A vegan lifestyle can offer much in the way of health benefits, but it’s not without its challenges. A common problem for many vegans is incorporating a sufficient amount of protein and healthy fats into their diet. Many nuts are able to deliver that much-needed protein, but when it comes to a snack, I always recommend pecans. They make a nutritious, gluten free, vegan-friendly snack that will fill you up and provide an entire host of health benefits too.
Pecans: A Balanced Source of Protein, Vitamins, and Minerals
As a snack, a one ounce serving of organic pecans, or about 19 pecan halves, has 5% of your daily recommended protein. That same small serving has 27% of the recommended daily value for unsaturated fats, especially the important Omega-3s. Plus, pecans are a rich source of vitamins A, C, E, K, and the B-complex. They’re also loaded with calcium, magnesium, zinc, and potassium, and they have no sodium.
Heath Benefits of Pecans
Omega-3s, vitamins, and minerals support good health. But among nuts, pecans have one of the highest antioxidant values.  Ninety-percent of the antioxidants come in the form of beta-sitosterol, an antioxidant known to lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. Studies show that people who eat pecans can lower cholesterol levels significantly as gamma-tocopherol, a form of vitamin E found in pecans, plays a large role in the protection of LDL from free radicals.  
Low cholesterol protects the heart, but pecans do more than lower cholesterol. Studies show pecans and the vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, and antioxidants they contain also –
- Encourage normal blood pressure
- Help with weight loss, and keeping slim
- Reduce inflammation associated with arthritis and heart disease
- May protect against prostate and lung cancers 
- Encourage vascular flexibility
- Support your overall cardiovascular health
- Increase mental clarity
- Protect your memory
- Improve the smoothness and quality of your skin
- Slow the effects of aging
Why Should You Choose Organic Pecans?
When you choose organic pecans, you make a choice that’s better for your health and the environment. Organically grown foods provide those who consume them with more vitamins. That’s because they’re grown with natural fertilizers that supply them with vitamins and minerals that increase their nutrient density.
Just as important is what they don’t have. You know non-organic foods are covered in pesticides and herbicides - some of which have been associated with nerve damage and the disruption of brain development in children. The EPA is currently deciding whether to ban one particular pesticide, Chlorpyrifos, because of the damage it does to its surrounding environment. 
With nuts like pecans, such chemicals soak into the nuts’ fats and oils and this makes the risk of accidentally consuming such harmful compounds even higher. It is also worth noting that non-organic pecans undergo irradiation, a process that denatures the proteins in them and reduces the actual nutritional value of the nuts.
Leave a comment below and share your recommendations for other other vegan snacks you recommend or have found beneficial!
- Blomhoff R1, Carlsen MH, Andersen LF, Jacobs DR Jr. Health benefits of nuts: potential role of antioxidants. Br J Nutr. 2006 Nov;96 Suppl 2:S52-60.
- Morgan WA1, Clayshulte BJ. Pecans lower low-density lipoprotein cholesterol in people with normal lipid levels. J Am Diet Assoc. 2000 Mar;100(3):312-8.
- C. Hudthagosol, E. H. Haddad, K. McCarthy, P. Wang, K. Oda, J. Sabate. Pecans Acutely Increase Plasma Postprandial Antioxidant Capacity and Catechins and Decrease LDL Oxidation in Humans. Journal of Nutrition, 2010; 141 (1): 56 DOI: 10.3945/jn.110.121269.
- Purdue University. Vitamin E in plant seeds could halt prostate, lung cancer, says Purdue scientist. Purdue University.
- Mateusz Perkowski. EPA to propose banning chlorpyrifos insecticide. Capital Press.
†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.