Medically reviewed by Elizabeth Barnes, RDN
Pecans are among the top contenders of nuts packed with healthy fats, proteins, vitamins, and minerals. The essential nutrients in this rich, flavorful nut are linked to potential health benefits, including blood sugar stabilization, heart disease protection, and immunity support.
Based on nutritional value, you may have difficulty deciding between pecans and walnuts as a snack, topping, or main ingredient in your meal planning.
This article discusses the health advantages of eating pecans, providing tips on portion sizes and ways to incorporate them into your diet.
Nutritionally, Which Is Better, Pecans or Walnuts?
Pecans and walnuts are some of the healthiest nuts. While they're similar in calories per 1-ounce serving, here's how each one's nutrient levels stack up.
Pecans are high in what's considered "good" fat—with most fat content coming from the heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. In addition, pecans are chock full of vitamins like vitamin E, vitamin A, vitamin B, potassium, magnesium, zinc, and calcium.
On the other hand, walnuts have high amounts of the omega-3 fatty acid alpha-lipoic acid (ALA), a heart-healthy fat derived from plants. Consuming roughly half a cup of walnuts can also help reduce levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol ("bad" cholesterol), leading to better cardiovascular health and a lower risk of heart disease and stroke.
A 1-ounce, or 28 gram (g), serving of pecans and walnuts contains:
Fat: 20.4 grams (g)
Fiber: 2.72 g
Protein: 2.6 g
Potassium: 116 milligrams (mg)
Magnesium: 34.3 mg
Calcium: 19.8 mg
Zinc: 1.28 mg
Fat: 17 g
Fiber: 1.99 g
Protein: 4 g
Potassium: 129 mg
Magnesium: 42.3 mg
Calcium: 19.9 mg
Zinc: 0.834 mg
6 Benefits of Snacking on or Cooking With Pecans
Most of the health benefits of pecans are linked to the nut's unsaturated fat, fiber, and polyphenols (a type of antioxidant). And in particular, pecans contain more flavonoids (another kind of antioxidant) than other tree nuts.
Researchers have found the following benefits of pecan consumption:
The fiber, low carbohydrate, and healthy fat content of pecans can help stabilize blood sugar, benefiting people with diabetes or prediabetes. Eating more tree nuts can reduce two primary markers for diabetes management: fasting glucose and hemoglobin A1c levels.
Overall, nut consumption has been shown to help decrease the risk of various cancers. In particular, studies have suggested that eating pecans daily may lead to a reduction in the risk for postmenopausal breast cancer (breast cancer in the years following the cessation of menstrual cycles).
Eating more nuts has been linked to weight loss. Some research suggests that consuming pecans regularly is linked to having a lower body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference, which are tools that may help estimate weight status and chronic health condition risks.
Swapping out a handful of pecans daily with a saturated fat portion may protect against cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, particularly for those at risk for those conditions due to age, weight status, and body fat distribution.
Because fiber helps regulate bowel movements and may prevent intestinal cancer, pecans are a supportive food for your digestive system. A one-fourth cup of pecans contains around 3 g of fiber, which can help inch you toward the daily recommended intake of up to 35 g of fiber.
Mental Health Maintenance
Recent research found that one serving a day of nuts may lead to a lower risk for depression, likely thanks to the anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids in nuts like pecans. Study participants who added eating nuts to their healthy lifestyle habits saw more significant benefits, though more research is still needed.
What's a Good Serving of Pecans?
While nuts are a great addition to your diet, it's worth being mindful of how many of them you consume daily to milk the benefits. Fortunately, pecans can help regulate blood sugar levels and appetite, which can cause you to feel fuller for longer.
Experts recommend eating one-fourth cup (about a handful) of raw and unsalted pecans. This handful should equal out to around 180 calories. Try preportioning nuts rather than reaching into a bag or container to prevent overeating.
Pecans don't have to serve as a solo snack. This versatile and flavorful nut can be added to condiments, main, or side dishes as a solid source of protein.
Here are some ideas for a pecan-rich diet:
Try pecan butter instead of peanut butter on your favorite toast or sandwich bread
Choose a roasted version of snack pecans, which can help boost the quality and flavor
Mix pecans into your favorite store-bought or homemade trail mix for a fun twist on a sweet and salty snack
Add halved pecans to your salads or as a topping on main dishes, like a casserole
Sprinkle pecans on oatmeal or yogurt
Bake crumbled pecans into cookies or other sweet treats
Whether as a snack or in a meal, pair pecans with a carbohydrate to round out your plate. This combination can help you feel fuller longer.
When consumed in moderation, nuts can be a key component of a healthful diet. Their essential nutrients that can help protect against chronic health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, certain types of cancer, and more. This flavorful, buttery nut is a solid, healthy choice for a snack, topping, or ingredient in recipes—their potential long-term health benefits are a bonus.
Read the original article on Verywell Health.