Eat just a handful of the world's most antioxidant-rich nuts each day for crunchy goodness packed with heart protection.

Photo: Mike Lorrig

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Pecans are the highest-scoring nuts on the antioxidant scale. These North American natives help prevent heart disease in two ways. They are an excellent source of oleic acid, a heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, and they’re rich in gamma tocopherols (a form of vitamin E), which prevent cholesterol from oxidizing and thereby reduce “bad” cholesterol.

Best of all, just a handful of pecans each day elicits results. In addition, pecans are a good source of protein and contain more than 19 vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A and E, several B vitamins, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc.

Choose It & Use It To maintain flavor and antioxidants, keep pecans in the refrigerator for as long as nine months, or in the freezer for up to two years. Snack on them plain, or sprinkle them on salads, pancakes, or veggies. Stir them into yogurt or cereal. Toasting intensifies pecans’ sweet flavor.