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How can pecans help my heart?

Nut flours are a great way to pack nutrition into muffins, waffles, breads and more. And a new study shows that pecan meal may be especially helpful in boosting heart-healthy antioxidants.

In a small study of men and women, eating a test meal made of whole or ground pecans produced some pretty amazing benefits over another meal that contained the same number of calories but was made with refined ingredients. The pecan meal resulted in significantly higher blood concentrations of antioxidants and even doubled the participants' blood levels of gamma-tocopherol -- a form of vitamin E. What's more, three hours after eating the test meal made of whole pecans, the men and women had significantly lower blood levels of oxidized low-density lipoprotein -- the stuff that nicks and wears away artery walls.

You don't have to eat a whole meal of pecans to get benefits from this toasty little hickory fruit. Just be creative in how you cook throughout the day. Baking with pecan flour is a great way to replace nutritionally empty calories -- like white flour -- with something that does a body good. You can even add ground pecans to ground beef to make healthier burgers. And add some crunch to oatmeal, salads and yogurt with some chopped pecans on top. Researchers think pecans may be particularly healthy because they have some of the highest levels of antioxidant phenols around, compared with other nuts.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.