Pecans: The AntioxiNUT

densie-webbSeveral studies have found that eating nuts regularly, including pecans, is linked with lower levels of compounds in the blood that can cause inflammation, which may lead to heart disease.  The natural antioxidants in pecans, such as monounsaturated fats, the B vitamin folate, vitamin E, plant sterols, magnesium and polyphenols (naturally occurring plant compounds) have anti-inflammatory effects.

A study from Loma Linda University found that adding just a handful of pecans to the diet every day resulted in a reduction in the damage that commonly occurs to fats circulating in the blood. Once these fats are damaged by a process known as oxidation, the steps leading to clogged arteries are set into motion. In the study, pecans were thought to be responsible for the damage control.

According to laboratory analyses performed by the USDA, pecans’ antioxidants possess more antioxidant activity than any other nut, and rank higher than some fruits and vegetables.

Try this quick and easy recipe if you’re craving a healthy snack:

Georgia Pecan Cherry Trail Mix

Makes about 2 cups (8-1/4 cup servings)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Georgia Pecan halves
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (such as canola oil)
  • 3/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (preferably coarse kosher salt)
  • 1/3 cup dried pitted cherries
  • 1/3 cup roasted and salted pepitas
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Place the pecans in a small bowl. Heat the oil in a heavy small skillet over medium heat. Add the chili powder and cayenne and stir until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Pour over the pecans. Mix in the sugar, orange zest, and salt. Transfer the mixture to a small baking pan.  Roast until the nuts are toasted, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool completely. In a medium bowl, combine the toasted pecans, cherries, pepitas, and cranberries and mix to combine. Serve as a snack.

Nutrition Profile: 210 calories, 16 g total fat, 2 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 115 mg sodium, 13 g carbohydrates, 2g fiber, 5g protein.

Densie Webb, Ph.D., R.D.
Co-author, The Dish on Eating Healthy and Being Fabulous!

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