Nuts are among foods that have shown promise for health. These healthful, nutrition-dense food items contain "good" fats, omega-3s, and a whole host of micronutrients.
A wide-ranging review concluded, "Higher nut intake is associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, total cancer, and all-cause mortality, and mortality from respiratory disease, diabetes, and infections."
The findings are impressive, but it is worth noting that nuts may not be able to take all of the credit. For instance, someone who consumes nuts regularly might be predisposed to eating higher levels of natural and fresh foods as well.
The most recent study in this field, now published in the journal Nutrients, focused on the benefits of pecans on cardiovascular health. Each of the 26 participants — all of whom were overweight or obese but otherwise healthy — spent 4 weeks on one diet then switched to spend the remaining 4 weeks on another diet.
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One was a control diet and the other one was roughly the same, except that 15% of the total calories were replaced by pecans in the latter. Both diets were low in fiber, fruits, and vegetables. Calorie content, total fat, and carbohydrate levels were kept the same.
It was found that the addition of pecans to the participants' diets improved insulin sensitivity.
Also, there was a positive impact on other markers of cardiometabolic disease — namely, changes in serum insulin and the function of cells that store and release insulin.
Pecans are naturally high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, so replacing a portion of the saturated fat in the diet with these healthier fats can explain some of the cardioprotective effects.