Pecans: Antioxidant-Packed Nuts

These tasty tree nuts make for a popular pie filling, but they’re also a top source of antioxidants and may lower cholesterol. Get the nutritional facts on pecans and a healthy recipe.

Medically Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on October 02, 2007
From the WebMD Archives

Here's a reason to reach for the pecan pie: Its namesake nut is an antioxidant-packed free-radical fighter. Pecans are rich in vitamin E, which helps prevent cell damage and may enhance the body's immune processes. The cup of chopped nuts in that pie contains 132 milligrams of bone-strengthening magnesium and 111 milligrams of phytosterols, which help lower cholesterol.

Pecans are also a source of good fats -- the mono- and polyunsaturated type -- which can help reduce the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. These low-sodium, high-fiber treats are the only tree nuts native to North America, and the United States produces about 80% of the world's crop.

The word pecan derives from the Algonquin term meaning "nut to be cracked with a rock." There are more than 1,000 varieties, and many are named for the Native American tribes that first harvested them, attesting to pecans' genuine Thanksgiving pedigree.

Nutritious Nuts

Fresh out of pecans? Antioxidant-rich alternatives include almonds, hazelnuts, and walnuts.


Roasted-Pecan Salmon

Makes 4 servings

4 salmon filets (4 to 6 ounces each)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons seasoned bread crumbs
2 tablespoons chopped pecans
1 teaspoon dried parsley (or 2 teaspoons fresh)
Wedges of fresh lemon

  1. Sprinkle salmon with salt and pepper.
  2. Place skin side down on an oil-sprayed baking sheet.
  3. Combine mustard and honey, then brush on top of salmon.
  4. Mix topping of bread crumbs, nuts, and parsley and sprinkle over salmon.
  5. Bake at 400°F for 10 to 15 minutes or until flaky.
  6. Serve with fresh lemon wedges.

Per serving: 265 calories, 29 g protein, 9 g carbohydrate, 12 g fat (1.6 g saturated fat, 4.7 g monounsaturated fat, 4.3 g polyunsaturated fat), 78 mg cholesterol, 0.4 g fiber, 282 g sodium. Calories from fat: 42%.

Originally published in the November/December 2007 issue of WebMD the Magazine.

Show Sources

SOURCES: Senior "Largest USDA Study Of Food Antioxidants Reveals Best Sources," June 3, 2004. USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory. University of Georgia Pecan Breeding Program web site: "Pecan History." National Pecan Shellers Association web site: "History of Pecans." National Pecan Shellers Association web site: "Fun Facts about Pecans." Agricultural Marketing Resource Center web site: "Pecans." Delicious Organics web site: "Antioxidants." NIH Office of Dietary Supplements web site: "Vitamin E." Recipe provided by Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD/LD.

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