Most nuts are high in fat and low in carbs — in other words, keto-friendly. However, pecans definitely top the list as keto-friendly nuts with a unique nutritional profile.
They’re over 79% fat and contain fewer carbs than most nuts. They’re also delicious, relatively affordable, and easy to find in stores.
Another great thing about pecans is that they go hand in hand with dessert. So when we think about pecans, we think about all things sweet, crunchy, and rich.
So, if you have a sweet tooth but need to keep it keto, consider making pecans your favorite. Here’s more on why they’re simply the best keto nut.
The Alluring World of Pecans
Pecans are the seeds of the pecan tree, a species of hickory native to south-central North America. They’re a relatively new crop (first cultivated in the 19th century) and are primarily grown in Mexico, New Mexico, Texas, and Georgia.
Pecans are closely related to walnuts as they belong to the same plant family and share many of their characteristics. Both nuts are the seeds of drupes that grow inside oval shells and look similar. But they differ in flavor and nutrition.
Pecans are noted for their sweet and buttery flavor. They’re crispy on the outside with a creamy center.
These characteristics make them a popular addition to sweets, snacks, and desserts. They’re also a common feature in trail mixes as well as pies, cookies, muffins, and more.
Uncovering the Hidden Benefits of Pecans
Pecans are good for you no matter if you’re on a keto diet or not. But, as already mentioned, they’re one of the fattiest nuts out there, making them high in calories.
A small 1 oz serving has 196 calories and 20g of fat . And while that may seem like a lot, research has shown that there’s no reason to worry about nuts causing weight gain.
For example, a recent systematic review and meta-analysis looked at data from studies on nut intake and weight . The results were that people who ate more nuts had lower body weight in general.
A possible explanation for this is that the unsaturated fats in nuts are quickly burned and because nuts also have lots of fiber and protein — two very filling nutrients.
Pecans on keto are especially safe to eat. The body burns fat to make energy on this low-carb diet, and pecans can help with that.
And what about pecan carbs? At only 1.22g of net carbs in an ounce, you can also trust pecans to help you stay in ketosis.
The Battle of Keto Nuts: Pecans vs. Walnuts
Pecans and walnuts look almost the same and cost about the same — $7 to $8 per pound. However, depending on where you live, pecans can be either more expensive or cheaper than walnuts.
Other than that, here are the main differences between the two:
- Pecans are sweet and buttery, while walnuts are sharp and earthy.
- Pecans have a slightly higher percentage of fat (75% vs. 65%) [1, 3].
- Walnuts are somewhat higher in protein at 4.3g in an ounce vs. 2.6g for pecans.
- Pecans are high in monounsaturated fats (MUFAs), while walnuts are high in polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs).
- Walnuts are one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
- Walnuts are slightly more nutrient-dense, especially where minerals are concerned.
The high MUFA content of pecans is also considered healthier than one type of PUFAs found in walnuts, namely omega-6 fatty acids. While essential, excess intake of omega-6 has been linked to inflammation .
Appearance-wise, pecans are a deep brown color, oval, with mild ridges. Walnuts are a light color, slightly rounder, and with prominent ridges.
Deliciously Low-Carb: Pecans in Keto Desserts
Pecans are tasty on their own for a nut, both raw and mildly roasted. But their flavor really comes to life in sweets and desserts. Besides that, pecans boost the fat content of desserts and keep carbs along the way.
Pecan keto recipes can include everything from low-carb pecan pie and keto candied pecans, to cookies and this Keto Pumpkin Pecan Bread.
If you love pecans or have extra to use, add them to brownies, muffins, pancakes, on top of smoothie bowls, in your breakfast “cereal,” and more. Their mild and sweet flavor goes well with almost any recipe that calls for nuts.
Final Verdict: Why Pecans Reign Supreme in the Keto Diet
Pecans are the best nuts for the keto diet. They are one of the lowest carb nuts; they’re also rich in anti-inflammatory and metabolism-boosting fat. Plus, we all know how delicious they are.
Pecans can be added to keto snacks, sweets, and countless desserts. They help add fats to desserts while not contributing too much to their carb count. Pecans on keto can help you meet your daily needs for essential nutrients, and have your cake and eat it too!
- United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service. FoodData Central. Nuts, pecans. April 2019. - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170182/nutrients
- Nishi SK, Viguiliouk E, Blanco Mejia S, et al. Are fatty nuts a weighty concern? A systematic review and meta-analysis and dose-response meta-regression of prospective cohorts and randomized controlled trials. Obes Rev. 2021;22(11):e13330. doi:10.1111/obr.13330
- United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service. FoodData Central. Nuts, walnuts, english. April 2019. - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170187/nutrients
- Innes JK, Calder PC. Omega-6 fatty acids and inflammation. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2018;132:41-48. doi:10.1016/j.plefa.2018.03.004
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