The New Year's AntioxiNUT
New Year's resolutions sound like wonderful ideas—until, of course, you realize you can't fit them into your busy schedule. The trick to keeping a resolution is to not go full force, but to keep each resolution manageable.
Instead of letting your resolution make you (figuratively) nuts, go (literally) "nuts" about your resolution! Yes, I mean literally, nuts!
In comparison to other seeds, nuts are more nutritionally compact and require little to no cooking in order to be edible. What better way than incorporating the ultimate "antioxiNUT," the pecan, into your daily diet? Taking in high levels of antioxidants can act as a preventive of heart disease, high cholesterol and cancer. Research has also shown that a pecan-enriched diet significantly reduces lipid oxidation, which, in turn lowers the bad LDL cholesterol levels while increasing the good HDL cholesterol levels.
New food research continues to develop on food synergy, or the relationship certain foods have when they are paired together for optimum nutrient absorption. Small amounts of good fats, such as those found in nuts, can increase the absorption of antioxidants. Therefore, "fattening" up your salad with a small handful of nuts can increase your antioxidant absorption with all of those raw vegetables; you double your dose of antioxidants while preventing your body from the damage of disease-causing free radicals.
Pecans can help ease you into a healthier diet and a healthier "you" in general in 2012. Try using all the pecan leftovers from making the not-so-healthy holiday deserts, and incorporate them into homemade granola bars. Granola bars are a great snack on the go that can be both filling and healthy. They are simple, inexpensive to make and can go a long way as a snack – not to mention the chewy goodness when you bite into one made fresh from your kitchen! In making granola bars from scratch, the amount of sugar used can be controlled (unlike when buying commercial bars). Using the pecan as a main ingredient in the bar also increases your daily fiber intake, which is an area most Americans fall short in.
Here are a few helpful tips to remember when embarking on the homemade granola bar journey: Be sure to spray your pan with non-stick spray before baking, otherwise you may have a sticky mess. After they have cooled completely, wrap them in plastic wrap or store them in an airtight container. Storing them properly in a cool dry place is important to aiding in the prevention of rancidity.
Try this recipe for homemade Georgia Pecan granola bars:
- 18 ounces old-fashioned rolled oats
- 3/4 cup (3 ounces) of a shelled, raw, unsalted seed of your choice (sunflower, sesame, pumpkin or pine nuts)
- 1 and 3/4 cups chopped Georgia Pecans
- 1 cup dried fruit (try cranberries, apricots, blueberries and/or raisins)
- 2-3 Tbsp cinnamon (or spice of your choice if you do not prefer cinnamon)
- 1 cup of agave (you can substitute this with pure maple syrup or brown sugar)
- 1/3 cup oil
Preheat oven to 325°F. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl and then add in the syrup and oil, stirring until all dry ingredients are moistened. Spread granola on a non-stick sprayed baking sheet and baked until brown (20-25 minutes), then stir with a flat spatula. Continue baking until it is light golden brown (10-12 minutes longer). At the end be sure to watch it carefully to prevent from burning. Let cool completely, cut, and store in a cool, dry place.
by Melanie Harris, B.S., M.S.
Georgia Department of Agriculture
Nutritional Educator and Outreach Specialist
Georgia Pecan Commission's AntioxiNUT Advisory Board Member