pecans1.jpgNative to North American, the pecan has two deeply crinkled lobes of nutmeat, much like its relative the walnut. The nuts have smooth brown, oval shells that break easily, making them good candidates for buying whole and shelling yourself.

These nuts may look small and unappealing to the eye, but do not belittle them! They are excellent sources of protein and carbohydrates. Not to worry about the fat found in pecans – they are mostly good polyunsaturated fats; and even better they do not any contain cholesterol and sodium.

If you don’t already know, the combination of cholesterol and lipids results in the formation of two forms of lipoprotein – High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) and Low Density Lipoprotein (HDL). These two forms have a negative health impact on our bodies.

Thus, in order to prevent high cholesterol, one has to keep a check on his or her intake of highly saturated fats in their diet. A safe and healthy level of saturated fats consumption should form approximately ten percent or less of your total calories needs.

According to the new Dietary Guidelines released by the U.S Department of Agriculture, a healthy diet should include about 3 to 5 servings of nuts, seeds or legumes each day. Twenty to thirty pecan halves account for one serving, which provides about 10 percent of the Daily Value for zinc and fiber. Add them into your salads or simply toast them and eat them on their own.

Do not be led by the common belief that the more unsaturated a fatty acid is, the healthier it would be. Instead, note that it is important to choose the sources of unsaturated fats carefully. This is because some sources of unsaturated fat may not be as effective in the process of controlling the fat content in our body.

The pecan nut comes into the picture here. It has been proven that the consumption of polyunsaturated fats lead to a decrease of HDL and LDL unlike mono-unsaturated fats which only aided in reducing LDL levels.

This was starkly evident in the study conducted by Grundy. The person under observation was first fed on a liquid diet containing about 40 percent of the fats form various sources of saturated and unsaturated fats. Both poly and monounsaturated fat diets lowered LDL equally; but only the polyunsaturated diet lowered HDL by a significant amount than did the monounsaturated diet.

Recent research studies conducted found that the pecan nut contains the most antioxidant capacity amongst many other nuts. Why are antioxidants good then? These substances found in food help to protect our bodies against cell damage and slow down the aging process. And it has also been shown that they help to ward off diseases like cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and heart diseases.

Pecan nuts contain about 65 percent to 70 percent oils, of which oleic acid forms 65 percent and linoleic acid forms 26 percent of the total oils. Oleic acid is also found in olive oil; and it is an important part of the heart healthy “Mediterranean diet“. The ratio of oleic acid and linoleic acid varies in different varieties of these nuts. However, it would be desirable to consume pecan nuts having a greater percentage of oleic acid in them.