Georgia pecans are a perfect fit in a healthy lifestyle. Besides being one of the most elegant, versatile and rich-tasting nuts, pecans provide health benefits that are hard to beat. The Dietary Guidelines from the U.S. Department of Agriculture say that eating four to five servings of nuts each week (including pecans) will bring you one step closer to staying in line with current healthy eating recommendations.
A one-ounce serving of pecans contains 196 calories, 2.7 grams dietary fiber and over 19 vitamins and minerals including vitamin A, vitamin E, calcium, potassium and zinc.
Pecans are also a good source of oleic acid, vitamin B1, thiamin, magnesium and protein.
A laboratory analysis and comparison of the antioxidant power of 100 foods completed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that pecans ranked among the top 20 foods for antioxidant capacity. The study also found that pecans have the highest amount of antioxidants of the nuts tested, including almonds or walnuts. The antioxidant compounds found naturally in pecans, including vitamin E, ellagic acid and flavonoids, are believed to help prevent disease-causing oxidation in cells. Such oxidative damage has been linked to developing a wide variety of diseases including heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s Disease.
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 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? Eating four to five servings (1 1/2 ounces per serving) of pecans a week.
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 it’s early stages, 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 percent more oleic acid than a one-tablespoon serving of olive oil.
Researchers from Loma Linda University in California and New Mexico State University, 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.
According to the Iowa Women’s Health Study in 1993, women were 60 percent less likely to have heart trouble if they ate nuts more than twice a week.
The 1992 Loma Linda University study found that people who ate nuts at least 5 times a week had about half the rate of heart disease as people who never ate nuts.
In a study published in the March 2000 edition of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, subjects who ate just a cup a day of pecans saw their LDL levels drop by 10 percent in just six weeks.
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 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.
According to Frank Sacks of Harvard Medical School, pecans contain phytochemicals which make them protective against cancers of the colon, stomach and rectum.
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 this conclusion, finding that eating nuts actually resulted in lower weights. One study from the Harvard School of Public Health discovered that people following a weight-loss diet that contained 35 percent 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.
Nuts are a part of most universally accepted balanced diets, such as the “Mediterranean Diet,” which includes fish, poultry, vegetables, fresh and dried fruit, nuts, grains, olives and olive oil.
Proper storage preserves nut quality until the next pecan crop is harvested. Poor storage can often destroy the natural flavor and aroma of the nuts. Store pecans under refrigeration as lowering the temperature can extend storage life. Pecans can be thawed and refrozen without loss of quality. Refrigerated or frozen pecans should be placed in airtight containers.
Pecans stored at room temperature for an extended period should be held in containers that are adequately ventilated. Avoid storing in plastic bags pecans that have not been dried properly.
Pecans are usually stored shelled since they take up less space and can be conveniently used straight from the freezer. Unshelled pecans can be stored for a longer period than shelled nuts. The unbroken shell protects the kernel from bruising and offers protection against oxidation and rancidity of the kernel.
For more information on pecans visit the following links: