Pecan is a large sized deciduous tree belonging to the member of the hickory family, Juglandaceae. The tree is native to central and southern parts of the United States of America. Today, however, it is being cultivated in many regions of the world as an important commercial tree-nuts crop. Scientific name: Carya illinoinensis.
Several cultivars of pecans exist; some of the highly recommended species include Cape fear, Elliott, and Moreland.
During each spring season, pecan tree bears catkins, consisting of clusters of monoecious flowers arranged closely along a central stem that ultimately develops into fruits by autumn.
Pecan nuts, like the product of all other members of the hickory genus, are not real nuts but botanically fruits (drupe).
Each fruit features dark brown, oval to an oblong shape, measuring 1 to 3 inches long and 0.5–1 inch broad. Their rough, outer husk or involucre is 3-4 mm thick. The hull splits off into four sections at maturity to release an edible kernel lying inside. Pecans generally harvested from October through December. Raw nuts then subjected to dehydration, the process which is essential to remove moisture and to improve their keeping quality.
Before European settlement, pecans were widely consumed and traded by Native Americans. As a food source, pecans are a natural choice for preagricultural society. As a wild forage, the fruit of the previous growing season is commonly still edible when found on the ground.
Pecans first became known to Europeans in the 16th century. The first Europeans to come into contact with pecans were Spanish explorers in what is now Louisiana, Texas, and Mexico. These Spanish explorers called the pecan, nuez de la arruga, which roughly translates to “wrinkle nut”. They were called this for their resemblance to wrinkles. The genus Carya does not exist in the Old World. Because of their familiarity with the genus Juglans, these early explorers referred to the nuts as nogales and nueces, the Spanish terms for “walnut trees” and “fruit of the walnut”. They noted the particularly thin shell and acorn-like shape of the fruit, indicating they were indeed referring to pecans. The Spaniards took the pecan into Europe, Asia, and Africa beginning in the 16th century. In 1792, William Bartram reported in his botanical book, Travels, a nut tree, Juglans exalata that some botanists today argue was the American pecan tree, but others argue was hickory, Carya ovata. Pecan trees are native to the United States, and writing about the pecan tree goes back to the nation’s founders. Thomas Jefferson planted pecan trees, C. illinoinensis (Illinois nuts), in his nut orchard at his home, Monticello, in Virginia. George Washington reported in his journal that Thomas Jefferson gave him “Illinois nuts”, pecans, which Washington then grew at Mount Vernon, his Virginia home.
15 Amazing Benefits
Pecans are rich in fiber which boosts the health of your heart by reducing the risk of coronary heart disease and preventing some forms of cancer. It also contains monounsaturated fats like oleic acid along with phenolic antioxidants that are healthy for your heart and help prevent coronary artery disease and strokes. As per research, pecans may help prevent coronary heart disease by inhibiting unwanted oxidation of blood lipids.
The fiber contained in pecans promotes colon health and facilitates regular bowel movements. It enables the colon to work at greater levels of efficiency by cleaning out the gastrointestinal system. Besides, it prevents constipation and reduces the risk of colitis, colon cancer and hemorrhoids.
Helps in Weight Loss
Research has indicated that a diet comprising of nuts such as pecans helps in losing weight. This is because nut consumption enhances satiety and increases metabolism.
Reduces the Risk of Breast Cancer
Pecans contain oleic acid, a fatty acid which has been found to reduce the risk of breast cancer.
Bone and Teeth Health
Phosphorus is one of the most abundant minerals in the body after calcium. Nearly 85% of phosphorus is found in bones and teeth while the other 15% is found in cells and tissues. Besides cleansing the waste from the body, phosphorus, along with calcium, promotes the health of your bones and teeth. This mineral is also vital for the growth and repair of cells and tissues as well as production of DNA and RNA. Lastly, it prevents muscle pain that can occur due to exercising.
Pecans are rich in magnesium which is known for its anti-inflammatory benefits. Studies have proved that increased magnesium intake reduces inflammatory indicators in the body such as CRP (C-reactive protein), TNF (tumor necrosis factor alpha) and IL6 (interlukin 6). It also reduces inflammation in the arterial walls, thus reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease and other inflammatory ailments.
Reduces Blood Pressure
Magnesium in pecans has been shown to help lower blood pressure. Though pecans cannot cure hypertension, they do help lower it.
Reduces the Risk of Stroke
Studies have proved that consuming 100 milligrams of magnesium per day reduces the risk of stroke by 9%. Pecan being a good source of magnesium can form part of your diet to reap this benefit.
Pecans are rich in phytochemical substances such as polyphenolic antioxidant ellagic acid, vitamin E, beta-carotene, lutein and zea-xanthin. These compounds play an important role in removing toxic oxygen-free radicals, thus protecting your body from diseases, cancer and infections. Ellagic acid possesses anti-proliferative properties which inhibit DNA binding of certain carcinogens such as nitrosamines and polycyclic hydrocarbons, thus protecting the human body from cancers.
Strengthens the Immune System
Pecans are a rich source of manganese which is a powerful antioxidant. This trace mineral helps boost your immunity and protects your nerve cells from free-radical damage. Adequate intake of manganese is vital for nerve conduction and brain function.
Prevents Skin Problems
The outside appearance of our skin depends upon how we treat it from the inside. Thus, adequate nutrition is inevitable for maintaining a healthy skin and preventing skin problems. The toxins inside your body can make your skin suffer by causing breakouts, dullness and excess oil. Pecans are a good source of fiber which can do wonders for your health and hence, for your skin. It aids in the elimination of toxins and waste from the body, thereby improving the appearance of your skin.
Helps Maintain Clear Complexion
Pecans contain zinc which helps in maintaining skin health by guarding against infections. Vitamin A on the other hand is an antioxidant which gives you a clear complexion.
Pecans contain numerous antioxidants including ellagic acid, vitamin A and vitamin E. These antioxidants fight and eliminate the free radicals which are responsible for causing premature skin aging. Thus, pecans can prevent the occurrence of signs of aging such as fine lines, wrinkles and pigmentation.
Just like our skin, healthy hair is also a reflection of a healthy body. Thus, our hair follicles require adequate supply of vital nutrients to maintain their health and prevent hair problems. The nutritional value of pecans makes them beneficial for your hair.
Stimulates Hair Growth
Pecans are an excellent source of L-arginine, an amino acid which, when applied topically helps treat male pattern baldness as well as encourage the growth of healthy hair. Vibrant blood flow throughout the body and to the hair roots is vital for healthy hair growth and scalp. L-arginine is beneficial in this regard as it improves the health of the artery walls by making them more flexible and less prone to blood clots which can block the flow of blood.
Prevents Hair Loss
Anemia is one of the common causes of hair loss. It is caused by iron deficiency in the blood. Pecans, being a good source of iron, can be included in your diet to improve your blood iron levels and hence, combat hair loss.