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Health Benefits of Pecans

Pecans Receive an "A"
on the 2005 USDA
Dietary Guidelines

The new Dietary Guidelines say you should eat 4 to 5 servings of nuts, seeds or legumes a day. Pecans are particularly good for you because they contain more antioxidants than any other nut, according to a recent report published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry. Antioxidants are substances found in foods that protect against cell damage and, studies have shown, can help fight diseases like heart disease, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and cancer.

Just a handful of pecans contains vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc and fiber, as well as antioxidants. And because pecans are so rich in heart- healthy fat, it doesn't take too many to feel full. In fact, studies have shown that eating nuts has a beneficial effect on the waistline.

So, make sure you are eating enough Georgia Pecans to reap all of the healthy benefits!

Recent Pecan News

Recently, several studies have found that nuts, including pecans should be included in your daily diet to help boost your immune system . A study completed at the University of Florida found that pecans are loaded with antioxidants that fight heart disease and cancer.

The Mayo Clinic conducted a study which found that all nuts are nutrient dense and naturally cholesterol free. Not only are nuts cholesterol free but, studies have suggested that eating pecans may help reduce LDL cholesterol levels, leading to a reduction in the risk of heart attacks and coronary artery disease. The serving size for nuts is about one ounce, which equals about 15 pecan halves. Pecans are a great staple for vegetarians, because one serving of pecans can take the place of the protein found in an ounce of meat.

Pecans and Your Health

Pecans have it all. Besides being one of the most elegant, versatile and rich-tasting nuts you can put on your plate, they offer up a package of health benefits that's hard to beat. The new 2005 Dietary Guidelines from the U.S. Department of Agriculture say that eating 4 to 5 servings of nuts each week (and that includes pecans) will bring you one step closer to putting your diet in line with current healthy eating recommendations.

Though the research proving pecan's tremendous health benefits may be recent, pecan-producing trees dotted the landscape long before the discovery of the "New World" and enriched the diets of the native tribes living in the central and southern regions of the United States. Today, pecans are available from coast to coast and experts have confirmed the bevy of benefits pecans have to offer.

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 ½ oz each) of pecans a week.

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.

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 ½ 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.

Prostate Health. The same natural compound that gives pecans its cholesterol-lowering power, has also been shown to be effective in treating the symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), a non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate gland in men. About two ounces of pecans provides a dose of beta-sitosterol found to be effective. In addition, a recent laboratory study from Purdue University found that gamma-tocopherol, the type of vitamin E found in pecans, has the ability to kill prostate cancer cells while leaving healthy cells alone. The researchers now want to test this and other types of vitamin E in animals.

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.

Pecans instead of Meat

Pecans and other nuts count as meat servings in the Food Pyramid. That's because pecans are high in protein and other important nutrients.

However, nuts contain more healthful types of fats than meat does and they are cholesterol-free, so they make excellent choices over fatty meats like steak or even chicken.

In general, ½ ounce of nuts (10 pecan halves) can take the place of 1 ounce of meat in your diet. Though the recommended number of servings you should get from the meat (and beans) group varies depending upon your age, whether you're male or female and how active you are, the average person should aim for 5 ½ servings from this group each day.

Because of research showing that the saturated fat found in meat can increase the risk for heart disease, the Pyramid recommends that you frequently choose nuts and beans over meat. That doesn't mean you can't have pecans as snacks, but if you're eating according to the Pyramid, just keep in mind that pecans and other nuts take the place of meat in your diet plan.

Pecans can be part of a healthy diet. Want to learn more?
Interesting ways to incorporate pecans into your menu.

Source: Georgia Pecan Commission







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