Pecans May Protect the MindEating about a handful of pecans each day may play a role in protecting the nervous system, according to a new animal study published in Current Topics in Nutraceutical Research. The study, conducted at the Center for Cellular Neurobiology at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, suggests adding pecans to your diet may delay the progression of age-related motor neuron degeneration. This may include diseases like amyotropic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Researchers suggest vitamin E – a natural antioxidant found in pecans – may provide a key element to neurological protection shown in the study. Antioxidants are nutrients found in foods that help protect against cell damage, and studies have shown, can help fight diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cancer and heart disease. Lead researcher Dr. Thomas Shea, Ph.D and his research team carried out a number of laboratory studies on three groups of mice specifically bred to demonstrate severe decline in motor neuron function that are commonly used in studies of ALS. Each of the three groups was fed a control diet or one of two diets containing differing amounts of pecans ground into their food. Standard testing methods were used to determine how well the mice scored relative to motor neuron functions, both before and after they were provided with one of the three diets. Mice provided a diet supplemented with pecans displayed a significant delay in decline in motor function compared to mice receiving no pecans. Mice eating the diet with the most pecans (0.05%) fared best. Both pecan groups fared significantly better than those whose diets contained no pecans. The result was based on how the mice performed in highly specific tests, each of which compared mice on the control diet with mice consuming pecan-enriched diets. Natural Antioxidants in PecansNaturally-occurring antioxidants in pecans may help contribute to heart health and disease prevention, according to a study at Loma Linda Univesity. The results were published in the January 2011 issue of The Journal of Nutrition. Pecans contain different forms of the antioxidant vitamin E—known as tocopherols, plus numerous phenolic substances, many of them with antioxidant abilities. The nuts are especially rich in one form of vitamin E called gamma-tocopherols. The findings illustrate that after eating pecans, gamma-tocopherol levels in the body doubled and unhealthy oxidation of LDL (bad) cholesterol in the blood decreased by as much as 33 percent. Oxidized LDLs may further contribute to inflammation in the arteries and place people at greater risk of cardiovascular problems. These findings are from a research project designed to further evaluate the health benefits of pecans, according to Dr. Haddad. She analyzed biomarkers in blood and urine samples from study participants (a total of 16 men and women between the ages 23 and 44) who ate a sequence of three diets composed of whole pecans, pecans blended with water, or a control meal of equivalent nutrient composition. The pecan meals contained about three ounces of the nut. Samples were taken prior to meals and at intervals up to 24 hours after eating. Following the test meals composed of whole pecans and blended pecans, researchers found that amounts of gamma-tocopherols (vitamin E) in the body doubled eight hours after both meals, and oxygen radical absorbance capabilities (ORAC—a scientific method for measuring antioxidant power in the blood) increased 12 and 10 percent respectively two hours after the meals. In addition, following the whole-pecan meal, oxidized LDL cholesterol decreased by 30 percent (after 2 hours), 33 percent (after 3 hours), and 26 percent (after 8 hours). Research from Loma Linda University published in the August 2006 issue of Nutrition Research showed that adding just a handful of pecans to your diet each day may help inhibit unwanted oxidation of blood lipids, thus helping prevent coronary heart disease. The researchers suggest that this positive effect was in part due to the pecans’ significant content of vitamin E. Oxidation of lipids in the body – a process akin to rusting – is detrimental to health. In the laboratory analysis of blood samples from the research subjects, Dr. Haddad’s team found that the diets enriched with pecans significantly reduced lipid oxidation (by 7.4 percent) versus the Step I diet. Oxidation levels were evaluated using the TBARS test, which measures oxidation products. The researchers also found that blood levels of tocopherols were higher after participants were on the pecan diet. Cholesterol-adjusted plasma gamma-tocopherol in the study participants’ blood samples increased by 10.1 percent (P < .001) after eating the healthy pecan diet. The researchers concluded that these data provide some evidence for potential protective effects of pecan consumption in healthy individuals. In addition, landmark research published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry (June 2004) found that pecans rank highest among all nuts and are among the top category of foods to contain the highest antioxidant capacity, meaning pecans may decrease the risk of cancer, coronary heart disease, and neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Cholesterol-Lowering PecansPecans also play a role in lowering cholesterol. Clinical research published in the Journal of Nutrition (September 2001) compared the Step I diet (28 percent fat), recommended by the American Heart Association for individuals with high cholesterol levels, to a pecan-enriched (40 percent fat) diet. The results showed the pecan-enriched diet lowered total cholesterol by 11.3 percent and LDL “bad” cholesterol levels by 16.5 percent – twice that of the Step I diet, without any associated weight gain. Research conducted by Dr. Ronald Eitenmiller at the University of Georgia has also confirmed that pecans contain plant sterols, which are known for their cholesterol-lowering ability. