Did you know that a handful of pecans -- 1 ounce of pecans or 20 pecan halves -- contain only 4 grams of carbohydrates? Pecans are also heart healthy -- almost 90 percent of the fats (oils) in pecans are unsaturated.

Perfect low-carb snack

Pecans contain more than 19 vitamins and minerals -- including vitamin A, vitamin E, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, several B vitamins and zinc. And, 1 ounce of pecans provides 10 percent of the recommended Daily Value for fiber. Fiber keeps you fuller longer and will keep your blood sugar steady -- an important element to low-carb eating.

"Pecans can easily be incorporated into almost anyone's diet -- even those watching their weight and controlling their carbohydrate intake," noted Beth Hubrich, RD with the National Pecan Shellers Association. "And, because pecans contain mainly good fats in addition to the other vitamins and minerals, pecans also provide other health benefits."

Here are five easy ways to add more nutrient-dense pecans in your diet:

  • Sprinkle on your favorite salad for added crunch.
  • Use ground pecans as a coating for fish, chicken or pork.
  • Combine ground pecans with parsley and green onions, thicken with olive oil and spread on salmon fillets before grilling.
  • Toast pecans for a refreshing snack. For a twist, sprinkle with red pepper for a "hot" version of this snack.
  • In place of meat (such as chicken or pork) in various casserole dishes, use pecans. Nuts offer many of the same nutrients as meat, but are another alternative for those striving for a more plant-based diet.

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