According to the National Pecan Shellers Association, pecans are high in healthy unsaturated fat and just a handful a day can lower “bad” cholesterol. They also contain more than 19 vitamins and minerals including vitamins A, B, and E, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc. Just one ounce of pecans provides 10 percent of the Daily Recommended intake of fiber. Pecans are also rich in age defying antioxidants. In fact, research from the USDA shows that pecans are the most antioxidant-rich tree nut and rank among the top 15 foods with the highest levels of antioxidants. I’m thinking a bowl of Greek yogurt topped with blueberries and pecans may as well be the breakfast version of the fountain of youth!
I personally love raw pecans. The taste is heavenly that I have to remind myself that I just need a handful a day (too much of anything is bad as we know). I eat them alone as a snack, sometimes I add to cereal, smoothies, and salads.
If you’re as excited about the super-healthy nut as I am, you’re in luck! It really does come with some health benefits. Some are:
Blood Pressure. While eating pecans and other nuts can’t cure high blood pressure, they are an important part of the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan, developed by the National Institutes of Health. The DASH diet also falls right in line with the new 2005 U.S. Dietary Guidelines for healthy eating issued by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture. Research has shown that following the DASH diet is an effective way to lower blood pressure, while supercharging your diet with much needed nutrients. One part of the DASH dietary prescription? Eat 4 to 5 servings (1 1⁄2 oz each) of pecans a week.
Heart Health. Researchers from Loma Linda University in California and New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, New Mexico, have confirmed that when pecans are part of the daily diet, levels of “bad” cholesterol in the blood drop. Pecans get their cholesterol-lowering ability from both the type of fat they contain and the presence of beta-sitosterol, a natural cholesterol-lowering compound. Eating 1 1⁄2 ounces of pecans a day (27 to 30 pecan halves), when its part of a heart-healthy diet, can reduce the risk of heart disease.
Breast Cancer. Pecans are a rich source of oleic acid, the same type of fatty acid found in olive oil. Researchers from Northwestern University in Chicago recently found in laboratory tests that oleic acid has the ability to suppress the activity of a gene in cells thought to trigger breast cancer. While this area of study is still in its early stages, the researchers say it could eventually translate into a recommendation to eat more foods rich in oleic acid, like pecans and olive oil. A one-ounce serving of pecans provides about 25% more oleic acid than a one-tablespoon serving of olive oil.
Weight Control. Contrary to the widely held, but mistaken belief that “nuts are fattening,” several population studies found that as nut consumption increased, body fat actually decreased. And clinical studies have confirmed that conclusion, finding that eating nuts actually resulted in lower weights. One study from Harvard School of Public Health discovered that people following a weight-loss diet that contained 35% of calories from fat, including pecans as a fat source, were able to keep weight off longer than people following a traditionally recommended lower fat diet. With their super nutrition profile and low-carb content, pecans also make a perfect choice for people following low-carb weight-loss plans.
How do you enjoy pecans? Share with us in the comments field below to help us all in our quest for more healthy ways to incorporate pecans into our daily diet.