Health professionals encourage Americans to “Think Outside the Pie”

A new survey suggests that pecans are one of nature’s best kept secrets. Although medical research suggests that eating pecans in moderation may reduce the risk of heart disease, 54 percent of Americans are unaware that pecans are good for you. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Most Americans eat pecans in a baked good or dessert, according to the survey of 1,000 U.S adults conducted by Chicago-based Blue Chip Marketing. But health experts suggest you “think outside the pie” and snack on pecans as well. Pecans fit right into the latest USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans which recommend a variety of protein foods, including seafood, lean meat, eggs, beans and nuts, such as pecans.

Substituting about one ounce of pecans into your daily diet is a healthy alternative for many traditional snack foods, according to Beth Hubrich, R.D., a registered dietitian with the National Pecan Shellers Association.

“Pecans are a power food that stay with you longer than high carbohydrate snacks that your body burns through quickly,” Hubrich said. “Their tender texture and rich, buttery flavor make pecans an ideal snack choice.”

Dr. Dennis Lucero, a physician and pharmacist at the Lovelace Medical Center in Albuquerque, NM, agrees.

“Heart disease is the #1 killer of all Americans,” Lucero said. “Eating pecans fills you up with lots of heart healthy ingredients to help reduce that risk. That includes mono-unsaturated and poly-unsaturated fat, antioxidants and fiber.”

There’s no better time to start eating healthy by substituting pecans for other snack foods. Here are a few suggestions from the National Pecan Shellers Association:

  • Instead of salty snacks, bring about 20 pecan halves to work to snack on throughout the day. Pecans are naturally sodium-free.
  • Sprinkle pecans on top of your yogurt, cereal or salad and you’ll get more zinc – an important nutrient for proper growth and strong immunity.

A study published in the January 2011 issue of The Journal of Nutrition suggests that Vitamin E (an antioxidant) in pecans may help contribute to heart disease prevention by increasing antioxidant-levels in the body and reducing LDL “bad” cholesterol.