Thursday, June 18, 2020 - 20:55

Technically a fruit, pecans are rich in protein and healthy fats, including oleic acid. Human and lab studies show they can reduce LDL and total cholesterol and may cut the risk of breast cancer.

Pecans are often associated with sugary foods like pecan pie, sweet potato casserole, or marshmallows. But to get the most health benefits, skip the sugar-laden treats and grab a handful of pecans on their own.

Technically a fruit rather than a nut, pecans are high in protein, at three grams per ounce. They also contain healthy fats.

Heart Health

Pecans are high in healthy fats that are known to promote heart health, like monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.

In an eight-week, randomized, controlled study, one group of subjects consumed 68 grams of pecans with their meals, while a second group did not eat the pecans. After eight weeks, the pecan-eating group experienced a reduction in both LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol.1

Cancer Prevention

Pecans contain a high amount of a specific type of monounsaturated fat called oleic acid.

One important laboratory study showed that oleic acid dramatically lowered the expression of a gene called Her-2/neu that is involved in the development of breast cancer.2 This is significant, as activation of Her-2/neu is associated with aggressive tumors and a poor prognosis.

This finding is consistent with newer studies showing that adherence to the Mediterranean diet (high in monounsaturated fats like those in pecans) was associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer.3


  1. J Am Diet Assoc. 2000 Mar;100(3):312-8.
  2. Ann Oncol. 2004 Nov;15(11):1719-21.
  3. Nutrients. 2018 Mar 8;10(3).

written by By Laurie Mathena.