Pecans are now designated as heart-healthy when enjoyed as part of a healthy eating pattern by the American Heart Association's Heart-Check Certification Program (www.heartcheckmark.org), according to the National Pecan Shellers Association (NPSA). Unroasted and unsalted pecan halves and pieces can now carry the Heart-Check mark to notify consumers that they meet the program's nutritional guidelines, including criteria for saturated fat and sodium.
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Dr. Rachel Johnson, Ph.D., R.D., the Bickford Green and Gold Professor of Nutrition at the University of Vermont and an American Heart Association spokesperson said in a prepared statement, "We know that consumers have relied on the American Heart Association's Heart-Check mark to easily identify heart-healthy foods for more than 15 years. Adding nuts, fish and other foods that are rich sources of good fats, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, enhances the program and gives more healthy options consumers can choose from with the same trust factor."
"Pecans stay with you longer than high carbohydrate snacks that your body burns through quickly," said Vickie Mabry, NPSA executive director. "With antioxidants as well as a tender texture, rich buttery flavor and gentle crunch, pecans make an ideal snack choice for everyone," she added.
The American Heart Association's HeartCheck Food Certification Program was launched in 1995 to help grocery shoppers quickly and easily identify heart-healthy foods that can be incorporated into a sensible eating pattern. In order to earn this designation, nuts must meet certain nutritional requirements for saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium and beneficial nutrients. Today, the red and white heart-healthy symbol has become the one of the most trusted and well-known nutrition icons representing heart-healthy eating.
Findings from a 2001 study conducted at Loma Linda University1 showed that adding just a handful of pecans to your diet each day may help inhibit unwanted oxidation of blood lipids, thus helping prevent coronary heart disease. Pecans also offer many other health benefits:
Pecans also play a role in reducing the risk of heart disease because they have an abundance of "good" heart healthy fats. These unsaturated fats can have a protective effect by lowering total blood cholesterol when eaten in moderation. Pecans contain no cholesterol and no trans-fat.
Pecans contain more than 19 vitamins and minerals – including vitamin A, vitamin E, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, several B vitamins and zinc. One ounce of pecans provides 10 percent of the recommended Daily Value for fiber. Pecans are also a natural, high-quality source of protein that contains very few carbohydrates and no cholesterol and are naturally sodium-free.
Pecans are easy to add to your eating plan; simply grab a handful! Pecans are healthy and delicious, and just a one-ounce serving (15to 20 pecan halves) packs more than 19 vitamins and minerals, fiber and protein to keep you going. They're a perfect snack for both children and adults.
Often associated with indulgences and occasional treats, pecans can also be eaten in healthier forms and cooked or baked in a wide variety of foods to add flavor and nutrition. Recipes can be found or created using pecans for breakfast, salads, entrees and side dishes.
Pecan recipes and downloadable images of foods incorporating pecans can be found at www.ilovepecans.org.