4 Reasons to Make Pecans Your New, Nutrient-Dense Nut of Choice
Pecans hold a special place in my heart. As a young woman from the South, these crunchy, golden-brown delicacies are one of my favorite types of nut. As a little girl, I remember cracking open dozens of pecans with my dad (I, using a nutcracker, and he, using his hands) and savoring their rich, nutty, buttery flavor. Growing up, my mother also used to make pecans to bake one of my favorite desserts, pecan pie. And while the sugary-sweet delight may not be the healthiest of options, it doesn't take away from the fact that pecans are downright delicious. And luckily, childhood memories aside, pecans have proven to be quite nutritious and heart healthy.
Where Pecans Come From
According to NutHealth.org, pecan trees are the only major tree nuts indigenous to America and are produced by a species of hickory tree. According to the University of Wyoming (UW) Extension service, pecans are "considered one of the most valuable North American nut species." Additionally, the experts at Nut Health also determined that wild pecans were actually a staple in the diets of Native Americans. In fact, the name "pecan" is a Native American word of Algonquin origin used to describe "all nuts requiring a stone to crack," according to UW.
Pecan trees flourish best in warm climates with appropriate water supply, lots of sun, and well-nourished soil. And while pecan trees could be considered late bloomers (they take almost 10 years to produce nuts), once they finally produce them, pecan trees can continue to produce nuts for 100 years or more (talk about the gift that keeps on giving!). Often pronounced either PEE-can or pee-KAHN, these wonderful nuts can be tossed into nearly anything, from your favorite salad to a slice of cheesecake or banana bread—or you can simply snack on them alone. If you're looking to add a new healthy nut to your trail mix, serve up a quick cocktail hour bite, or add texture to a bowl of oatmeal, read on to learn why pecans are both a tasty and nutritious choice.
Pecan Nutritional Benefits
How to Snack, Cook, and Bake With Pecans
"Pecans are a versatile food that can be included in a variety of meals and snacks," Sollid says. "They go well in snack and trail mixes and make a great topping for oatmeal, yogurt, and salads. They're also a classic ingredient in sweet potato casserole, a Thanksgiving favorite. And of course, pecans are delicious all by themselves year-round." Here are some of Real Simple's favorite ways to include pecans in snacks, sides, mains, and more for a healthy, nutty crunch.