With the coming of spring, thoughts turn to warm weather, sleeveless shirts, bathing suits and shorts.  For many, it’s a time to shed that extra weight added over the long winter months.  But if you think that losing weight means a tasteless, unsatisfying diet, think again.  In fact, start thinking pecans.

Not only do pecans taste good, they also can help dieters watch their weight and improve their cardiovascular health, according to Beth Hubrich, M.S., R.D., a dietitian with the National Pecan Shellers Association (NPSA).  Pecans are loaded with fiber and unsaturated fat, which means they may increase metabolic rates and enhance satiety – making you feel fuller longer, according to Hubrich.

“Snacking on a few pecans makes you less likely to reach for other snacks between meals, which can run up your total calories,” she said.

New research suggests cutting saturated fat from your diet and replacing it with polyunsaturated fat would significantly reduce rates of heart disease.  The study, published in PLoS Medicine, a peer-reviewed journal of the Public Library of Science, found substituting these types of fats can lower your risk of cardiovascular disease by 19 percent.  For more information on the study, visit:  www.plosmedicine.org.

Pecans fit right in with the researchers’ recommendations due to their high content of unsaturated fat.  “Because they contain mostly mono and polyunsaturated fats – the good fats – and very little saturated fat, just a few pecans can provide a healthful and filling snack for weight-conscious people,” Hubrich said.

Pecans can easily be added to a variety of dishes to improve the flavor and texture.  A small handful of pecans makes an appealing and appetizing snack and great addition to any dish for any dieter or weight-watcher.  And, pecans are loaded with heart-healthy unsaturated fats and more than 19 vitamins and minerals such as vitamin E, folic acid, calcium, copper, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, zinc and several B vitamins.  Pecans are naturally cholesterol-free and sodium-free, and one serving provides about 10 percent of the government’s recommended Daily Values for zinc and fiber.

The following tips using pecans can “liven up and lighten up” just about any dish:

  • Add pecans to a favorite salad
  • Include pecans in whole-grain bread and muffin recipes
  • Sprinkle pecans on oatmeal or breakfast cereal
  • Top a pizza with low-fat shredded mozzarella, fresh oregano and chopped pecans before baking
  • Brush chicken breasts with olive oil and roll in a mixture of bread crumbs, pecans and grated parmesan cheese before baking
  • Encrust pork tenderloin in chopped pecans and bread crumbs before roasting.
  • Combine ground pecans with parsley and green onions, thicken with olive oil and spread on salmon fillets before grilling
  • Add pecans to your favorite casserole