Pecan nuts are a tasty snack that can fit well into both sweet and savoury meals, and they are starting to earn super-food status because of their numerous health benefits. Researchers at the Loma Linda University in California have found that eating pecan nuts can help to reduce your risk of developing heart disease and cancer.

Pecan nuts contain gamma tocopherol, a form of vitamin E that helps to reduce inflammation in your arteries, as well as reduce your blood cholesterol levels. Pecans are high in fat and low in carbohydrates. They are quite calorie-dense, as a one-ounce serving of these nuts contains 193 calories, but eaten in moderation they can increase satiety and provide you with manganese, calcium, iron and even a small amount of vitamin C. The “eaten in moderation” qualification is particularly important, however. While pecans contain a lot of essential nutrients, they are also high in polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Quality Proteins and Fats

Pecans are not a complete source of protein, but they do cover most of the essential amino acids. If you eat other nuts and seeds, as well as meat, then you will get all of the amino acids you need. Pecans are high in Omega-6 PUFA, and they contain a small amount of Omega-3 PUFA. They are also a good source of copper and thiamene.

The Paleo diet advocates trying to keep a 10:1 ratio of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, so if you decide to eat pecans you should make an effort to balance out the excess Omega-6 with another source of healthy fats. Store the nuts carefully to prevent the fatty acids from oxidizing when they are exposed to air and sunlight.

You should aim to keep your polyunsaturated fat intake to below 4% of your daily calories, which means no more than 8 grams of Omega-6 per day for the average person. It is easy to go over this limit if you are the kind of person that likes to graze on nuts throughout the day.

Phytic Acids

Nuts and seeds contain phytic acid as a form of protection. The acid is intended to prevent the nut from sprouting in less than ideal conditions. The problem with phytic acid, from a human point of view, is that it binds to nutrients in the food and stops us from absorbing them. This means that even though nuts and seeds contain a lot of iron, magnesium and other important nutrients, you don’t get the full benefits of those nutrients unless you treat the food to remove the acids.

Soaking nuts and seeds in salty water can help to remove the fatty acids from them, and is a popular tactic used by Paleo diet followers. However, if you choose to do this, be sure to rinse the nuts after soaking them, and then let them sit in the oven at a low temperature for a while to dry them out. Replacing phytic acid with large quantities of salt is not a good trade-off.