The pecan: a low-carb, high-fat powerhouse
Move over almonds, get outta here walnuts. When it comes to being a truly great low-carb, high-fat (LCHF) nut, the humble pecan has you both beat.
On the key criterion of net-carbs (total carbs minus fiber), a single quarter-cup serving of pecans has only one. That’s right. Naturally low-carb pecans (raw) have just one net-carb per serving (4 grams carbs – 3 grams fiber).
That’s a good start, but not the whole story.
Almonds are also low-carb
Now, almonds aren’t shabby when it comes to being low-carb nuts, either. If they were, I wouldn’t have sung their praises in previous posts, such as here and here.
A serving of almonds contains about 6 grams of carbs and 3 grams of fiber. That’s three net carbs per serving of almonds if you’re keeping score (which I know you are). That’s an acceptable amount of net carbs for an almost 200 calorie snack. Not as low as for pecans, but acceptable.
Walnuts are low-carb nuts, too
Similarly, walnuts are a highly respectable representative of low-carb nuts. In fact, looking at the net-carb count alone, walnuts come in lower than both almonds and pecans. A 200-calorie serving of walnuts contains 3g of carbs and 3g of fiber. It’s hard to do better than zero for net-carbs, folks!
More to consider than just the net-carbs
However, there is more to being a great food for a low-carb diet than just being low in net-carbs. Leaving the matter of taste aside for a moment, there are other macro-nutrients to consider.
What I am searching for are good low-carb, high-fat foods with moderate levels of protein. Ideally, I want the fat-burning quotient to be greater than one. The fat-burning quotient, so named by Swedish diet guru Sten Skaldeman, is based on the ratio of total fat to total carbs and total protein in a food item. (See this post.)
So, for example, if a food item contained 20g of fat, 5g of carbs, and 5g of protein per serving, that would be a ratio of 20:10, which would reduce to a fat-burning quotient of 2.0. That would be considered an excellent food choice by Skaldeman.
Calculating the fat-burning quotient
Here is where pecans shine. The single serving of pecans contains 22g of fat, 4g of carbs, and 3g of protein. That’s a ratio of fat to the other macro-nutrients of 22:7, which yields a fat-burning quotient of just over 3.0. Thus, it is fair to describe pecans as great LCHF nuts, not merely as great low-carb nuts.
The story is different for most other nuts. A serving of almonds has about 15g of fat, 6g of carbs and 6g of protein. That’s a ratio of 15:12, and a fat-burning quotient of 1.25. Not bad. It’s over the threshold of one, but it’s far below the quotient achieved by pecans.
A serving of raw walnuts has 19g of fat, 3g of carbs, and 5g of protein, which works out to a ratio of 19:8. That yields a fat-burning quotient of 2.4 — which is excellent.
But not quite as excellent as that of pecans.
And the champion of LCHF nuts is . . .
I mentioned taste earlier as a consideration. I have to admit that I prefer the taste of almonds, raw or roasted, to that of either walnuts or pecans. (And almonds are also cheaper.)
Still, there is one other nut that takes the crown for me when it comes to taste: the macadamia. I could eat eat macadamias all day long, and still want more.
As it happens, the macadamia is also the champ of LCHF nuts. A serving of macadamias contains 24g of fat, 4g of carbs, and 2g of protein. That’s a ratio of fat to carbs plus protein of 24:6. It works out to a fat-burning quotient that would make even Skaldeman whistle — 4.0.
Yes, macadamias are expensive, and their minuscule amount of protein might put off someone who is trying to build up muscle. (That would not be me.) While pecans have only slight advantages over macadamias in price and protein, those advantages could be enough to pick them, at least some of the time. Compared to macadamias, I would be less inclined to over-eat pecans, but the enjoyment factor is surely worth something. That, and a superior fat-burning quotient, give the nod to macadamias.
Still, pecans are a worthy addition to my LCHF hall of great foods. They are a food I never ate in my old low-fat, high-carb existence — except maybe in a slice of pie — just as with the other foods in the Great Foods series.
Also see Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5 of this series.
Mark Siegrist says
Great post – I have avoided pecans in favor of almonds just because I assumed, since pecans taste naturally “sweeter” to me that they were likely higher in carbs. I’m buying the pecans from now on!
Mark — Thanks for commenting. I had the same idea about pecans, maybe because of the association with pecan pie. Keep in mind that I was focusing on raw pecans in the post. Usually, roasting doesn’t change the nut too much, just adding a bit of fat and sodium. But there may be some pecans out there with sugar added. I’ve learned to always read the labels, and not take anything — or any nut — for granted.