Celebrate National Pecan Month with a Healthy Handful of the All-American Nut

April is National Pecan Month, and there’s never been a better reason to celebrate.  The latest research from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) confirms pecans are still the most antioxidant-rich tree nut and are among the top category of foods to contain the highest antioxidant capacity.  Using a method called ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity), researchers analyzed 277 different foods and found that pecans rank highest among all nuts in antioxidant capacity.  With 17,940 ORAC units per 100 grams, pecans had the highest antioxidant capacity when compared to eight other common tree nuts.  Overall, pecans rank in the top 20 in antioxidant capacity per typical serving size among the 277 foods analyzed in the study.

Antioxidants are substances found in foods that protect against cell damage and, studies have shown, can help fight diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cancer and heart disease.  Findings from the USDA study were released November 6.  The USDA study was a follow up to a 2004 research project, which first showed pecans contain more antioxidants than any other tree nut.  To access the new USDA antioxidants database, visit http://www.ars.usda.gov/Services/docs.htm?docid=15866.

Clinical research studies have also confirmed eating about a handful of pecans each day may help reduce the risk of heart disease, help lower cholesterol and aid in weight loss.  In addition, pecans are loaded with more than 19 vitamins and minerals, heart-healthy unsaturated fat, and contain no trans fat.  For more information on the health benefits of pecans, click here.

Work Pecans in to Your Diet
To include more heart-healthy, antioxidant-rich pecans in your diet, try sprinkling them on pancakes or waffles, in fruit-flavored yogurt, or on top of hot or cold cereal.  Try topping salads or veggies with pecans instead of cheese.  Or, try coating chicken or fish with pecans before baking.  And you can always add them to your favorite brownie or cookie recipe for a treat every now and then.