Pecans are good for protecting your heart – with oats, not in a pie

Eating pecans appears to offset and limit sugar spikes when added to a high-GI meal.

Eating pecans appears to offset and limit sugar spikes when added to a high-GI meal. Photo: Getty

Think of pecans and the buttery, sugary pie comes to mind – about 500 calories a slice. It doesn’t scream rude health, does it?

Meanwhile, almonds and walnuts are routinely – and rightly – celebrated for their health benefits. They’re the stars of the nut world.

For one thing, they contain high levels of healthy, unsaturated fats that improve cholesterol levels and help prevent heart disease and strokes.

More fat than other nuts

However, pecans actually have higher levels of these heart-healthy fats. They’re also high in fibre.

On that basis, according to a 2021 study, pecans should be considered as an intervention for people at risk of cardiovascular disease.

The authors found that the fats in pecans work more effectively than some exercise programs to significantly improve total cholesterol, lower triglycerides and reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad” cholesterol.

These findings were in line with previous research.

Read our 2021 report here.

Blood sugar and insulin

There is growing evidence that pecans offer protection against type 2 diabetes by lowering metabolic risk factors.

In a small study from 2018, overweight or obese participants were fed a pecan-rich diet for four weeks. These were people at risk of type 2 diabetes.

At the end of the four weeks, the patients saw a reduction in fasting insulin and improved insulin resistance.

Higher levels of insulin in the blood, and greater insulin resistance, are thought to increase the risk of heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s.

Notably, the pecan-rich diet improved the function of beta cells in the pancreas. These cells are responsible for insulin production.

Very low GI

Even better, pecans have a very low glycemic index, which means that “eating them does not cause a spike in blood sugar, even in people with diabetes”.

They can even “offset the effects of higher glycemic index foods when eaten as part of the same meal”.

This blood-sugar control is due, in part, to pecans’ high fibre content.

Low in sugar, naturally sweet

Interestingly, because of their fat content, pecans are rich in calories (about 200 calories in a 28-gram serving) but they don’t lead to significant weight gain. They’re also low in sugar but naturally sweet.

Overall, they make a great snack that keeps you feeling full, which makes these nuts potentially useful in weight management.

Instead of eating pecans in a sugar pie, chop them up and add them to salads or your oatmeal.

Your heart will say thank you.  For more about the health benefits of pecans, see here.

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