Pecans May Help Protect Us from Cancer
Isn’t that nuts? Nuts are packed full of valuable nutrients and pecans, specifically, are good sources of dietary fiber, beneficial fats, and many vitamins and minerals. It’s no wonder pecans provide more benefits than just tasting delicious.
Multiple long-running studies have shown that the more often individuals consume nuts, the less likely they are to die of cancer. A study from the New England Journal of Medicine found participants who ate nuts more than five times a week had an 18% lower mortality rate than the control group. The same study found tree nuts, such as pecans, have a stronger effect at reducing the risk of death than peanuts.
1. Another study found men who consume nuts five or more times a week were 34% less likely to die of colon cancer during treatment in comparison to those who consumed nuts less than once a month.
2. More research has suggested that tree nut consumption may even reduce cancer recurrence.
3. If eating pecans five times a week seems daunting, researchers even found reduced risk in those who ate only two servings of nuts a week!
The exact way nuts help protect us from cancer-related mortality is unknown, but the cause is likely multi-factorial. Here are some of the ways pecans may provide a cancer-fighting contribution:
Amount of Fiber in Pecans
Pecan nuts are a great source of dietary fiber, with one cup providing almost half our daily requirement. Research has suggested that increased fiber intake may reduce risk of cancer by encouraging stool to move through the body more quickly, which means carcinogens in our diet don’t linger in our system for as long. Fiber also supports the growth of healthy gut bacteria that fight off cancer cells.
Pecan Healthy Fats
Pecans contain a high amount of healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats, which have been suggested to reduce the risk of many types of cancer. Polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids may pose the most benefit by helping to protect the body from systematic inflammation that contributes to the development of certain cancers. Pecans contain the omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), that our body can convert to fatty acids that fight systematic inflammation by protecting cellular membranes and decreasing the production of pro-inflammatory proteins. Pecans contain a higher amount of these polyunsaturated fatty acids than other nuts, outranking almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, and peanuts.
Antioxidants in Pecans
Healthy fats and fiber are not the only nutrition benefits posed by eating pecans. Pecans have a high antioxidant capacity, one of the highest among all tree nuts. Antioxidants are compounds that reduce oxidation in our bodies. Oxidation produces free radicals that can damage cells and contribute to the development of cancers. Pecan’s antioxidant properties can be attributed to phenolic compounds like tannins as well as vitamin E content.
No one food can prevent cancer or halt cancer progression, but evidence suggests eating nuts like pecans may help keep us healthy and reduce the risk of cancer-related mortality. Check out our recipes for ideas of how to incorporate more pecans into your diet.
1. Ying, Han, and Hu et al. "Association of Nut Consumption with Total and Cause-Specific Mortality." The New England Journal of Medicine 369.21 (2013): 2001-011. Web.
2. Wang, Yang, and Kenfield et al. "Nut Consumption and Prostate Cancer Risk and Mortality." British Journal of Cancer 115.3 (2016): 371-374. Web.
3. Temidayo, Zhang, and Niedzwiecki et al."Nut Consumption and Survival in Patients With Stage III Colon Cancer: Results From CALGB 89803 (Alliance)." Journal of Clinical Oncology : Official Journal of the American Society of Clinical Oncology 36.11 (2018): 1112-1120. Web.
4. Tree nut comparison chart. California Almonds. https://www.almonds.com/sites/default/files/content/Tree%20Nut%20Nutrient%20Comparison%20Chart%20Web%20File.pdf
5. Nuts and Seeds in Health and Disease Prevention, edited by Ronald Ross Watson, et al., Elsevier Science & Technology, 2011. ProQuest Ebook Central, https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/washington/detail.action?docID=680832.