Native to North America, this buttery nut has much to offer your bones and whole body: antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and healthful fatty acids, to name a few. It can be used in sweet or savory dishes, belongs to the same family as hickory nuts, and the trees grow wild in the United States.
Sound familiar? I am talking about the pecan, a delicious nut that is second to the peanut in popularity. Pecans are often overlooked as a health food, but this Foundation Food has no fewer than 12 Foundation Supplements, and in addition, research supports the pecan as a brain-boosting, heart-healthy food.
And to help you include this nut in your bone-healthy diet, you’ll find a mouth-watering apple-pecan recipe in today’s post.
So whether you pronounce it “pee-can” or “pee-cahn,” this humble nut has a place in a bone-smart diet, and today we’re going to look at the reasons why.
What’s In A Pecan?
The answer to that question is, a whole lot! First of all, pecans offer the following 12 Foundation Supplements that are essential for building bone.
Crucial for the synthesis of connective tissue in both bone and cartilage, manganese joins with copper and zinc to form Manganese Superoxide Dismutase, a very powerful antioxidant that is indispensable for bone health. Manganese is also involved in the synthesis of protein and fatty acid metabolism, which is interesting considering the healthful fatty acids that are also found in pecans (more on those later).
In addition, thyroxine, the major hormone produced by the thyroid gland, depends on manganese for its formation.
This trace mineral works with manganese and zinc, as noted above. Found in all body tissues, it’s involved in many body processes, including enzymatic ones. Copper is, in fact, an active moiety of an enzyme that produces collagen, elastin, and other connective tissue proteins. Copper also preserves and develops strong-walled blood vessels, healthy joints, and strong bones.
It’s not likely your doctor mentioned zinc when he or she was discussing bone health with you. But zinc is a vital element of the immune system, the proper functioning of which is essential for bone health. In addition, zinc is found in the hydroxyapatite mineral crystals in bone matrix, where it helps regulate bone turnover. Without zinc, your liver could not produce alkaline phosphatase, a substance that aids osteoblasts build new bone.
This mineral is gaining more attention with regard to osteoporosis, and for good reason. Magnesium is involved in a large number of biological processes, and deficiency is more common than most people realize. Magnesium is necessary for calcium absorption, with 65 percent of the body’s magnesium stores found in bones.
Calcium’s importance in bone health needs no introduction. Pecans provide an organic, bioavailable source of this bone-building mineral. Calcium is involved in many other body functions, including muscle contraction, blood flow regulation, blood oxygen levels, and even balance and cognitive function.1
6. Vitamin C
An antioxidant as well as a vitamin, Vitamin C is vital for the synthesis of collagen, a protein that is largely responsible for the tensile strength (and therefore fracture resistance) of bone. Vitamin C ensures that collagen is sufficiently hydroxylated in the bone matrix, and it also boosts immune system function.
7. Vitamin K
This fat-soluble vitamin is far more important for bone health than the Medical Establishment recognizes, even though research supports its role in bone health. In fact, a form of Vitamin K2, MK-4, naturally inhibits the formation of osteoclasts, the cells that tear down old bone. Vitamin K has even been shown to help prevent fractures.
8. Thiamin (B1), Riboflavin (B2), Niacin (B3), Vitamin B6, Folate (B9), And Choline
The B vitamins are grouped together because they work in synergy with each other, and pecans contain no fewer than five of them. These vitamins metabolize carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, and they also are crucial for the proper functioning of the brain and nervous system. Folate (B9) and B6 in particular are implicated in the reduction of inflammatory homocysteine in the blood. Inflammation is destructive to bone tissue, and reducing it is key to rejuvenating bone.
Pecans also boast high levels of choline, a nutrient that is crucial to the synthesis of cell membranes and is responsible for their structural integrity. In addition, these B vitamins work together as co-factors in various enzymatic metabolic processes in the body.
Additional Nutrients In Pecans
Besides the above Foundation Supplements, pecans are a rich source of potassium, phosphorous, selenium, iron, Vitamin E, Vitamin A, and essential fatty acids that we’re going to look at next.
