Are Pecans Good For You

Are Pecans Good For You
High angle shot of a group of medical practitioners analyzing data in a hospital

Many readers are interested in the following topic: What Happens to Your Body When You Eat Nuts Every Day. We are happy to note, that our authors have already studied the modern research about the topic you are interested in. Based on the information provided in the latest medical digests, modern research and surveys, we provide extensive answer. Keep reading to find out more.

Antioxidants can help protect the body from the cell damage that causes Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and cancers. The USDA has ranked over 100 foods by antioxidant levels, and pecans made the top 20.

Health Benefits of Pecans

*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

  • Vitamin C 0%
  • Iron 6%
  • Vitamin B6 0%
  • Magnesium 0%
  • Calcium 2%
  • Vitamin D 0%
  • Cobalamin 0%
  • Vitamin A 1%

The pecan is a nut from a species of hickory trees native to northern Mexico and the Southern United States. The nut is a nutrition powerhouse loaded with vitamins and minerals.

What’s more, raw pecans are even cholesterol-free, sodium-free, and low in carbohydrates. With their rich, buttery flavor and natural sweetness, they make a tasty and satisfying snack.

Health Benefits

Raw pecans pack a 1-2-3 punch of protein, healthy fats, and fiber that can help keep you energized and satisfied.

Heart Health

Pecans are a good source of calcium, magnesium, and potassium, which help lower blood pressure.

Most of the fat found in pecans is a healthy type called monounsaturated fat. Eating foods with monounsaturated fat instead of foods high in saturated fats (like potato chips) can help lower levels of bad LDL cholesterol. Keeping your LDL cholesterol low cuts down your risk of having a stroke or heart attack.

Diabetes Management

Studies have shown that nuts can help prevent heart disease in people with diabetes. Snacking on an ounce of nuts when hungry helps you feel full, making it easier to avoid high-carb foods and keep blood sugars in check.

Pecans have a very low glycemic index, which means that eating them does not cause a spike in blood sugar, even in people with diabetes. Eating pecans can even offset the effects of higher glycemic index foods when eaten as part of the same meal.

Arthritis Relief

Pecans also contain Omega-3 fats, which can help ease the pain of arthritis by reducing inflammation. The magnesium, calcium, fiber, vitamin E, and zinc in pecans also give the nuts anti-inflammatory properties.

Disease Prevention

Vitamin A, vitamin E, and zinc, which are all found in pecans, support your immune system so that your body can fight off infections and repair damage. Pecans also provide folate, which can guard against changes to your DNA that might otherwise lead to cancer.

Antioxidants can help protect the body from the cell damage that causes Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and cancers. The USDA has ranked over 100 foods by antioxidant levels, and pecans made the top 20.


Pecans are rich in many vitamins and minerals important for healthy skin, eyes, teeth, bones, muscles, and nerves.

Nutrients per Serving

One ounce of raw pecans has:

  • Calories: 196
  • Protein: 3 grams
  • Fat: 20 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 4 grams
  • Fiber: 3 grams
  • Sugar: 1 gram

Portion Sizes and Processing

Pecans are a great source of healthy fats but are high in calories, so it is important to watch your portion sizes. A serving of pecans is 1 ounce, which is a little less than ¼ cup or 19 pecan halves.

Roasted pecans sold as prepackaged snacks are often coated in unhealthy oils and sugar, adding empty calories. Be sure to read labels and choose raw pecans when possible.

How to Add Pecans to Your Diet

When you find yourself craving a crunchy snack, reach for a handful of pecans instead of potato chips. Prep several snack-size baggies with 19 pecan halves apiece so they are ready to go the next time you are hungry. Keep one in your backpack or purse for a healthy snack on the go.

Pecans are naturally sweet and make a good replacement for candies when sugar cravings hit. Sub raw pecan pieces in for chocolate chips, mixing them into pancake, muffin, or cookie dough. Add some crunch and protein to salads, oatmeal, quinoa, or yogurt by topping them with raw pecan pieces.

