The impact of good cardiovascular health extends to almost every part of the body, but it’s not often easy to achieve. Along with constantly changing guidelines on what’s ok to eat versus what’s not, introducing the concept of cholesterol into the mix makes it harder to sift through the recommendations. If you’re interested in good cholesterol levels and heart health, consider adding a food group along with your other interventions that is delicious and high in nutrients and omega 3-fatty acids: pecans.
A recent study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that pecans are uniquely beneficial for lowering cholesterol levels. Like other tree nuts, we know that pecans are protective of the cardiovascular system and effectively lowers “bad” cholesterol significantly. “Bad” cholesterol is otherwise known as LDL (low density lipoprotein) cholesterol, separated from “good” cholesterol which is HDL (high density lipoprotein).
Among the study’s participants of adults aged 30-75 years old, those who ate pecans reduced their “bad” cholesterol (LDL) level by up to 9%, and by at least 5% in overall total cholesterol (LDL and HDL combined). Researchers found that adding about 68 grams of pecans to their regular daily diets also lowered blood sugar after meals.
For comparison, exercise intervention studies reduced LDL cholesterol by only 5% and total cholesterol by 1%. Before you scrap your exercise for a bag of pecans, keep in mind that both of these are integral parts of maintaining good cardiovascular health; a reduction of 1% in LDL is still substantial and reduces the risk of artery disease.
What makes the pecan so helpful for good cholesterol levels? It’s likely a combination of fiber and the fatty acids, especially Omega 3 fatty acids, that give it these properties. As mentioned before, though, make sure to keep that exercise up if you add in pecans to your diet, as the amount of pecans used in the study is the equivalent of 470 calories.
Whatever your caloric budget, replacing an equal amount of calories in the day with the pecans or just adding in pecans to the regular diet were found to both be effective at lowering blood cholesterol levels in this study.
Liana L Guarneiri, Chad M Paton, Jamie A Cooper. Pecan-Enriched Diets Alter Cholesterol Profiles and Triglycerides in Adults at Risk for Cardiovascular Disease in a Randomized, Controlled Trial. The Journal of Nutrition, 2021; DOI: 10.1093/jn/nxab248