What most people know about pecans is that they make delicious pecan pie and are a great topping for sundaes. Research shows pecans can help prevent coronary heart disease, gallstones and aid in weight loss. Eating pecans may improve your overall health, in addition to lowering total cholesterol and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol by up to 10 percent.
Cholesterol and Your Numbers
Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in the body. 25 percent of cholesterol comes from the foods we eat. The other 75 percent is made by the body. During your yearly doctor’s visit, blood tests are done to determine what your cholesterol levels are, predicting what your risks for high cholesterol may be.
Your total cholesterol number is based on: LDL (bad), HDL (good) cholesterol and Triglycerides (fat in the blood) levels. If your total levels are less that 200 mg, you’re within desirable levels. 200-239 mg would mean you’re on the borderline of the high risk for heart disease. 240 mg and above means your levels are well above and you’re at high risk for heart disease.
To keep your cholesterol within normal levels, your goal should be: LDL less than 100, but no more than 129. Levels of 130 and above would indicate the need for a change in diet. HDL levels of 40-60 mg are acceptable. Any HDL level above 60 mg is considered very healthy and plays a major role in protecting against heart disease.
Health Benefits of Pecans
Adding just a handful of pecans daily, can be a healthy addition to your diet. They can be a valuable aid in your weight loss and maintenance goals. Recent studies have indicated that nut consumption may increase metabolic rate and curb hunger. A 1 oz. serving of pecans contains only 196 calories, 20.4 grams total fat (1.8 saturated fat), 0 mg of cholesterol, 0 grams of sodium, 2.7 grams of dietary fiber and over 19 vitamins including vitamin A, vitamin E and calcium. In addition, pecans are a natural, high-quality source of protein that contains very few carbs and no trans fat. Those on a salt or sodium restricted diet will benefit as well.
Pecans do contain fat, but not all fats are the same. Over 90 percent of the fat in pecans is unsaturated (healthy fats derived from plants and help lower LDL — the “bad” cholesterol and raise the HDL – the “good” cholesterol). Those heart healthy fats meet with the new Dietary Guidelines.
Instead of chips, which are loaded with cholesterol, you can bring about 20 pecans to work with you to snack on throughout the day. Pecans are an effective substitute for a candy bar when you’re looking for that mid-day pick-me-up that’s heart friendly. Research has shown people who eat pecans feel fuller longer. Plus, a serving of pecans has the same amount of fiber as a medium sized apple. Just by sprinkling some crushed pecans on top of your yogurt, gives you zinc and vitamin E. These are important nutrients for proper growth and strong immunity.