Show Sources

American Heart Association: “Monounsaturated Fat.”

Cleveland Clinic: “A Tip for People with Type 2 Diabetes: Eat More Nuts.”

Penn Medicine: “Seven Foods to Help You Fight Arthritis.”

Harvard Health: “Key minerals to help control blood pressure.”

New Mexico State University: “A Healthful New Mexico-Grown Food.”

St. John’s Health: “Top 20 Foods High in Antioxidants.”

U.S. Department of Agriculture

What Happens to Your Body When You Eat Nuts Every Day

Nuts have gotten much attention recently for their potential health benefits and role in disease prevention. Walking along the grocery aisles, you may notice that a wide array of nuts and nut-based products are available, from drinks to snacks and spreads.

Generally, nuts are rich in heart-healthy fats, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Still, not all nuts are equal in nutritional value. Some have more of a specific type of nutrient than others—a 2022 article in Food Reviews International revealed the highest nutrient concentration among nut varieties:

  • Highest-protein nuts: Peanuts, cashews, almonds and pistachios
  • Highest-fat nuts: Macadamias, Brazil nuts, pine nuts and walnuts
  • Highest unsaturated-fat nuts: Hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, Brazil nuts and pine nuts
  • Highest-carbohydrate nuts: Pecans

While certain types have more nutrients than others, you may wonder what actually happens to your body when you eat nuts daily. And, are there certain nuts that you should eat more or less frequently? Here is what the research suggests might happen to your body if you eat nuts every day.

a photo of a bowl of almonds
Credit: Ali Redmond

You might improve your LDL, HDL and total cholesterol levels

A 2022 review in Food Reviews International noted that healthy individuals and those with elevated lipids levels who consumed 50 to 100 grams of nuts—such as almonds, peanuts, pecans and walnuts—five times a week significantly reduced their LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels. They also found that eating hazelnuts, pistachios and walnuts may help raise “good” HDL cholesterol levels. Research suggests that phytosterols, a group of lipids present in nuts, may be responsible for decreasing LDL levels. The same review noted that pistachios, pine nuts and almonds have the highest content of phytosterols.

Moreover, almonds, walnuts, pecans and peanuts were also found to reduce total cholesterol levels. One 2020 study in Nutrition and Metabolic Insights suggests that regularly consuming nuts could lead to a 3.75mg/dL reduction in total cholesterol level and lower heart disease risk.

You might consume more antioxidants

Nuts, such as almonds, are known to contain flavonoids, a group of compounds naturally present in plant-based foods. They are not only rich in antioxidants, but they may also have the ability to protect you from free radicals that could lead to the hardening of blood vessels (aka atherosclerosis) and increase the risk of heart disease.

Depending on the type of nuts you eat, you may ingest more antioxidants. Specifically, almonds and cashews are noted to have the most significant amounts of tocopherol, a form of vitamin E that is also an antioxidant associated with lower inflammation and cancer risk.

You might lose weight

Some studies suggest that eating nuts, such as tree nuts and peanuts, does not lead to obesity. A 2019 study from Nutrition Research discovered that consuming more than one to two servings of nuts per week may be linked to less weight gain and a decreased risk of overweight and obesity. Another study found that people who ate at least 28 grams of nuts per day (around 1 ounce) had less weight gain and a lower risk of being overweight and obese than those who did not include nuts as part of their diet. This phenomenon could be explained by the presence of protein and fiber, which increase feelings of fullness and reduce hunger.

That said, relying on nuts alone to manage weight may not be a great idea, as there are several factors that come into play for weight management, including the types and portions of food you eat, genetics, your activity level and more. Other studies also noted that eating nuts may not necessarily lead to weight loss, especially for those who are overweight or obese, due to altered appetite sensitivity and regulation.

