Pop a Pecan, Not a Pill

According to the National Pecan Shellers Association, pecans are high in healthy unsaturated fat and just a handful a day can lower “bad” cholesterol. They also contain more than 19 vitamins and minerals including vitamins A, B, and E, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc. Just one ounce of pecans provides 10 percent of the Daily Recommended intake of fiber. Pecans are also rich in age defying antioxidants. In fact, research from the USDA shows that pecans are the most antioxidant-rich tree nut and rank among the top 15 foods with the highest levels of antioxidants. I’m thinking a bowl of Greek yogurt topped with blueberries and pecans may as well be the breakfast version of the fountain of youth!

I had no idea just how good pecans are for you and, since I’m all about getting my nutrients from food, not supplements, I’ll be adding this healthy nut to my diet—and I’m looking beyond pecan pie. Sure it’s one of my Thanksgiving favorites but considering pecan is one of the worst pies for you, I did a little research and found some amazingly delicious yet healthy pecan recipes. My mouth was watering just reading about the 200-calorie goat cheese and pecan stuffed peppers, and I never would have thought to put pecans in my soup! More amazingly, I actually found a pecan pie recipe with no butter and no corn syrup and a raw, dairy-free ice cream recipe made with pecans.

If you’re as excited about the super-healthy nut as I am, you’re in luck! April is National Pecan Month. Aside from sharing my new arsenal of healthy pecan recipes with you, I’ve collected a few fun facts about the native American nut:

  • Pecans are the only tree nut native to North America. The first cultivated pecan trees were planted in the late 1600s to early 1700 hundreds in northern Mexico. The first U.S. plantings were on Long Island, New York.

  • Perhaps due to glaciers, pecans died out in Europe about two million years ago.

  • About 1,000 pecan varieties exist, many of them named after Native American tribes.

  • Today, the U.S. produces about 80 percent of the world pecan supply. The top states, in order, are Georgia, New Mexico and Texas.

  • In 1920 commercial shelling equipment brought unshelled pecans to consumers for the first time.

  • Webster’s dictionary offers three pronunciations for the word: pi-ˈkän, pi-ˈkan and ˈpē-ˌkan (because I know this article is going to set off a few arguments about that…)

    How do you enjoy pecans? Tell me in the comments below to help me in my quest for more healthy ways to incorporate pecans into my daily diet.

    Pop a Pecan, Not a Pill-2As an editor at SHAPE I have the chance to learn about the healthiest ways to cook, eat, and live from all sorts of experts but I’m also a single girl living in NYC with a busy schedule, active social life, and chocolate cravings. I’m here to share what works for me—and where I need a little help from you.

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