Pecans boast most antioxidants of all nuts

19 antioxidant vitamins and minerals

Pecan Power

Pecan Power

Rich in ellagic and oleic acids, with antioxidant and cancer preventive mechanisms, from lowering cholesterol to the ability to suppress the activity of a gene thought to trigger breast cancer, pecans are powerhouses of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals.

With their antioxidant power and cancer prevention properties, almonds and walnuts have received increased culinary attention beyond just their taste. Yet, one of the most underestimated nuts is actually an American natural; in fact, the only true North American native species, the pecan, which was first cultivated in the 1600s and 1700s in northern Mexico and is now cultivated in Georgia and New Mexico, deserves its own spotlight.

Perhaps we don’t see the virtue of pecans since they are almost always candied in fattening pecan pies during the winter holiday season. But away from high calorie desserts and presented to consumers in their more naturally occurring state, pecans provide more than 19 vitamins and minerals including carotenes (vitamin A), B complex (especially folic acid and thiamine), vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium and zinc. Pecans are also rich in ellagic and oleic acids with antioxidant and cancer preventive mechanisms. In addition, a one ounce serving provides 10% of the daily recommended intake of fiber.

Scientists at Loma Linda University in California and New Mexico State University have found that pecans’ cholesterol-lowering properties come from both their omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids and a phytochemical called beta-sitosterol. Consuming a handful a day (about 1.5 ounces) can reduce cholesterol by about 10%. The jury is still out as to whether pecans can raise beneficial high-density lipoproteins—but the US Food and Drug Administration has already confirmed that pecans have the ability to reduce heart disease risk and may be labeled as a heart-healthy food.

Also, according to a US Department of Agriculture analysis, pecans provide the highest number of antioxidants of all nuts tested, including almonds and walnuts.

Breast and Prostate Cancer Prevention

The oleic acid in pecans has the ability to suppress the activity of a gene 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.)

The same natural compound that gives pecans their cholesterol-lowering power has also been shown to be effective in treating the symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia, a non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate gland in men. About two ounces of pecans provide enough beta-sitosterol to be effective for shrinking prostates. In addition, a laboratory study from Purdue University, in West Lafayette, Indiana 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.

Next time when considering whether to go for crackers, chips or nuts—choose pecans.

Pecan Recipes

This healthy salad is appealing to all of the senses. It’s beautiful to behold with the tantalizing aroma of citrus and satisfying crunch from heart-healthy, antioxidant rich Georgia pecans.

Avocado, Grapefruit Salad with Toasted Georgia Pecans

Ingredients:
• 1-2 heads bibb lettuce, torn into bite-sized pieces
• 1 bunch arugula, torn into bite-sized pieces
• 2 Haas avocados, ripe but firm, peeled and cubed
• 2 ruby red or pink grapefruits, peeled and segmented, reserve excess juice
• ½ C Georgia pecan halves (toasted in a sauté pan)
• ¼ C minced fresh parsley

Grapefruit Vinaigrette

Ingredients:
• 2/3 C extra virgin olive oil
• 1/3 C red wine vinegar
• juice from segmented grapefruit (approx. 3 T)
• Fresh ground salt and black pepper to taste

Method:
• On large platter arrange the lettuce and arugula
• On the bed of greens arrange the avocado and grapefruit segments
• Combine the ingredients for the dressing and drizzle over the entire salad
• Garnish with toasted Georgia pecans
• Add final garnish of minced parsley

References
Eastman WA, Clayschulte BJ. Pecan effects on serum lipoproteins and dietary intakes of hyperlipidemic individuals consuming self-selected diets. Fam Consum Sci Res J. 33(3):197-207.
Morgan WA, Clayschulte BJ. Pecans lower low-density lipoprotein cholesterol in people with normal lipid levels. J Am Diet Assoc. 100(3):312- 318.
National Pecan Shellers Association. 2007. Available at: http:// ilovepecansorg.fury.uplinkearth.com/history.html. Accessed 17 Aug 2007. Ohr ML. Nutraceuticals and functional foods. J Agric Food Technol. 58(1):55-59.
Rajaram S, Burke K, Connell B, Myint T, Sabate J. A monounsaturated fatty acid-rich pecan-enriched diet favorably alters the serum lipid profile of healthy men and women. J Nutr. 131(9):2275-2279.
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