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has acknowledged this and related research and approved the following qualified health claim: “Scientific evidence suggests, but does not prove, that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, such as pecans, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease.” Weight Control and PecansA review of pecan and other nut research, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (September 2003), suggests that nuts like pecans may aid in weight loss and maintenance. The review cited studies indicating that nut consumption may increase metabolic rates and enhance satiety. When used in conjunction with a healthy low-fat diet, nuts also offer increased flavor, palatability and texture that can lead to greater dietary compliance, according to the review. A one-ounce serving of pecans (approximately 20 halves) contains 196 calories, 20.4 grams total fat (1.8 saturated fat), 0 mg cholesterol, 0 grams sodium, 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. Heart-Healthy PecansNearly 60 percent of the fats in pecans are monounsaturated and another 30 percent are polyunsaturated, leaving very little saturated fat in pecans. The unsaturated fat in pecans is heart-healthy fat meeting the new Dietary Guidelines that recommend Americans keep intake between 20 and 35 percent of calories, with most fats coming from heart-healthy sources like fish, nuts and vegetable oils. In addition, pecans contain no trans fat. Nutrient-Dense PecansPecans 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 are also a natural, high-quality source of protein that contain very few carbohydrates and no cholesterol. Pecans are also naturally sodium-free, making them an excellent choice for those on a salt- or sodium-restricted diet. Additional Nutritional ResourcesThe following links lead to external websites and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the National Pecan Shellers Association or its members. American Dietetic Association Dietary Guidelines for Americans MyPyramid Plan (USDA) American Heart Association International Tree Nut Council Georgia Pecan Commission Texas Pecan Growers Association
Courtesy of http://www.ilovepecans.org/nutrition-in-a-nutshell/
Pecans contain fat, so why should they be included in a healthy diet? Pecans do contain fat, but not all fats are created equal. Over 90% of the fat found in pecans is unsaturated, heart-healthy fat meeting the new Dietary Guidelines that recommend Americans keep intake between 20 and 35 percent of calories, with most fats coming from heart-healthy sources like fish, nuts and vegetable oils. Are pecans a good source of protein? Yes! Pecans are an excellent source of protein and can be substituted for meat, poultry or fish in a healthy diet, according to the 2005 Dietary Guidelines. The dietary guidelines recommend that the average American should eat 5 ½ servings from the “Meat and Beans” group every day. Pecans are included in this group because they contain approximately the same amount of protein and nutrients as meat, poultry, fish, beans and seeds. Eating 1 ounce of pecans (or about 20 halves) equals two servings from the meat and bean group and 2 teaspoons of oil. That means you still have 3 servings of meat and 4 teaspoons of oil left each day. What about natural antioxidants? Pecans are loaded with natural antioxidants. In fact, researchers at the USDA Arkansas Children’s Nutrition Center found that pecans contain the most antioxidant capacity of any other nut and are among the top category of foods (#13 overall) to contain the highest antioxidant capacity. Plus, new research, published in the August 2006 issue of Nutrition Research, shows that adding just a handful of pecans to your healthy diet each day may be help inhibit unwanted oxidation of blood lipids, thus helping prevent coronary heart disease. The researchers suggest that this positive effect was in part due to the pecan’s significant content of vitamin E – a natural antioxidant. Antioxidants are substances found in foods that protect against cell damage and – studies have shown – can help fight diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cancer and coronary heart disease. Can I eat pecans if I’m trying to improve my cholesterol? Absolutely! In fact, a 2001 study out of Loma Linda University found that adding just a handful of pecans to a traditional low-fat, cholesterol-lowering diet can have a dramatic impact on the diet’s effectiveness. Furthermore, the cholesterol lowering effect shown in the study is similar to what is often seen with cholesterol-lowering medications. When the Loma Linda study participants were on the pecan-enriched diet, they lowered their total and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol twice as much as they did when they ate the American Heart Association (AHA) Step I diet. Just as importantly, the pecan-enriched diet lowered blood triglyceride levels and helped maintain desirable levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol compared to the Step I diet, which often unfavorably raises triglycerides and usually lowers HDL levels. I usually think of pecans as “holiday” food. Are they available year round? Yes they are. Although most people associate pecans with the holidays, it’s OK to eat these delicious tree nuts anytime of the year. Pecans contain more than 19 vitamins and minerals, and they’re cholesterol-free. To work pecans into your diet year-round, try some of these suggestions as healthy snacks:
Instead of chips, which are loaded with sodium, bring about 20 pecan halves to work to snack on throughout the day. Pecans are naturally sodium-free,
Substitute pecans for a candy bar when you’re looking for an afternoon pick-me-up. Research has shown people who eat pecans feel fuller longer. Pecans provide that long-lasting energy because they contain heart-healthy mono and polyunsaturated fats. Plus, a handful of pecan halves contain the same amount of fiber as a medium-sized apple.
Sprinkle pecans on top of your yogurt and you’ll get more zinc and vitamin E – important nutrients for proper growth and strong immunity.
Courtesy of http://www.ilovepecans.org/health-professionals-educators/pecan-faqs/