You’ve got a lot of options when it comes to snack foods, even Paleo ones. Nuts and seeds, in particular, store well, travel easy, and taste awesome. The only problem for the enterprising Paleo-eater is choosing. Admittedly, you don’t have to limit yourself to one kind of nut or seed, but if you want to have more than one of each variety in your snack, you’ve got to have some criteria for choosing. And regardless of what your most important criteria are, the pecan will probably make the list. Pecans grow in a shell, and break into two butterfly-shaped halves (the serving size you usually find adorning that slice of pie). The pecan tree
is part of the hickory tree’s family tree, which makes them technically a drupe and not a nut (pistachios, coconuts, and peaches are all examples of drupes). Consider the “nut” Paleo, in spite of them being one of the most recently domesticated and cultivated species of nut. “Pecan farmer” wasn’t a profession until the 1880’s. Pecans boast similar health benefits as other nuts, but with possibly more research to back up the claims. For example, one study focusing on antioxidants
(those little compounds that, in theory, stem the aging process) found that not only did pecans contain antioxidants, but that they are actually absorbed into the body and do some real protective work. Researchers measured several markers against a baseline of bloodwork. Results such as an increase in the body’s ability to deal with oxidative particles, increased count of antioxidants, and a lowering of LDL cholesterol
were the norm. Thankfully, these results were the same if you ate whole pecans and if you blended them into water, making the world’s strangest drupe smoothie. The anti-aging benefits don’t stop there. A study in mice suggests that daily intake of pecans can slow age-related muscle nerve degeneration.
They fed the mice, who were all bred to exhibit these degenerative diseases, various amounts of pecans. Then their motor function was measured against a control group, a group denied the joy and benevolence of pecans. The mice with the highest percentage of pecans in their diets scored best, which led researchers to conclude that Alzheimer’s, Lou Gehrig's Disease, and other diseases that affect the nervous system
may be delayed by the frequent intake of Vitamin E and pecans’ other antioxidant compounds. They have a pretty impressive nutritional profile
, too, if you’re not necessarily worried about your LDL or you aren’t a mouse with Alzheimer’s. One cup will give you a third of your RDA for magnesium and zinc, two-thirds of your copper, and 245% of manganese. That’s all without mentioning the basics: pecans are tasty, high in satisfying monounsaturated fat, and a decent source of protein. Plus, pecans are the Texas state tree, and Paleo pecan pies are frickin awesome. How do you eat pecans? What nuts go in your trail mix or snack bag? Will you plant a pecan tree on your grave instead of a tombstone like Texas governor “Big Jim” Hogg?
I think I just might.