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Triple Maple Pecan Pie

Rich, buttery, decadent pecans are the main ingredient in one of America’s favorite Thanksgiving desserts: pecan pie!  Pecans are so much more than this classic sweet treat.  They are packed with vital nutrients and are very versatile.  Chopped pecans can be incorporated into dishes from a variety of cuisines to boost flavor and add a crunchy texture.  Pecans are also a valuable ingredient in grain-free recipes for those who are on a gluten-free diet.  Keep reading to find out why pecans are so good for you and how you can fit them into your diet. 

Pecan Facts

The buttery, delicate flavor of pecans makes them perfect for both sweet and savory dishes.  They are native to North America, particularly the south and central areas of the United States.  Georgia produces the most pecans each year and has been since the late 1800s.  Pecan trees produce incredibly high amounts of fruit.  One acre of pecan trees will yield approximately 1,000 pounds of pecans.  The United States is responsible for over 80% of the world’s pecan crop each year.  One pecan pie usually includes ½ to ¾ lb of pecans, which is about 78 pecans. 

Pecans are harvested from October through December within the United States.  After they are harvested, the raw nuts are dehydrated.  This removes excess moisture and preserves the pecans at the highest quality.  Pecans contain a high amount of oil and must be stored properly to prevent them from spoiling.  Unshelled pecans can be kept for three to six months in a cool, dry place.  Pecans that have been shelled can be frozen for up to two years or refrigerated for nine months.  
 
Nut vs. Drupe

Pecans are not actually nuts, they are drupes.  A drupe is a fruit that has a fleshy part surrounding a pit or seed.  Some other drupes are cherries, peaches, and almonds.  Sometimes we eat the fruit of a drupe, like with cherries and peaches, and other times we eat the seed of a drupe like with almonds, pecans, and walnuts.  Nuts are a pod holding both fruit and seed, like hazelnuts and chestnuts.  
 
Pecan Nutrition

A single one-ounce serving of pecans is about 20 halves.  This gives you about 196 calories and 20.4 grams of total fat, but only 1.8 grams of saturated fat.  Pecans contain no cholesterol or sodium  They are full of dietary fiber, at 3 grams per serving.  Pecans are also a low-carbohydrate source of protein, containing 2.6 grams per serving. They are full of vital vitamins and minerals, including folic acid, calcium, vitamins A and E, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus, potassium and several of the B vitamins.  Pecans are also packed with oleic acid and ellagic acid.
 
Pecans for Health

Pecans have been rated as one of the top 20 foods providing antioxidants.  These antioxidants help the body remove toxins and prevent oxidation within cells which can lead to disease.  Antioxidants have been linked to the prevention of heart disease, Alzheimer’s Disease, infections, and certain cancers.  

Pecans are also excellent for your heart!  They are full of monounsaturated fats which can decrease bad cholesterol while increasing good cholesterol.  Research has demonstrated that a diet high in dietary-fiber, monounsaturated fats, and antioxidants lower your risk of developing coronary artery disease or strokes.  The Georgia Pecan Commission also points out:
-Women who eat nuts more than twice a week are 60 percent less likely to develop heart health issues.
-Those who eat at least 5 servings of nuts per week develop heart disease 50% less than those who do not eat any nuts.
-Eating ¾ cup of pecans a day can lower LDL or bad cholesterol levels by 10% in only six weeks.
Pecans should be enjoyed in moderation because they are so calorie-dense.  However, eating pecans can help you maintain a healthy weight.  A study from the Harvard School of Public Health examined the weight loss success of participants who followed a weight-loss diet that included 35% of daily calories from fat, which included pecans as a source of fat, versus participants following a low-fat diet.  Those on the diet including fat were able to keep excess weight off longer.  Pecans are low in carbohydrates, so they are the perfect compliment to a low-carb, weight-loss diet.

Pecan Recipes

Pecans are a delicious and nutritious addition to almost any recipe!  Chopped pecans can be sprinkled on top of a crisp salad of strawberries and spinach.  They are also an excellent topper on your favorite ice cream sundae.  Pecans are an excellent ingredient to keep on hand for those who follow a gluten-free diet.  They can be used to make a delicious gluten-free pie shell or to crust chicken tenders.  Try these recipes to add more pecans into your diet:
Triple Pecan Pie with Maple
Acorn Squash Cake with Pecan Streusel
Buttermilk, Maple Syrup, Quinoa and Pecan Muffins
Pecan Biscotti
Skillet Green Beans with Toasted Butter-Maple Pecans
Roasted Pecan Chicken
Wild Pecan Rice Salad with Chicken
Pecan Orange Slaw
Apple Pecan Dressing
Butter Pecan Ice Cream
 
Triple Pecan Pie with Maple
Acorn Squash Cake with Pecan Streusel
Buttermilk, Maple Syrup, Quinoa and Pecan Muffins
Pecan Biscotti
Skillet Green Beans with Toasted Butter-Maple Pecans
Roasted Pecan Chicken
Wild Pecan Rice Salad with Chicken
Pecan Orange Slaw
Apple Pecan Dressing
Butter Pecan Ice Cream
 
 
 
Sources:
http://www.nutrition-and-you.com/pecans.html
http://www.georgiapecans.org/health-a-nutrition/overview
http://www.caes.uga.edu/commodities/fruits/pecanbreeding/facts.html 
http://homecooking.about.com/od/foodhealthinformation/a/pecanhealth.htm
http://www.seriouseats.com/2010/04/what-are-the-differences-between-nuts-and-drupes.html

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