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March 16, 2017
By Susan Callahan, Contributing Columnist
Sometimes, to find the solution to our health problems, we just have to
cast our minds back to our schoolyard years. That's what I did,
recently, when I looked over my otherwise pretty good blood tests to
discover that I had a slightly high level of LDL, the "bad" cholesterol.
I had not always had higher LDL numbers. My search for what was
missing in my diet led me back to an old favorite ---pecans.
Truth be told, I have followed the rest of the country toward eating
more walnuts. Walnuts have been studied extensively by university
research teams from around the world. Walnuts have a well-earned
reputation as heart-healthy nuts. We have previously written about all
the health benefits of walnuts.
In my case, walnuts did help to lower my overall cholesterol and they
helped to improve my HDL, "good" cholesterol level to above normal.
But despite eating a handful of walnuts religiously for over a year,
there I stood with a blood report in my hands showing a slightly higher
Pecans Drive Your Bad Cholesterol Down By 33%
Scientists have learned something interesting about pecans. They are
the arch enemy of bad cholesterol.
In 2011, scientists from the School of Public Health, Loma Linda
University in California performed a study on pecan's effects on various
markers of cardiovascular and arterial health.
They fed a group of 16 men and women between the ages of 24 and
44 3 different meals. One meal consisted of whole pecans, another
alternative meal consisted of partial of pecans and the "control" meal
had no pecans. All of the meals had the same amount fo calories.
Just 8 hours after eating the meal of whole or partial pecans,
participants saw their levels of antioxidants skyrocket. Measured by
blood tests, scientists discovered that eating the pecans increased
levels of γ-tocopherols doubled.
Just 2 hours after eating the pecans, participants saw the capacity of
their blood to absorb "free radical" compounds that damage your
arteries and other blood vessels 10%. Free radicals also are
responsible for many processes that make you age faster.
Just 3 hours after eating the pecan meals, participants saw their LDL
cholesterol levels plummet by 33%. These levels stayed low fro hours.
About 8 hours after eating the pecans, LDL cholesterol levels were still
down, compared to pre-meal levels, by an astounding 26%.
Pecans are also spectacularly good at reducing triglycerides.
Triglyceride levels decreased by 37% 3 hours after eating pecans, by
36% 5 hours after eating the pecans and by 40% measured 8 hours
after eating pecans.
Compared to the American Heart Association's Step 1 Diet, the pecan
meals were better at lowering LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol and
Why Are Pecans Especially Good Among All Nuts in Driving Down LDL
Cholesterol and Triglycerides?
Like walnuts and other nuts, pecans are strongly linked with several
health-boosting benefits. They are heart-health, for example, because
they contain no saturated fat and are rich in mono-unsaturated f
at. They are low in salt. In fact, pecans contain no salt at all, compared
to 1 milligram per serving for walnuts.
But pecans have one special property. They are especially rich in a
certain type of Vitamin E called "gamma-tocopherols". Pecans' Vitamin
E's gamma-tocopherols are powerful anti-oxidants, perhaps even more
powerful than the more commonly found form of Vitamin E.
Before we get too carried away with gamma-tocopherols, we shoudl
bear in mind that Vitamin E is nbot just a single compound. Rather,
Vitamin E refers to a collection of 8 compounds, of which gamma
tocopherol is one. One of the reasons that getting your vitamins from
food is preferable to getting them from a vitamin bottle is that the
interplay of various compounds is often more powerful ---and essential
-- than taking just one compound.
So, while pecans are especially rich in gamma tocopherols, they have
alpha-topcopherols and other micro-compounds as well, all of which
work together to produce the spectaular free-radical scavenging results
we have seen.
Pecans are especially good at scavenging peroxynitrite and other
nitrogen compounds which have been implicated in causing internal
inflammation, heart disease and even Alzheimer's.
How Many Pecans Should You Eat Each Day?
There is no set number of pecans recommended by established health
authorities. Most of the recommendations only suggest "nuts" as a
generic category of foods you should try to consume daily. For
example, two long running Harvard University studies completed in
2013 have found that people who eat tree nuts live on average 20%
longer. Following on that study, health authorities now recommend
eating a handful of nuts each day. (Read more about how nuts extend
That said, it is important to not give up other nuts to simply chow down
on more pecans. Include pecans in a mix of nuts you eat daily,
including almonds, walnuts, peanuts and others.
Throw pecans into your lunch salad, crush them and sprinkle them on
your yogurt, and add them as a snack before dinner.
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