You might reduce your risk of colon cancer

Nuts have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that may help prevent tumor formation. A 2021 review from the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition found that higher nut consumption was associated with lower risk of colon cancer. However, the findings are conflicting. More recent research from the European Journal of Epidemiology and Medicina points out that the relationship between eating nuts and legumes and the risk of colon cancer is weak and needs more research to be substantiated. Nevertheless, it does not hurt to include nuts as part of a balanced eating pattern for other potential health benefits (so long as you’re not allergic).

You might increase your sodium intake

While nuts are nutritious, how they are prepared also matters. Roasted salted or flavored nuts can be high in sodium. Eating too much sodium could lead to high blood pressure and put you at higher risk of heart disease, stroke and heart failure, according to the American Heart Association. Try to choose unsalted nuts if you are watching your sodium intake or if you have high blood pressure or diabetes.

You might ingest too much of certain micronutrients

Over time, overeating certain types of nuts—specifically Brazil nuts—could lead to selenosis, also known as selenium intoxication. Brazil nuts have the highest concentration of selenium of all nut varieties, with every gram containing 35 micrograms of selenium, which is about two-thirds of the recommended dietary allowance. In other words, eating one to two nuts per day already meets the daily requirement, and a 1-ounce serving contains 544 micrograms of selenium, which is roughly 989% of the RDA. For reference, the maximum daily recommended intake of selenium is 400 micrograms. Regularly eating more than that could lead to fatigue, weakness and burning or prickling sensations—all of which are signs of selenium intoxication.

Which types of nuts should you eat every day?

Generally speaking, each nut type offers different amounts and types of nutrients, so eating a variety of nuts is recommended. That said, it’s best to enjoy Brazil nuts in smaller portions and more occasionally to avoid selenium intoxication, as noted above.

Additionally, the portion size of nuts you eat also matters. As much as nuts are nutritious with heart-healthy fats, they are also calorie-dense. As a general rule of thumb, follow the USDA My Plate for an appropriate serving of nuts. Depending on your age and calorie needs, the number of servings of protein you need may differ. One serving of protein is equivalent to 12 almonds, 24 pistachios or 7 walnut halves, or 1 tablespoon of nut butter. Research reported that eating one serving of nuts daily may reduce the risk of heart disease by 27%, compared to those who eat only one serving per week, which lowered the risk by 4%.

The bottom line

If you are not allergic to nuts, it is totally OK to enjoy a small handful of nuts every day (be sure to check for shriveling or blemishes, which can be a sign your nuts have gone bad). If you have specific health concerns, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, you may want to choose unsalted nuts rather than salted or flavored ones. As with any food, eating nuts in moderation may offer potential health benefits. They’re perfect for snacking as they are, but you can also include them in recipes like Cranberry-Almond Energy Balls, Cherry-Chocolate Chip Granola Bars or Baked Banana-Nut Oatmeal Cups to shake up your routine.

Are Pecans Good for You? Health Benefits and Recipes

Pecan nutrition - Dr. Axe

Pecans are a holiday staple often featured in sweet treats like pecan pies and cookies. However, apart from their delicious flavor, these tasty tree nuts bring so much more to the table in terms of nutrition.

Not only are they high in healthy fats, protein and fiber, but pecans are also brimming with key nutrients like manganese, copper and thiamine. Plus, they’ve been tied to a number of impressive health benefits, from improved heart health to better brain function and beyond.

So are pecans good for you? This article will take a closer look at the benefits and risks of this nutritious nut, as well as some simple ways to squeeze a few extra servings into your day.

What Is A Pecan?

Pecans are a type of tree nut that grow on lush, green trees in the Southeastern/South Central regions of the U.S. as well as Mexico. This North American nut variety, Carya illinoinensis, has been cultivated for several centuries and is, surprisingly, not technically a nut at all.

One similarity between pecans vs. walnuts and other common nut varieties is that they are botanically classified as a fruit cultivar known as a “drupe,” or “stone fruit.” Drupes contain a small seed on the inside, a shell of some kind surrounding the seed and an outer “fleshy” component.

Pecans first came on the food scene in Native American history around the year 1500, its name originating from the Algonquins. The word “pecan” actually means “a nut that requires a stone to crack.”

