A recent study shows more than 92 percent of all Americans are at some risk for developing heart disease. The report, published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, notes that the continuing U.S. obesity epidemic may bear much of the blame. As harvest season approaches, the National Pecan Shellers Association (NPSA) is recommending all Americans enjoy a handful of pecans each day, as part of a balanced diet and along with regular exercise, to help fend off the risk for developing heart disease.

“There’s no silver bullet when it comes to heart disease,” said Beth Hubrich, R.D., nutrition communications manager for NPSA. “A combination of healthy eating habits and adequate exercise is needed to help keep risk factors low.”

Pecans fit right in to a healthy diet plan due to their nutritional content and cardiovascular disease-fighting properties, according to Hubrich.

“Over the past decade, clinical research has shown that adding just a handful of pecans to your diet each day may improve your health in a number of ways,” said Hubrich. “Pecans are loaded with nutrients and antioxidants, and studies show eating pecans may help lower the risk of heart disease. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Nutrition suggests eating a handful of pecans each day, as part of a balanced diet, may help lower LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol levels more effectively than prescription medication.”

Pecans are loaded with Vitamin E – an antioxidant – plus, 19 vitamins and minerals. About 90% of the fat in pecans is heart-healthy, unsaturated fat. There is no cholesterol or trans fat in pecans.

Healthy Snacking Ideas

  • Wake up a favorite salad with a handful of chopped pecans.
  • Sprinkle pecans on oatmeal or your favorite cereal.
  • Make whole wheat waffles and garnish with maple syrup and toasted pecan halves.
  • Hold the butter and mix toasted pecans pecan halves with popcorn on your next movie night.
  • Brush chicken breast tenders with olive oil and roll in a mixture of bread crumbs, pecans and grated parmesan cheese before baking.