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Go nuts with your diet
Pecans can be a tasty and beneficial addition to a balanced diet, dieticians say. - photo by Photo provided.
Want some nutrition in a nutshell? Dietary experts say adding pecans to a balanced diet is beneficial.
Not only is the nut tasty, pecans also are a great source of antioxidants, fiber, protein and other vitamins and minerals.
“Pecans are rated as the No. 1 nut with the highest antioxidant capacity,” said Michelle Price, a dietician at Community Hospitals and Wellness Centers in Bryan, Ohio. “They are a lean source of protein and heart-healthy source of fat and high in fiber.”
Pecans are loaded with natural antioxidants. In fact, researchers found pecans have the most antioxidant capacity of any other nut, and nuts are among the top category of foods in terms of the highest antioxidant capacity.
Adding a handful of pecans to your diet each day may help inhibit unwanted oxidation of blood lipids, thus helping to prevent heart disease. Researchers suggest this positive effect is in part due to the pecans’ significant content of vitamin E — a natural antioxidant.
Pecans contain more than 19 vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A, vitamin E, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, several B vitamins and zinc.
One ounce of pecans provides 10 percent of the recommended daily value for fiber.
Pecans also are a natural, high-quality source of protein that contains very few carbohydrates and no cholesterol.
Too, pecans are a rich source of oleic acid, the same type of fatty acid found in olive oil.
Researchers from Northwestern University in Chicago 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.
“The recommended portion is one ounce per day, which is approximately the amount that would fit into the palm of your hand,” Price said. “They supply approximately 195 calories per ounce, so that is why you don’t want to go overboard.”
Pecans are traditionally associated with “holiday food.” However, pecans have many uses in our diet year-round as well.
“Pecans make an excellent topping for salads, hot and cold cereals, fruit and yogurt parfaits or make them into a snack mix with dry cereals, dry fruits, pretzels and pecans,” suggested Price.
The history of pecans can be traced back to the 16th century.
The only major tree nut that grows naturally in North America, the pecan is considered one of the most valuable North American nut species.
The name “pecan” is a Native American word of Algonquin origin that was used to describe “all nuts requiring a stone to crack.”
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