Colonists in North America celebrated pecan tree plantings as early as the 1600s, with the first recorded pecan planting in the U.S. documented in 1772. In the beginning of the 17th century, the French recognized the financial potential of exporting this delicious treat and began sending crops to the West Indies.

Since then, pecans have been an important and common food in American culture, finding their way into recipes from everything from salads to desserts. Texans are especially fond of it, as they named the pecan tree as their state tree in 1919. Georgia pecans are also incredibly common, as Albany, Georgia is considered the pecan capital of the U.S.

Nutrition Facts

In addition to supplying plenty of heart-healthy fats, pecans also offer several vitamins and minerals that can protect against nutritional deficiencies and optimize overall health.

A one-ounce serving of pecans (about 19 halves) contains about:

  • 195 calories
  • 4 grams carbohydrates
  • 2.5 grams protein
  • 20 grams fat
  • 2.7 grams fiber
  • 1.3 milligrams manganese (64 percent DV)
  • 0.3 milligrams copper (17 percent DV)
  • 0.2 milligram thiamine (12 percent DV)
  • 34.2 milligrams magnesium (9 percent DV)
  • 1.3 milligrams zinc (9 percent DV)
  • 78.2 milligrams phosphorus (8 percent DV)
  • 0.7 milligrams iron (4 percent DV)
  • 0.1 milligrams vitamin B6 (3 percent DV)
  • 116 milligrams potassium (3 percent DV)

Pecans also contain a small amount of riboflavin, calcium, niacin, pantothenic acid and selenium.

Health Benefits

1. Supports Weight Loss

Many people wonder: are pecans fattening? While it’s true that the pecans nutrition profile is high in fat, it’s full of healthy fats that can actually be beneficial for providing long-lasting energy and promoting weight loss.

These heart-healthy fats can help slow the emptying of the stomach to help keep you feeling fuller for longer. Furthermore, most of the carbs in pecans are made up of fiber, which moves through the intestinal tract undigested and reduces hunger and appetite.

According to one review published in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, some studies have found that eating nuts as part of a healthy diet could be linked to a lower body weight. Another 2018 study out of France also reported that a higher intake of nuts was tied to reduced weight gain and a decreased risk of becoming overweight or obese over a five-year period.

2. Prevents Oxidative Stress

Pecans are loaded with antioxidants, which are important compounds that help protect against oxidative stress and inflammation. Some research shows that antioxidants may play a central role in overall health and could aid in the prevention of chronic conditions like heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

Interestingly enough, one study out of Loma Linda University in California found that eating pecans increased antioxidant levels in the bloodstream within 24 hours of consumption. What’s more, other research shows that nut consumption could be tied to a lower risk of heart disease and cancer as well.

3. Enhances Heart Health

Some studies have found that pecans could help reduce several risk factors for heart disease to help keep your heart healthy and strong.

For instance, a 2018 study published in Nutrients found that pecan consumption helped reduce several markers used to measure the risk of heart disease, including cholesterol and blood pressure levels.

Another study out of California had similar findings, noting that a pecan-enriched diet was effective at reducing the cholesterol and triglyceride levels of participants.

4. Reduces Inflammation

Although acute inflammation is an important immune process, sustaining high levels of inflammation long-term can worsen symptoms of autoimmune disease and contribute to conditions like heart disease and cancer.

Filling up on antioxidants is an effective strategy to help reduce inflammation and fight free radical damage. Superoxide dismutase (SOD), in particular, is an antioxidant compound that relies on the presence of manganese to operate. Therefore, eating pecans can help fulfill the manganese requirement necessary for this antioxidant to perform properly and reduce levels of inflammation.

The copper found in pecans can also help decrease inflammation, especially for pain and stiffness caused by arthritis. This is why pecans and other anti-inflammatory foods can make a great addition to an arthritis diet treatment plan.

