For most, it’s difficult to imagine Thanksgiving without a rich and buttery slice of pecan pie. Traced as far back as the sixteenth century, the pecan is the only tree nut that grows naturally in North America. A patriotic nut of sorts, the pecan tree was planted in the gardens of both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

Most similar to the walnut, pecans contain ample amounts vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids, which help optimize cholesterol levels and protect the body from heart disease. Just one ounce of pecans contains about 55% of the recommended intake of manganese, a powerful antioxidant that strengthens the immune system, promotes brain health and protects nerve cells from free-radical damage.

While the sweet flavor of pecans is often associated with desserts such as pies, pralines, and cookies, pecans can be added to a wide variety of savory dishes as well, or simply enjoyed on their own for a heart-healthy snack.