Pecans Contain Essential Fatty Acids
According to a study published in the Journal of Nutrition:
“Nuts such as pecans that are rich in monounsaturated fat may therefore be recommended as part of prescribed cholesterol-lowering diet of patients or habitual diet of healthy individuals.”2
Researchers found that a pecan-enriched diet decreased total cholesterol by 6.7 percent, and LDL cholesterol by 10.4 percent. What’s more, pecans lowered triglycerides by 11.1 percent.2
Researchers credit pecans’ high monounsaturated fatty acid content with their cholesterol-lowering effects and their ability to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease. Specifically, pecans contain oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid that is also an excellent source of phenolic antioxidants that may even be helpful in weight control.
And believe it or not, there’s more about this remarkable little nut.
Pecans Contain Bone-Building Antioxidants
In addition to antioxidant vitamins E and C mentioned above, pecans contain ellagic acid, which has exhibited the ability to inhibit DNA binding of carcinogenic substances including nitrosamines and certain hydrocarbons.
Pecans contain antioxidants beta-carotenes, lutein, and zeaxanthin, which act as free radical scavengers, protecting bones and other organs from oxidative damage.
But Aren’t Pecans Acidifying?
Yes, pecans are acidifying, whether eaten raw or roasted. Like many nutritious acidifying foods, though, they have their place in an 80/20 pH-balanced diet as described in the Osteoporosis Reversal Program. After all, it’s not a 100 percent alkalizing diet that builds bone; it’s a balanced diet that includes some acidifying foods, so it makes sense for that 20 percent to be composed of the most nutritious foods possible.
In the following recipe, pecans are paired with an alkalizing, nutritious Foundation Food, apples, to produce a delectable, bone-smart, pH-balanced dish.
Crunchy Baked Apples
- 4 red apples (try to get organic)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/4 cup dried apricots, chopped
- 2 tablespoons raisins
- 2 tablespoons chopped pecans
- 1 1/2 tablespoon raw honey (adjust to taste)
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 tablespoon coconut oil, softened
- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- In a bowl, mix together apricots, raisins, pecans, honey, coconut oil and cinnamon.
- Cut apples in half, scoop out the core and brush with lemon juice.
- Place the apple halves in a baking dish, cut side up, and spoon in some of the pecan and fruit mixture.
- Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until apples are tender when pierced with a fork.
- Serve with this bone-healthy ice cream, if desired.
Bone-Smart Foods Are Both Nutritious And Delicious
It’s easy to think that eating foods specifically to build bone means having to settle for tasteless, unpleasant foods in large quantities. But as the above recipe shows, consuming and preparing pH-balanced bone-healthy dishes can be absolutely delicious and enjoyable.
To showcase the tasty, creative nature of bone smart foods, I created Bone Appétit, the companion cookbook to the Osteoporosis Reversal Program. Bone Appétit contains more than 200 delicious recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and desserts, in a convenient downloadable format. And most recipes include Foundation Foods, to ensure they contain bone-rejuvenating nutrients.
Eat Your Way to Stronger Bones!
Discover over 200 mouth-watering bone healthy recipes for breakfast, smoothies, appetizers, soups, salads, vegetarian dishes, fish, and plenty of main courses and even desserts!
Enjoy eating your way to better bone health with Bone Appétit!
Till next time,
1 Kumar, Ashok, Bodhinathan, Karthik, and Foster, Thomas C. “Susceptibility to Calcium Dysregulation during Brain Aging.” Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience. 2009; 1: 2. Prepublished online 2009 August 28. Published online 2009 November 27. DOI: 10.3389/neuro.24.002.2009 Web. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2874411/
2 Rajaram, Sujatha, et al. “A Monounsaturated Fatty Acid-Rich Pecan-Enriched Diet Favorably Alters the Serum Lipid Profile of Healthy Men and Women.” J. Nutr. September 1, 2001. Volume 131, number 9, pages 2275-2279. Web. http://jn.nutrition.org/content/131/9/2275.short