The Diet Detective: Go Nuts With Pistachios and Pecans

Pecans

Why: They can be eaten spiced, in a pie, in a nut mix and on their own. Their delicate, tender texture and full flavor make pecans compatible with a broad range of foods.

Nutrients: 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, and they are also a high-quality source of protein.

Health Perks: Research in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry found that pecans rank highest among nuts and are in the top category of foods for antioxidant capacity. Just last year, a study in Nutrition Research showed that eating about a handful of pecans each day may help reduce the risk of heart disease. The researchers suggest that this is in part due to the pecan’s significant content of vitamin E, which protects blood lipids from oxidation. When “bad” (LDL) cholesterol is oxidized, it is more likely to build up and clog arteries. Also, in 2001, a study in the Journal of Nutrition found that eating pecans may have cholesterol-lowering benefits similar to those of cholesterol-lowering medications.

Other studies have shown that eating pecans may help reduce the risk of gallstones, aid in weight loss and support prostate health.

Nutrition Stats: (1 ounce, 19 halves) 196 calories, 20.4g fat, 3.93g carbs, 2.7g fiber, 2.6g protein.

Purchasing: Nuts with the largest kernels and good color are considered highest quality.

Storage: Pecans should be protected from moisture, light, heat and oxygen. Storing in-shell pecans in a cool, dry place will preserve freshness for several months. In-shell or shelled, pecans can be refrigerated for about nine months or frozen at 0 degrees Fahrenheit for up to two years. They can be thawed and refrozen repeatedly without loss of flavor or texture. After removal from cold storage, the quality remains good for about two months.

Recipe: Asparagus and Roasted Pepper Salad with Toasted Pecans

A generous sprinkle of Georgia pecans gives this vegetable-rich salad a hearty crunch.

Serves four

  • 20 thin asparagus spears
  • 1 (12-ounce) jar roasted peppers, preferably red and yellow mixed, drained
  • 2/3 cup chopped toasted pecans
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon sherry or wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 pound mixed salad greens

Break off tough ends of asparagus. Heat 1 inch of water to boiling in a deep skillet.

Add asparagus and cook two minutes. Drain and transfer asparagus to bowl of ice water to quickly chill. Drain and set aside or wrap and refrigerate until serving.

In a medium bowl, stir together peppers, pecans and basil. In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, vinegar, mustard and salt; whisk in oil to make dressing.

To serve, mound greens in center of serving platter; arrange asparagus in two clusters on opposite sides of greens. Spoon pecan mixture over greens and asparagus; drizzle dressing over all.

Nutrition information per serving: (dressing included) 324 calories, 25g fat, 19g carbs, 6g fiber, 6g protein.

Recipe Source: Georgia Pecan Commission


Charles Stuart Platkin is an Active Expert , nutrition and public health advocate, author of the best seller Breaking the Pattern (Plume, 2005), Breaking the FAT Pattern (Plume, 2006) and Lighten Up (Penguin USA/Razorbill, 2006) and founder of Integrated Wellness Solutions. Sign up for The Diet Detective newsletter free at www.dietdetective.com.

Copyright 2009 by Charles Stuart Platkin

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