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:
- 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.
- 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
- 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.