Importance of Different Fats Explained by American Dietetic Association

There’s more good news for pecan lovers, just in time for harvest season.  The American Dietetic Association (ADA) and Dietitians of Canada (DC) confirm that nuts, like pecans, can help you live a healthier life.  New dietary fatty acids recommendations from the ADA and DC state that to help meet the body’s daily energy and nutritional needs, adults should emphasize a reduction in saturated fatty acids and trans-fatty acids and an increase in heart-healthy unsaturated fatty acids.

“Of greatest importance is the type of fat one chooses,” says registered dietitian Penny Kris-Etherton, ADA’s co-author and distinguished professor of nutrition at Pennsylvania State University. According to ADA’s statement about fatty acids, “The healthiest choices are unsaturated fats found in liquid vegetable oils, nuts and seeds, and omega-3 unsaturated fats found in fatty fish such as salmon, sardines and shellfish.”  The unsaturated fat content of food products can be determined by looking for the amount of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat listed on nutrition labels.

Pecans fit right in with the ADA/DC recommendations since about 60 percent of the fat found in pecans is monounsaturated and another 30 percent is polyunsaturated, leaving very little saturated fat in pecans.  Plus, pecans contain no trans fat, no cholesterol and they are loaded with antioxidants and 19 vitamins and minerals.

“Since the vast majority of fat found in pecans is heart-healthy, unsaturated fat, pecans are an ideal choice for anyone interested in maintaining a healthy diet” said Sue Taylor, R.D. nutrition communications director for the National Pecan Shellers Association.

The ADA and DC report, published in the September issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, recommends a food-based approach for achieving fatty acid recommendations by adopting an eating pattern high in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts (e.g., pecans) and seeds, lean protein, fish and use of nonhydrogenated margarines and oils.

More on the Nutritional Benefits of Pecans

Clinical research studies have also confirmed pecans are heart-healthy.  The latest study published in the August 2006 issue of Nutrition Research,suggests that adding just a handful of pecans to your diet each day may inhibit unwanted oxidation of blood lipids, thus helping reduce the risk of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).  Researchers suggest that this positive effect was in part due to the pecan’s significant content of vitamin E – an antioxidant.  The dramatic initial findings from this research project were published in the September 2001 issue of The Journal of Nutrition.  In that study, researchers found that a pecan-rich diet could be as effective at lowering cholesterol as prescription drugs.

Eating a handful of pecans each day can also help Americans stay in synch with the most recent USDA Dietary Guidelines, the best model yet on how to eat and live healthfully. The Guidelines state that Americans should vary their choices of protein “with more fish, beans, peas, nuts and seeds.”  For the average person, that means eating about 5 ½ servings from the “meat and beans” category each day.  Pecans and other nuts are included in this category because of their high concentration of important nutrients and proteins.