Peek at the Power of Pecans

The holidays bring delicious food that we indulge in only once a year. For my family that includes sweet potato casserole with candied pecan topping. The original recipe was my Grandma’s and I looked forward to eating it every year when I was a child. She passed along the recipe to me when I got married and over the years I’ve tweaked it a bit and lightened it up while still keeping the delicious flavors. Some people top their sweet potato casserole with marshmallows, but we always use pecans, which I didn’t realize they are a super food until now. 

I’ve always thought of nuts as fattening, but I was misinformed. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, it isn’t the total amount of fat that matters, it is the type of fat. And pecans are full of the heart healthy kind – monounsaturated.

Monounsaturated fats, also called MUFAs, have been found to contribute to a healthy heart and slim body.

The University of Michigan Integrative Medicine reported that a diet high in monounsaturated fats have many health benefits, including:

  • Decreased risk for breast cancer
  • Reduced cholesterol levels
  • Lower risk for heart disease and stroke
  • Weight loss
  • Less severe pain and stiffness for sufferers of rheumatoid arthritis
  • Reduced belly fat

 Other foods high in MUFAs include: olive oil, avocadoes, almonds, cashews and macadamia nuts.

 There are two considerations when enjoying pecans, or any other nut:

  1. Keep them Cool – the same oil in the nuts that provides the health benefits also contributes to making the pecans go rancid pretty quickly. Keep your pecans in the freezer or refrigerator in an airtight container to keep fresh for up to one year.
  2. Control those portions – While the fat in nuts is good for your heart, too many calories still contribute to an expanded waistline. One portion equals twenty pecans halves. Use the snack size baggies to divide a bag of pecans into several one ounce portions.

My annual indulgence doesn’t seem so bad now, between the sweet potatoes and pecans it is practically a health food….well, maybe I shouldn’t go that far, but it could be much worse, right? 

Try out my lightened up version of my Grandma’s sweet potato casserole and let me know what you think. Do you have a favorite holiday food? Do you follow a diet high in MUFAs? 

Stacy’s Sweet Potato Casserole 

Sweet Potatoes

  • 3 cups of mashed sweet potatoes or 2 large cans yams
  • 1/2 cup fat-free evaporated milk
  • 2 eggs
  • ¾ cup Truvia or other sugar-free substitute
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie  


  • ¼ cup brown sugar splenda
  • ¼ cup flour
  • ½ cup chopped pecans
  • ½ cup melted butter 


Mash the sweet potatoes or yams with a potato masher, then mix the next five ingredients together and pour in a casserole dish. Mix the topping ingredients together and spoon the mixture over the sweet potato mixture. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

Day 66: Ten Reasons to Get Your Apple a Day

“An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” How many times have you heard that little rhyme? I guess the cliché is so popular because it’s true. I could write a new blog post everyday with the health benefits of apples, but if I had to boil it down to the top ten headlines, it would look like this: 

1. Apples protect against Alzheimer’s and Parkinsons

Two new studies from Cornell University found that apples protect against Alzheimer’s and Parkinsons. The study showed that the chemical quercetin, a flavanoid that has also been shoed to prevent the growth of prostate cancer cells, protected rat brain cells when approached with oxidative stress in laboratory tests.

2. Apples reduce your risk of asthma and improve your pulmonary health 

A recent study in Australia found that apple and pear intake was associated with a decreased risk of asthma and decrease in bronchial hypersensitivity. 

3. Smoke? Better eat your apples

In a case control study in Hawaii, it was found that there was a 40-50% decreased risk in lung cancer participants with the highest intake of apples, onions and white grapefruit. Check out An Apple a Day Keeps the Lung Cancer Away blog post for more info.

4. Decrease your heart attack risk by eating more apples 

The Women’s Health Study found that women ingesting apples had a 13-22% decrease in cardiovascular disease risk.

5. Eat apples to reduce your risk of Type II diabetes 

A Finnish study of 10,000 people found a reduced risk of Type II diabetes associated with apple consumption. This is attributed to the quercetin, which is a major component of apple peels.

6. Don’t peel that apple!

Apples, and especially apple peels, have been found to have potent antioxidant activity. In fact, apples have second highest level of antioxidant activity than any other fruit. These antioxidants can greatly inhibit the growth of livery cancer and colon cancer cells. Another study, at Cornell University showed that phytochemicals in the skin of an apple inhibited the reproduction of colon cancer cells by 43%!

7. Apples have the highest portion of free phenolics

What is free phenolic and why is this important? A phenolic is a huge class of biochemically active substances most of which belong to the flavanoid group. “Free Phenolic” means that these compounds are not bound to other compounds in the fruits and the phenolics are more available to absorb into the bloodstream. All you need to know is this, they are really, really, really good for you! 

8. Eat Apples. Lose Weight 

Researchers from the State University of Rio de Janeiro found that women who ate apples lost more weight on a low-calorie diet than women who didn’t eat fruit. And get this, one apple has more fiber than an entire bowl of bran cereal! With only 80 calories and 5 grams of belly-filling fiber, an apple is a dieter’s best friend. Check out this blog post about The New Apple Diet, which talks about a study that demonstrated that people who eat an apple 15 minutes before lunch consumed almost 190 fewer calories then when they didn’t have the apple! 

9. Kick arthritis and osteoporosis with apples

Apples are one of the best dietary sources of boron, which is a bone-building mineral. The Journal of Applied Nutrition recently published a study that demonstrated a high probability that there is a connection between not having enough boron in your system and having symptoms of arthritis.   

10. Apples can reduce breast cancer risk

Cornell researchers found that apple consumption can reduce breast cancer tumors. In their study with a group of rats with a known mammary carcinogen they found that the number of tumors was reduced by 25, 25 and 61 percent in rats fed, respectively, the equivalent of one, three or six apples a day. 

Check out All About Apples for more information on the health benefits of apples. 

Nothing says fall like a fresh, crisp apple, so after conducting research on the benefits of apples, I was excited to go pick my own apples from the local apple orchard. I visited Windy Hill Apple Orchard in York, SC. You can visit to find local pick your own apple orchards in your area. 

Come back and visit my blog tomorrow for the Top 5 Ways to Get Your Apple a Day blog post, which will be filled with five great apple recipes and more information about my experience at the apple orchard and picking our own apples. In the meantime, check out my recipe for awesome apple museli: 

Apple Museli


  • ½ cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • ½ cup skim milk
  • 1 apple, cored and chopped
  • 2 Tbsp almonds
  • 2 tsp honey


Combined oats and milk in a small bowl and let stand for 5 minutes. Stir in apple, almonds and honey.

Do you like apples? How do you enjoy eating them? Please share!