut contains are mostly unsaturated, especially monounsaturated fatty acids, which are linked to reduced cholesterol levels. They are low in sugar and contain Vitamin E and oleic acid, as well.

Pecans vs. Walnuts: Which Is Better?

Both of these nuts are heart-healthy. Pecans contain more Vitamin E, whereas walnuts offer more Omega-3 fatty acids. There are more studies on the nutritional benefits of walnuts compared to pecans, so the health information for a valid comparison really isn’t there yet.

In recipes, they are basically interchangeable. Walnuts tend to be less expensive and easier to find. However, I’ve had a lot of problems with walnuts going bad on me and having a moldy taste. Something I’ve never experienced with pecans.

So, when it comes right down to it: It really is your preference.

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About the author

Carma Spence has been experimenting in the kitchen since she was four years old and loves trying out new recipe ideas. She is the author of Bonkers for Bundt Cakes and Your Perfect Pie, as well as author and contributor to several more non-food-related books. With Carma's Cookery, she is taking her passion for empowering people and blending it with her passion for cooking, gift-giving and entertaining.