If pecans conjure up thoughts of decadent treats like pie, cookies and candies, read this month's featured food to learn how you can add this heart healthy, nutrient-dense nut to a wide variety of healthy dishes.


Nutrition Notes

Pecans are a rich source of nutrients including vitamins A and E, folate, calcium, magnesium and phosphorous. They're also a good source of fat - they contain more than 70 percent fat - more fat than any other nut! But don't let that steer you away. Not all fats are created equal. Pecans contain unsaturated fat, the type that's linked to heart health. In fact, studies have determined that eating pecans can help lower blood cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease.

A 2000 study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found pecans significantly reduced cholesterol levels. In the study, researchers randomly assigned 10 participants to receive 68 grams (about _ cup) of pecans per day for 8 weeks, while the remaining 9 participants ate a regular diet that didn't contain pecans. After the 8 weeks, the researchers found that the group eating pecans had significantly lower cholesterol levels compared to the control group.

Pecans heart healthy status might also be due to their high antioxidant content. Antioxidants protect our cells against oxidative damage thereby reducing the risk of disease. Oxidative damage occurs when the production of harmful molecules called free radicals overwhelms the body's built-in antioxidant defenses.

A 2006 study published in the journal Nutrition Research, found that enjoying handful of pecans each day slowed the oxidation of LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels - a result of the nuts high vitamin E content. (Oxidized LDL cholesterol is thought to stick more readily to artery walls.)

While pecans contain plenty of disease-fighting nutrients, they also provide plenty of calories thanks to their high fat content. Unless you want to gain weight, you need to subtract a similar number of calories from your diet. Substitute nuts for less healthy foods like cookies, ice cream, candy, soft drinks, chips, and refined starchy foods.

A Canada Food Guide serving of pecans is 1/4 cup or 28 grams. Here is how pecans rate in terms of nutrition...

Nutritional information per 1/4 cup pecans (dry roasted):

Calories (kcal)


Protein (g)


Fat (g)


Saturated (g)


Monounsaturated (g)


Polyunsaturated (g)


Carbohydrate (g)


Fibre (g)


Vitamin E (mg)

Alpha tocopherol

Gamma tocopherol




Vitamin A (ug)

(from beta carotene)



Folate (ug)


Calcium (mg)


Magnesium (mg)


Phosphorous (mg)



There are over 1000 varieties of pecans. While most varieties are just over one inch in length, there are some varieties that are much larger or smaller, including; mammoth, large, medium and midget varieties.


Pecans are available year round in many forms - in the shell, out of the shell, vacuum packed in jars, packed in cans, crushed and ground
When buying pecans in the shell; look for those that feel heavy for their size, don't have any cracks in the shell and don't rattle when shaken.

When buying shelled pecans; look for an expiration date on the package to give you an indication of how long you can store them, smell them if you can and don't purchase pecans that smell rancid. (Their high fat content makes shelled pecans susceptible to going rancid.)


Since shelled pecans are more likely to go rancid and are more prone to absorb odours than unshelled pecans; they're best stored in the refrigerator in a sealed container.

Pecans freeze extremely well too; storing them in the freezer will enhance their shelf life. Pecans out of the shell will keep for 9 months in the fridge and up to 2 years in the freezer.

Left in their shell, pecans will stay fresh for long periods of time and maintain their taste. Store unshelled pecans in a cool, dry place - they'll last for 6 to 12 months, or if kept in the fridge, even longer.


Shelled pecans can be used right out of the package.

Pecans in the shell should be carefully broken open with a nut cracker.

Depending on how you want to eat pecans, they can be enjoyed whole, chopped or ground.


There is no shortage of ways to add pecans to your diet, try some of the following ideas:

Healthy Ways to Enjoy

  • Add protein boost to a green salad by adding a handful of toasted pecans.
    • To toast pecans, preheat the oven to 375F, arrange the nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet, place in the oven and bake for 7 to 10 minutes, or until lightly brown and fragrant.
  • Toss a handful of pecans into an Asian-style stir-fry.
  • Add toasted pecans halves to a whole grain pasta tossed in extra virgin olive oil.
  • Grind pecans and keep them in the fridge to use in breading for fresh fish, toppings for muffins and quick breads, and toppings for breakfast cereal and soups.
  • Dip pecans and fresh fruit in a (dark!) chocolate fondue for a decadent, but healthy, treat.
  • Keep a small container of pecans in your desk drawer at the office so you can enjoy a small handful as a mid-afternoon snack.
  • Add crushed or chopped pecan to your favourite yogurt.
  • Substitute pecans for pine nuts in your next pesto recipe.

Did you know?

  • Pecans are one of the few nuts native to North America.
  • The United States produces about 80 percent of the world's crop of pecans, most of which are grown in Georgia, Oklahoma and Texas.
  • Just in case you were wondering, the National Pecan Shellers Association estimates it would take 11,624 pecans stacked end-to-end to reach the top of the Empire State Building in New York City - or 10 billion to reach the moon!
  • The word "pecan" originated from the Native American Algonquin tribe - meaning a nut that requires a stone to crack

More Information

National Pecan Shellers Association