The American Heart Association (AHA) has added Georgia pecans to its list of certified heart-healthy foods. After an extensive certification process, packages of Georgia pecan halves and Georgia pecan pieces will now display the Heart-Check mark letting consumers easily identify the products as a healthy and hearty part of their diets.
“Georgia pecans are heart-healthy and taste delicious,” stated Duke Lane Jr., chairman of the Georgia Pecan Commission and president of Lane Southern Orchards in Fort Valley, GA. “We’re pleased that the American Heart Association has recognized the health benefits of Georgia-grown pecans.”
In order to meet standards for certification, nuts must meet strict AHA criteria, which limit added fats and carbohydrates, saturated and trans fats, cholesterol and sodium. Products must also include at least 10 percent of the U.S. Recommended Daily Value of at least one of six beneficial nutrients.
A one-ounce serving of Georgia pecans (halves and pieces) contains three grams of dietary fiber and more than 19 vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A, vitamin E, potassium and zinc.
Pecans may also reduce cholesterol. Research from California’s Loma Linda University and New Mexico State University shows levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol drop when pecans are part of a daily diet. Pecans get their cholesterol-lowering ability from a healthier type of fat found in the nut and the presence of beta-sitosterol, a natural cholesterol-lowering compound. Eating one-and-a-half ounces of pecans a day (27 to 30 pecan halves) as part of a heart-healthy diet may reduce the risk of heart disease.
“We know that consumers have relied on the American Heart Association’s Heart-Check mark to easily identify heart-healthy foods for more than 15 years,” said Rachel Johnson, a nutritionist at the University of Vermont and an American Heart Association spokesperson. “Adding nuts, fish and other foods that are rich sources of good fats, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, enhances the program and gives more healthy options consumers can choose from with the same trust factor.”
Founded in 1995, the Georgia Pecan Commission is comprised of all Georgia pecan growers with 30 acres or more of pecan-producing farmland. The commission funds research, educational and promotional programs to increase awareness and raise demand for Georgia pecans. Historically, Georgia produces more pecans each year than any other state in the nation.