The pecan is a species of hickory, native to south-central North America, in Mexico from Coahuila south to Jalisco and Veracruz, in the United States in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas. "Pecan" is from an Algonquian word, meaning a nut requiring a stone to crack.
The pecan tree is a large deciduous tree, growing to 20–40 m in height, rarely to 44 m; taller trees to 50–55 m have been claimed but not verified. It typically has a spread of 12–23 m with a trunk up to 2 m diameter. A 10-year-old sapling will stand about 5 m tall. The leaves are alternate, 30–45 cm long, and pinnate with 9–17 leaflets, each leaflet 5–12 cm long and 2–6 cm broad. The flowers are wind-pollinated, and monoecious, with staminate and pistillate catkins on the same tree; the male catkins are pendulous, up to 18 cm long; the female catkins are small, with three to six flowers clustered together.
A pecan, like the fruit of all other members of the hickory genus, is not truly a nut, but is technically a drupe, a fruit with a single stone or pit, surrounded by a husk. The husks are produced from the exocarp tissue of the flower, while the part known as the nut develops from the endocarp and contains the seed. The husk itself is aeneous, oval to oblong, 2.6–6 cm long and 1.5–3 cm broad. The outer husk is 3–4 mm thick, starts out green and turns brown at maturity, at which time it splits off in four sections to release the thin-shelled nut.
The seeds of the pecan are edible, with a rich, buttery flavor. They can be eaten fresh or used in cooking, particularly in sweet desserts, but also in some savory dishes. One of the most common desserts with the pecan as a central ingredient is the pecan pie, a traditional southern U.S. recipe. Pecans are also a major ingredient in praline candy, most often associated with New Orleans.In addition to the pecan seed, the wood is also used in making furniture and wood flooring, as well as flavoring fuel for smoking meats.
Pecans are one of the very few sodium-free and fiber-rich nuts in the world. Pecans are a rich source of gamma tocopherol which is a chemical compound derived from vitamin E. It supports heart health, prevents heart diseases, promotes respiratory health, helps in blood circulation and is very good for your brain. Pecans also contain some of the phytochemicals. 90% of the fat content in pecans contain unsaturated fats.
One of the most significant facts of pecans nutrition is that these nuts are the best antioxidants. If you add a handful of pecan nuts to your daily diet, it will help to subdue the blood lipids to get oxidized unnecessarily. This helps in preventing coronary heart diseases. Pecan nut contains vitamin E which is a natural antioxidant that protects blood lipids from getting oxidized. No wonder, pecan nuts are topmost ranked nuts with highest antioxidant capacitance, among all the other nuts.
Another distinct factor of pecans nutrition is that they have cholesterol lowering properties. After an extensive research carried out by Dr. Ronald Eitenmiller from University of Georgia, it has been proved that the plant sterols in pecans have cholesterol-lowering characteristics.
Research has also confirmed that pecan nuts help in weight loss. According to researches consumption of these nuts help in increasing the metabolic rate of the body and improves satiety.
Pecans are called 'heart-healthy' nuts. The reason behind this is that the unsaturated fat content in pecan is supposed to be the heart-healthy fat. Sixty percent of the fat content in pecans is mono unsaturated and the leftover thirty percent is polyunsaturated. This means that the saturated fat content in pecan nuts is very low and the unsaturated fats are heart-healthy. Besides, pecans contain zero trans fats.
Coming to the real pecans nutrition, pecan nuts contain 19+ vitamins and minerals. Vitamins from the B group, vitamin A, vitamin E, calcium, potassium, folic acid, phosphorus, zinc and magnesium are also present in pecans. If we look at the daily value of required fiber for our body, pecans provide 10% of the total fiber. Pecans are rich source of proteins and contain less carbohydrates and zero cholesterol. They are best-suited for sodium restricted diet for heart patients and those with high blood pressure, as they are sodium-free nuts.
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