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The pecan harvest is in full swing in South Georgia. Near Tifton pecan trees are everywhere. When living there, we picked up big brown grocery bags of pecans. It only cost 10 cents per pound to have them cracked at the pecan processing plant. Once cracked, the pecan halves just fell out of the shells so it was little trouble to clean those nuts!
Texas and Georgia are the largest producers of commercial pecans in the U.S. This country produces 80 – 90 percent of the world’s pecan supply.
Pecan is a type of hickory, most significant as a nut crop. However, the wood from the tree is also used in agricultural implements, baseball bats, hammer handles, furniture, wall paneling, flooring, religious carvings and firewood.
Pecans are one of the largest fruit-bearing trees. One irrigated, managed acre of pecan trees will produce about 1,000 pounds of pecans! However, naturally, pecan trees only produce nuts every two years, approximately 25 – 45 pounds per tree. Researchers are working to develop a tree that produces nuts annually.
Pecans are a perfect fit in a healthy lifestyle. Besides being very good and easy to use, pecans provide health benefits that are hard to beat. The Dietary Guidelines from the U.S. Department of Agriculture say that eating four to five servings of nuts each week (including pecans) will bring you one step closer to staying in line with current healthy eating recommendations.
The USDA also reports on a study that found pecans have the highest amount of antioxidants of the nuts tested, including almonds or walnuts. This means they help to fight the ‘rust’ process or oxidative stress that is taking place in our bodies. Such oxidative damage has been linked to developing a wide variety of diseases including heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s Disease.
A one-ounce serving of pecans (approximately 10 pecan halves) contains 196 calories, 3 grams dietary fiber and over 19 vitamins and minerals including vitamin A, vitamin E, calcium, potassium and zinc. Pecans are also a good source of oleic acid, vitamin B1, thiamin, magnesium and protein.
Many times it’s what we put with the pecans that make then an unhealthy choice. One piece of commercially prepared pecan pie has over 500 calories, 22 grams of fat, and 79 grams of carbs. So as you have an opportunity this holiday season to choose special treats when at family, church or work gatherings, enjoy a few of these good-for-you foods. Choose a serving of mixed nuts rather than the pie!