We all have that friend who insists on carrying a bag of nuts around everywhere she goes in case she needs a snack. Well, it turns out that friend might actually be on to something — especially if she packs pecans in her mix.
In a March 2018 study published in Nutrients, researchers found a link between eating pecans every day and a significant improvement in insulin sensitivity for adults who are overweight or obese. Let’s be clear: When the researchers say “eating pecans every day,” they don’t mean making a meal out of these nuts. Instead, the Tufts University researchers found that a daily serving of 1.5 ounces — about one small handful — was enough to have an effect on people who are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes or heart disease.
To conduct the study, researchers gave 26 overweight and obese people one of two specialized meal plans: either a diet with zero nuts or the same diet with pecans substituted for 15 percent of the total calories. At the end of four weeks, researchers found that the people who had eaten pecans every day had better insulin sensitivity and lower heart disease risk than the people who hadn’t eaten any nuts during the study.
But before you start filling your entire pantry with pecans, keep in mind that this study was relatively small, and it didn’t prove that eating pecans prevents heart disease or type 2 diabetes; rather, it found a connection between eating pecans every day and a lower risk for developing those diseases. That said, if you’re able to eat nuts, they are definitely a solid snack option that pack a whole host of nutritional benefits — read: healthy fats and protein galore — which can improve your wellbeing as well as whittle your waist.
“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 cardio-protective effects we observed,” said lead researcher Diane McKay, PhD in a release. “But pecans also contain a number of bioactive plant compounds as well as vitamins and essential minerals that all likely contributed to this benefit. What’s really interesting is that just one small change — eating a handful of pecans daily — may have a large impact on the health of these at-risk adults.”
For more on foods that help balance blood sugar: