Antioxidants in Pecan Nut Cultivars [Carya illinoinensis (Wangenh.) K. Koch]
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This chapter provides an insight into the potential of using pecan nuts to promote health and prevent diseases. Pecan kernels are sources of protein, dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals, and many other bioactive substances, also called phytochemicals, which are known to provide health benefits. Regarding the vitamins and minerals, pecan kernels are a good source of vitamins A and E, the B vitamins, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and zinc. The phytochemical constituents in defatted pecan kernels were investigated in six cultivars chosen for their commercial relevance. The main fatty acids found in the lipid fraction of pecan kernels were oleic (over 60%), linoleic, palmitic, stearic, and linolenic. The presence of high contents of phenolic compounds, tocopherol, and monounsaturated fatty acid suggest several health benefits. Phenolic compounds have been reported to protect against atherosclerosis, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and viral infections and to act as general antioxidants. The prevention of several chronic diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular and neurological diseases, and inflammation, have been associated with the intake of tannins. In general, tannins are known to have certain health benefits, such as antioxidant, anti-allergy, antihypertensive, and antitumor, as well as antimicrobial activities. However, pecans can become toxic when they get moldy. 2011 Copyright 2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved..