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 are hard to beat. Studies show that all nuts are nutrient dense and naturally cholesterol free.
Medicinal Benefits Medical researchers give pecans the thumbs-up for their ability to lower cholesterol when small amounts are included in the diet on a regular basis. Scientists exploring the beneficial properties of pecans discovered they are a concentrated source of plant sterols known to lower cholesterol. In addition, pecans contain phytochemicals that offer antioxidant protection from many diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
Because pecans contain mostly monounsaturated fatty acids, they are promoted by the American Heart Association that advises Americans to “substitute grains and unsaturated fatty acids from fish, vegetables, legumes and nuts” and limit their intake of saturated fats.
Pecans are sodium-free and contain more than 19 different vitamins and minerals, making them an ideal nutritious alternative to processed foods. 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.
Oleic acid is the main monounsaturated fatty acids in most nuts, including pecans. Many studies reveal that a high ratio of monounsaturated to polyunsaturated is helpful in reducing risk of heart disease. Pecans are high in zinc, a mineral that helps the body to generate testosterone. Both men and women benefit from good levels of testosterone, a hormone responsible for sparking sexual desire.
Blood Pressure While eating pecans and other nuts doesn’t cure high blood pressure, they are an important part of any eating plan. Researchers 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 1-2 ounces of pecans a day, when it is part of a heart-healthy diet, can reduce the risk of heart disease. If you are concerned about the health of your heart, anytime is a great time to add pecans to your daily diet. Another study found that pecans contain one of the highest antioxidant levels of all nuts.
Breast Cancer Pecans are a rich source of oleic acid, the same type of fatty acid found in olive oil. Research has shown that oleic acid has the ability to suppress the activity of a gene in cells thought to trigger breast cancer. A one-ounce serving of pecans provides about 25% more oleic acid than a one-tablespoon serving of olive oil.
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, another study 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.
Weight Control Contrary to the widely held, but mistaken belief that “nuts are fattening”, several studies found that as nut consumption increased body fat actually decreased. Clinical studies have confirmed that conclusion, finding that eating nuts actually resulted in lower weights. One study 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.