Nuts About Nuts

While perusing my research material for something to write about today, I came across the fact that today is “Pecan Day”. I must admit, I’m continually amazed at the number and variety of special days, weeks and months. Pick a date and you’ll find something celebrated that day.  Pick a subject and you’ll undoubtedly find a day, week or month that celebrates it.  I’m not complaining, mind you. All these days, weeks and months give me ideas for writing this blog.

Back to my chosen topic: nuts in general and pecans in particular. I have been a nut lover since my childhood. Over the winter holidays, my family used to buy bags of mixed nuts in the shell and we would spend hours cracking, picking and eating.  Little did I know back then that I was eating a healthy snack!  (I wonder why those bags are only available in December?) Today if you put almost any kind of nut in front of me, I’ll eat the entire supply.

A study published in the Journal of Nutrition in 2001 found that eating a handful of pecans each day may help lower cholesterol levels similar to the result that is often seen with cholesterol-lowering medications. Pecans contain protein, unsaturated fats, plant sterols and are rich in omega-6 fatty acids (but they contain about half the omega-6 of walnuts, to which pecans are related).  Some research by the US Department of Agriculture found that pecans contain more antioxidants than any other nut and have one of the highest antioxidant capacities of any food. By now we all know that antioxidants help decrease the risk of cardiac disease, cancer, diabetes and some neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

Even the US Food and Drug Administration has approved a qualified health claim, “Scientific evidence suggests, but does not prove, that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, such as pecans, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease”.  If the FDA can approve even a qualified statement, that suggests there’s merit there, beyond their “qualification”.

One caveat: if you eat nuts for your health get the unsalted kind. While the nuts themselves are healthy, all the salt they coat them with is not.

I wish pecan trees would grow in our climate. I saw groves of them in southwest Georgia a few years ago when we were on our way to Florida and they are gorgeous. They grow up to 130 feet tall and spread up to 75 feet across. I can imagine the cool shade they’d provide – quite comfortable as long as you didn’t sit under them in October when the nuts start to ripen!  You’d think they would grow here – they’re supposed to be happy all the way up to zone 5 but for some reason, they don’t like the mountain air.  So, I’ll just have to content myself with buying them where I can.

Until I started researching the magical uses of plants many years ago, I didn’t realize that pecans could be used for employment issues. It is said that you should eat a shelled pecan (of course … you don’t want to break your teeth on the shell) to help you get or retain a job. Had I known that, I would have gorged myself on pecans at a time that I was unemployed – using the appropriate intention while munching.

So, go nuts!


  • Mary Posted March 25, 2010 12:56 pm

    My friend/mentor has one in her yard that is probably 150 years old. Half of it fell last year 🙁 (missed the house) Hopefully, the rest will not fall on the house! I love pecans, and have a really neat spiced nut recipe for the crock pot…. I love to eat them straight, too!

  • Laura Perry Posted March 26, 2010 8:09 am

    I love pecans, too. My grandparents’ farm, where I spent much of my childhood, had three enormous pecan trees shading the house. For years my birthday present from them was a gallon bag of pecan halves (my birthday is in the autumn when the nuts fall) and it was always my most treasured gift. I think of them every time I see a pecan tree or go to buy the ever-expensive nuts in the store.

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