Pecans are great for protecting the heart: with your oats, not in a pie

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Think pecans and the buttery, sweet pie comes to mind — about 500 calories each. It doesn’t scream rude health, does it?

Meanwhile, almonds and walnuts are routinely—and rightly so—celebrated for their health benefits. They are the stars of the nut world.

For starters, they’re high in healthy, unsaturated fats that improve cholesterol levels and help prevent heart disease and stroke.

Fatter than other nuts

Pecans, however, contain higher levels of these heart-healthy fats. They also contain a lot of fiber.

On that basis, pecans should be considered an intervention for people at risk of cardiovascular disease, according to a 2021 study.

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The authors found that the fats in pecans work more effectively than some exercise programs to significantly improve total cholesterol, lower triglycerides and reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad” cholesterol.

These findings were in line with previous research.

Read our report for 2021 here.

Blood sugar and insulin

There is growing evidence that pecans provide protection against type 2 diabetes by lowering metabolic risk factors.

In a small 2018 study, overweight or obese participants were fed a pecan-rich diet for four weeks. These were people at risk for type 2 diabetes.

At the end of the four weeks, the patients saw a reduction in fasting insulin and improved insulin resistance.

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Higher levels of insulin in the blood and greater insulin resistance are said to increase the risk of heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.

In particular, the pecan-rich diet improved the function of beta cells in the pancreas. These cells are responsible for insulin production.

Very low GI

In fact, pecans have a very low glycemic index, meaning that “eating them doesn’t cause a spike in blood sugar, even in people with diabetes.”

They can even “offset the effects of higher glycemic index foods when eaten as part of the same meal.”

This blood sugar control is due in part to the high fiber content of pecans.

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Low in sugar, naturally sweet

Interestingly, pecans are high in calories due to their fat content (about 200 calories in a 1-ounce serving), but they don’t lead to significant weight gain. They are also low in sugar but naturally sweet.

Overall, they make a great snack that fills you up, making these nuts potentially helpful in weight management.

Instead of eating pecans in a sugar pie, chop them up and add them to salads or your oatmeal.

Your heart will thank you. See here for more information on the health benefits of pecans.

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