It seems like nearly every day a new health craze or diet supplement crops up to grab our attention and money. Some of these have merit while others prove to be of little value. But sometimes we don’t have to look much further than the foods we already enjoy, and have enjoyed for millennia as a species, for nutritional benefits.
Nuts and seeds of many kinds have served as an integral part of the human diet for at least tens of thousands of years (probably more). In the United States, peanuts dominate other types of nuts by a significant margin. In fact, approximately 90% of U.S. citizens eat peanut butter, and more than 100 million pounds of peanut butter were consumed each year between 2008 and 2014. Fortunately, there are several benefits of eating peanuts. Still, while peanuts, peanut butter, peanut oil, and peanut flour have their health perks, they’re not the only kind of nut to look for.
The walnut and pecan families offer a host of nutritional benefits as well. Often found in nut mixes, pecans and walnuts look quite alike, but differ in size, taste, and nutritional values. Here are three walnut and pecan benefits you might not have known about.
1. Walnuts are Packed with Omega-3’s
In the last decade or two, omega-3 fatty acids have grown in popularity and consumption. This type of fat falls under the “good fat” category. Most commonly found in fish, omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to improve cardiovascular health. Additionally, they can decrease the risk of heart disease, dementia, depression, and even arthritis. Ever since this research became widely known, people have been looking for more foods containing this type of fat. Other than fish, avocado, brussels sprouts, spinach, and most types of squash are great sources. Walnuts, of course, are another.
While pecans also contain omega-3 fatty acids, they aren’t as good a source as walnuts. Walnuts contain 2.5 grams of this fat per ounce, whereas pecans only contain 0.3 grams. Still, there are pecan benefits we have yet to discuss.
2. Pecans are Full of Fiber
Pecans might not contain as any omega-3’s as walnuts, but they have a leg up in another arena: fiber. Fiber, as most of us know, contributes to healthy and regular bowel movements. Fiber also contributes to lowering cholesterol, maintaining blood sugar levels, and helping lose weight. Compared to other fiber-rich foods like split peas, black beans, and artichokes, pecans might not offer as much. Still, compared to walnuts and many other kinds of nuts, pecans hold their own. Like peanuts, pecans contain about 8.5 grams of fiber out of every 100 grams. The pecan benefits don’t stop here, though.
3. Pecans are Filled with Flavonoids
Flavonoids are a fun and fancy word for antioxidants. As you may know, antioxidants refer to substances that prevent cell damage . Pecans are particularly rich in this type of antioxidant. In fact, pecans contain about seven times the amount of flavonoids that walnuts do. These flavonoids, like omega-3 fatty acids, may contribute to better heart health and have general anti-inflammatory effects. It’s still not entirely known whether these flavonoids are the sole cause for these health effects, but they seem to play some role.
Pecans and walnuts may look the same, but they’re not. Each type of nut provides unique nutritional benefits, and both are delicious. If you’re looking for some more omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and/or antioxidants in your diet, all the more reason to eat pecans and walnuts together! And yes, you can add some peanuts in there as well.