It is important for all Americans to eat a heart-healthy diet to protect themselves against heart attacks and stroke (cardiovascular disease)—the leading cause of death and disability in American men and women. Nuts are a highly nutritious, heart-healthy food that should be a daily addition to one’s diet. Nuts contain a treasure trove full of nutrients such as protein, fiber, antioxidants (such as vitamin E and selenium), cholesterol-lowering plant sterols, and “good” fats such as the omega-3s and monounsaturated fats.

One caveat regarding nuts is that nuts are not created equally. The FDA has allowed a heart health claim for only seven types of nuts: almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, pistachios and some pine nuts. This is because these nuts all contain less than 4 grams of saturated fat per 50 grams of nuts. Notice that Brazil nuts did not make the cut. Brazil nuts are a nutritious food, exceptionally high in selenium and magnesium, but are also among the types of nuts that are high in saturated fat. Saturated fat is the most potent cholesterol-raising substance in our diet, so we need to cut way back on our intake. Thus, these nuts would not be your best bet.

Just remember not to go too nuts for nuts, as they are a very concentrated source of calories (due to their high fat—albeit good fat—content). Try and get about 1.5 ounces of nuts (about a handful) daily from one of the “magnificent 7” to help keep the cardiologist away!

Lighter Pecan Pie

Oh pecan pie…gloriously sweet and rich. But did you know that a small slice of pecan pie weighs in at a hefty 500 calories? Lighten up this recipe and you can cut the calories down by 150 without sacrificing taste.

Yield: 12 servings (serving size: 1 slice with 1 Tbsp fat-free whipped topping)

    • 1 cup Splenda® brown sugar blend
    • 1 cup light corn syrup
    • 2/3 cup quick oats
    • 1 cup chopped pecans
    • 2 Tbsp Promise® light tub margarine, melted
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • ¼ tsp salt
    • ½ cup Egg Beaters® egg substitute
    • 2 large egg whites, lightly beaten
    • 1 refrigerated pie dough crust (trans-fat free and preferably fat-reduced)
    • Fat-free whipped topping, thawed

Preheat oven to 325 ºF. Combine all ingredients listed above pie crust, stirring well. Pour into prepared crust and bake for 60 minutes or until center is set. Cool and slice. Serve with a dollop of fat-free whipped topping.

Nutritional Information per Serving:
Calories: 330, Fat: 12 g, Cholesterol: 0 mg, Sodium: 210 mg,
Carbohydrate: 55 g, Dietary Fiber: 1 g, Protein: 4 g

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