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Pecans Boost Heart Health

The antioxidants found in pecans may improve heart health and contribute to disease prevention, according a study conducted by researchers at the School of Public Health at Loma Linda University.

Their findings were published in the January 2011 issue of the Journal of Nutrition.

For the study, the researchers analyzed urine and blood samples from 16 participants between 23 and 44 years of age.

The participants consumed three separate meals composed of whole pecans, pecans blended with water, or a control meal of equivalent nutrient composition. In between each meal there was a washout period of 1 week.

The researchers found that following the test meals composed of whole pecans and blended pecans, levels of powerful antioxidants called gamma-tocopherols and flavan-3-ol increased significantly. Gamma-tocopherol is the major from of vitamin E in the US diet. Flavan-3-ol has been shown in previous studies to reduce hardening of the arteries.

In addition, they found that oxidation of LDL cholesterol decreased by a third. High blood levels of oxidized “bad” LDL cholesterol can lead to blood vessel blockage, heart attack and stroke.

It's important to note that pecans are not the only nuts that provide numerous health benefits. In fact, tree nuts such as walnuts, almonds and pistachios are also loaded with beneficial compounds.

They are high in magnesium, vitamin E, fiber, protein and beneficial phytochemicals, and have been found to decrease the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and macular degeneration.

A good way to get into the habit of eating more nuts is by replacing unhealthy snacks such as chips and candy bars with raw, unsalted tree nuts.

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