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Great News for a National Pecan Candy Company

Pecan shown to be top antioxidant nut

Pecans Possess more antioxidant activity than any other tree nut    I can still hear the sound of granddaddy cracking pecan hulls. When I think of pecans, I picture the first pecan tree I ever knew. It sat in my grandparents' backyard located in southwest Atlanta, one interstate exit from Atlanta's airport. This was their backyard for 60 of the 70 years they lived in Atlanta. Granddaddy worked for Delta Air Lines for 40 years; my grandmother for 12 years. While cracking pecans under the shade of that pecan tree, I listened to the stories of Delta from Granddaddy with the sound of jet engines in the background. At that age, I did not know that every pecan pie uses between one-half and three-quarters of a pound of pecans. Additionally, 78 pecans are used to make a pecan pie. As a matter of fact, Georgia has been the top pecan-producing state in the nation since the late 1800s.

    For those of us enjoying a pecan pie, there is good news coming from a recent USDA study. According to the USDA, pecans possess more antioxidant activity than any other tree nut. Antioxidants, such as polyphenolics found in pecans, are naturally occurring substances. They keep in check the potentially harmful effects of free radicals. Free radicals are reactive oxygen species which the body produces from normal metabolism and that are also encountered in the environment. Dr. Ronald Pegg works with UGA Department of Food & Science Technology. He explains that the USDA has chosen a method known as ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) to analyze antioxidant content. A free radical is generated and then measurements are taken based on how fast and to what degree individual foods are able to render it harmless. This is based upon the food's antioxidant capacity. Findings from the ORAC assay show that pecans are a rich source of natural antioxidants. As I mentioned in a previous article, pecans are the only tree nut that is truly native to the United States. More than 500 varieties of pecans exist today. More than 1,000 cultivars have been released over the history of pecan culture. Only three are common and all three are available Georgia orchards. The trees are one of the largest of fruit-bearing trees. An irrigated, managed acre of pecan trees will produce about 1,000 pounds of pecans. Prices of pecans are still high and significantly contribute to Thomas County. In 2010, pecans provided Thomas County with a farm gate value of $3.1 million.

    Pegg says to get a daily dose of these natural antioxidants, try 10 raw pecan halves (a handful) as a snack. This past weekend, my family celebrated my grandparents' birthdays. Both turned the young age of 90. Although my grandparents now occupy a new house in south Georgia, that swing still sits under that pecan tree. Anybody sitting there cracking pecan hulls will still hear the sound of Delta's jet engines overhead. We ate lots of tasty desserts last weekend, the “healthiest” of all was that pecan pie.

Information for this article was taken from the website: . For additional questions or information, call the Thomas County Extension office at 225-4130.

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