Fountain of youth under a pecan tree

The Fountain of Youth Under a Pecan Tree

Pecan Nutrition

When I was a little girl, I remember hearing someone talk about the fountain of youth. I was curious. Was there really something that could help cultivate the look and feeling of youth? And if so, was it really a fountain of water? Maybe it was more like the one I passed by at the mall with my mom? Or could it be located in some far distant land where I would possibly never travel to? Surely such a fountain would be carefully protected so that it’s water or “magic potion” would not run dry? Or maybe it was like a tree? Kind of like the tree in the Garden of Eden. Or possibly a pecan tree. I didn’t know the answers, but I was anxious to find out.

After all, my two great-grandmothers were still alive at the time. I was seeing the effects that age was having on them. One was being plagued by Alzheimer’s and the other was still as sharp as a tack, but unable to physically do the things she loved.

I soon discovered, like we all do, that no such fountain existed and that youth was something that would eventually fade. But could it be possible to find the closest thing to the fountain of youth? Ultimately, I was hoping to lengthen the number of years to my life, but in order to discover how to do something you have to first look at the baseline.

San Saba Pecans Add To Life Expectancy

Research shows that the average life expectancy in the United States is 78 years old. When I recently looked at the average life expectancy for the state of Texas, I was alarmed to see that it was only 75 years old. But as I took a closer look by county, I discovered that the life expectancy in San Saba County is 79 with the female life expectancy being an astonishingly 82!

There are a total of 254 counties in Texas and out of those 254 there are only 33 counties with a life expectancy of 76 or higher. San Saba County happens to be one of those counties. In fact, San Saba County is in the top 14 counties for highest life expectancy in Texas! It’s no surprise to me and I’ll tell you one of my theories on why, but first take a look at the map above. At a quick glance I noticed that many of the top counties for life expectancy also appear to be counties with high pecan production.

Pecan Tree in San Saba

Map of life expectancy in Texas

Interesting, right? For a more comprehensive look go here. Now, I know there are many theories on why this might be, but I strongly believe that pecans play a big part. San Saba, Texas is known as the Pecan Capital of the World. We boast a rich history in pecan production. San Saba is also known for having a pecan tree in just about every yard in town. And it’s no secret that when you have a large production of a food item that you accompany that with large consumption of that item as well.

Those of us that call San Saba “home” have discovered that pecans offer delicious possibilities from healthy trail mixes to crowd pleasing appetizers, and not to mention divine desserts. In a town where the average pecan consumption is nearly triple the national average, I feel it important for us to share our little-known secret with our friends in adjacent counties and states. All it takes is looking at the above state map to remind ourselves why.

A Handful of Texas Pecans a Day

And in case you are still skeptical, I’d like to introduce our grandmother, Elsie Millican. She was the matriarch of the Millican family and lived to be 101 years old. Yes, 101 is what I said. And Elsie was no stranger to the many ways pecans are advantageous to our health. She spent much of her time educating us on the benefits that a pecan tree contains. And although she was known for her many pecan pies that she delivered around town, which aren't exactly considered a health item. But I also heard her talk about her belief in eating a handful of fresh pecans a day.

Pecan Health Benefits

Pecans aid in lowering cholesterol, while promoting brain health.  They also help lower heart disease, and help curb your appetite. I don’t know about you, but I think there is proof in the pudding; or in this case, there is proof in a long life. It’s been almost two years since Elsie passed away. But at harvest time I can still hear her talk about the importance of a life well-lived, and her appreciation for pecans and their many benefits.

Pecan Tree like a Fountain

And so, I have resolved that the fountain of youth is not a fountain of water after all. I was a little disappointed in fifth grade to learn that Ponce Deleon never found the mythical fountain of youth. While I may not be a famous Spanish explorer, my imagination allows me to picture a mature pecan tree. In my mind, it looks similar to a towering fountain. Her great trunk shoots up from the earth, and her branches spray out like an aquatic canopy. At harvest time, her branches, now loaded with clusters of pecans, gracefully bow toward the earth again.

These pecans seem so small when protected in the giant canopy of a pecan tree. Yet they’ve proven to be more than just a tasty treat. And I feel a little younger knowing that these nutrition-rich nuts can quite possibly prolong my life. And at the same time, they sure make it taste better!

*  This article will be published in the September 2017 issue of Pecan South

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