Along with National Garden Month, April is also National Pecan Month. This is a perfect time to give a shout out to the health benefits of the all-American tree nut, the pecan. Also in the tree nut family are cashews, almonds, walnuts, pistachios, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, and more.

Here's why nutritionists like them_

-High in fiber -Good source ofprotein

-Contain healthy fats -Rich in antioxidants

Just one ounce (the recommended serving size, which conveniently fits into the palm of your hand) of nuts fill you up, and their flavor won't let you down either. The fiber and fat help satisfy your appetite, while the protein helps maintain blood glucose levels over time (unlike most carb-based snacks). The pure crunch factor of having to chew a nut several times before you're ready to pass it on down the digestive tract also helps promote a feeling of satiety sooner than many other snacks. Nuts are also a great source of antioxidants--pecans in particular shine when it comes to vitamin E.

A word of caution--be wary of how much sodium is added to your favorite variety of nuts. And again, beware of the portion size. Nuts have many redeeming qualities to help us look past the caloric content, but if you eat too many you might outweigh the intended benefits. Stick to the 1 ounce serving size by buying pre-portioned packages or learning what an ounce looks like in your hand. Once you measure it a few times, you'll be impressed at how quickly you portion out 20 pecan halves.

Pecans and other tree nuts pair well with many other flavors, making them dynamic for cooking. Create a trail mix with dried fruit, add them to salads for extra nutrients, or even splurge on pecan pie! Check out the National Pecan Sheller's Association's website for recipe ideas and for information about buying and storing pecans.

Go ahead, go nuts!

Tanya Zuckerbrot, MS, RD is a nutritionist and founder of www.Skinnyandthecity.com. She is also the creator of The F-Factor DietaC/, an innovative nutritional program she has used for more than ten years to provide hundreds of her clients with all the tools they need to achieve easy weight loss and maintenance, improved health and well-being. For more information log onto www.FFactorDiet.com.

Tanya Zuckerbrot MS, RD, is a Registered Dietitian in New York City and the author of two bestselling diet books: The F-Factor Diet and The Miracle Carb Diet: Make Calories and Fat Disappear – with Fiber.

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