5. May Prevent Bone Loss

In conjunction with other nutrients, manganese, copper and zinc (all found in pecans) have been used to help treat symptoms of osteoporosis, which is a condition characterized by weak, brittle bones. Early research has found these nutrients to be particularly beneficial for increasing bone mass and preventing bone loss.

6. Promotes Proper Brain Function

Many of the minerals found in pecans can promote proper brain function. Thiamine, for instance, is given to patients with Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, a brain disorder that is common in alcoholics due to thiamine deficiency.

Copper is another nutrient necessary for good brain function, as it impacts brain pathways involving dopamine and galactose and can help prevent free radical damage to protect against neurodegenerative conditions like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

The brain’s synaptic processes also depend on manganese, which is abundant in pecans. A deficiency in manganese can contribute to mood problems, impaired focus, learning disabilities, mental illness and possibly epilepsy.

All about pecan nutrition - Dr. Axe

7. May Reduce Symptoms of PMS

Thanks to its rich content of manganese, adding pecans to your diet could reduce PMS symptoms, such as mood swings and cramps. Dietary manganese, when consumed with calcium, seems to have significant impact on these PMS symptoms and may help improve mood and reduce pain during menstruation.

8. Aids in Treatment of Diabetes

Pecans are a great source of manganese, an important mineral that acts as an antioxidant to help protect the body against free radical damage.

Some studies suggest that supplementing your diet with manganese-rich foods, including pecans, can aid in the management of diabetes. Although current research is limited, this may be because higher manganese levels are associated with improved insulin secretion and glucose tolerance.


Although nuts can definitely be enjoyed in moderation as part of a healthy weight loss diet, it’s important to remember that they are very energy-dense, meaning that there are a high amount of pecans calories in each serving. For this reason, it’s best to stick to a few servings per day and be sure to make adjustments to your diet to account for these extra calories if you’re trying to lose weight.

Additionally, it is possible to suffer from a pecan or tree nut allergy. The most common symptoms occur within the first hour after consuming pecans and can range anywhere from hives and swelling to vomiting and loss of consciousness.

If you suspect you or your child may have an allergy to pecans, it’s important to get tested at an allergist before trying them. Anytime you believe you may be experiencing an allergic reaction to pecans, you should immediately discontinue eating them and consult a physician.

Finally, many people wonder: Can dogs eat pecans? Although this tasty tree nut can be a great addition to the diet for humans, they’re not so great for your furry friends. This is because they contain a compound called juglone , which can be toxic to some animals, including dogs and horses. They may also cause stomach issues or an obstruction, which can have serious side effects if left untreated.


When selecting your pecans, it’s best to look for nuts that are uniform in size and feel heavy. Many people choose to purchase only deshelled pecans, reducing the amount of work involved in using them for cooking. However, if you’re looking for fresher nuts, you may be interested in buying pecans still in their shells and shelling them yourself.

The beauty of these drupes is that they don’t have to be cooked in order to eat, but they’re delicious when prepared in almost any method. Some recipes call for you to first toast pecans before adding them to your dish, which gives them a slightly richer flavor. There are many recipes and instructions for how to toast pecans, but it generally involves spreading them on a baking sheet and toasting for around five minutes.

Here are a few simple recipes you can use to take advantage of the many health benefits of pecans:

  • Pecan Pesto Salmon
  • Candied Pecans
  • Gluten-Free Pecan Pie
  • Cinnamon Spiced Pecans
  • Pecan Coconut Balls

Final Thoughts

  • Pecans are a type of tree nut that are botanically classified as a drupe, or stone fruit.
  • Are pecans healthy? There are numerous potential pecans health benefits, including increased weight loss, reduced inflammation and oxidative stress, improved heart health, better brain function and more.
  • The pecans nutrition facts also boasts a good amount of fiber, protein and heart-healthy fats along with micronutrients such as manganese, copper and thiamine.
  • From candied to spiced to roasted pecans, there are tons of different ways to include this nutritious ingredient in your diet.
  • However, keep in mind that they are very energy-dense, so be sure to enjoy in moderation as part of a well-rounded, healthy diet.

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