Pistachios are nuts encased in hard shells and found on the pistachio tree. They're used in salads and desserts alike and are known to be an excellent, low-calorie source of healthy fats, protein, antioxidants, and fiber.
Pistachios are chock-full of important nutrients and can provide health benefits. A few include:
Antioxidants and Reduction in Free Radicals
Pistachios boast a high content of antioxidants, second only to walnuts and pecans. Antioxidants help fight against free radicals, which are compounds in your body that can harm cells, proteins, and DNA, causing premature aging as well as illnesses like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.
Better Eye Health
High Protein Content
Pistachios are made up of 20% protein, a significantly higher calorie-to-protein ratio than that of most nuts.
They also contain a high ratio of essential amino acids compared to other nuts. Amino acids considered essential are the ones your body cannot make, and so consuming them through your diet is the only way to obtain them.
Healthy Blood Sugar Levels
Pistachios have a low glycemic index, which means that consuming them doesn't cause large spikes in blood sugar.
Lower Blood Pressure and Cholesterol Levels
Pistachios have been shown to have cholesterol-lowering effects. These nuts contain fiber and high quantities of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, all of which are linked to healthy cholesterol levels and reduced risk of heart disease.
Additionally, research demonstrates that pistachio consumption — especially when compared to the consumption of other nuts — results in significant reduction of blood pressure.
Improved Blood Vessel Health
Pistachios might lead to improved blood vessel health. They are rich in the amino acid L-arginine, which, when converted into nitric oxide, helps dilate your blood vessels.
Dilated blood vessels lead to improved blood flow. Reduced dilation of the blood vessels decreases blood flow, a characteristic of endothelial dysfunction.
Promotion of Healthy Gut Bacteria
Pistachios are high in fiber, of which some types are digested by your gut's good bacteria, acting as prebiotics.
Gut bacteria are then able to ferment the fiber and convert it into short-chain fatty acids, which help reduce the risk of developing:
- Heart disease
- Digestive disorders
Eating pistachios may also aid in weight loss. They're rich in fiber and protein, which results in feeling full, which helps you eat less.
A quick tip: ditch the shelled pistachios and choose in-shell pistachios to snack on. In-shell pistachios promote eating slowly and mindfully, because it takes time to remove the shells. The shells also accumulate in front of you, serving as a reminder of how much you've eaten so far. Research has shown that subjects eating in-shell pistachios consumed 41% fewer calories in a sitting compared to those who ate shelled pistachios.
Health Risks of Pistachios
While pistachios are full of essential nutrients, there may be risk of sodium overconsumption if you go for roasted pistachios, which are typically salted. A cup of dry roasted and salted pistachios contains 526 milligrams of sodium.
Overconsumption of sodium can lead to:
In addition, if you experience fructan intolerance, pistachios might cause:
- Abdominal pain
People with allergies to certain nuts should also steer clear of pistachios.
Pistachios are loaded with essential nutrients and are an an excellent source of:
Nutrients per Serving
A 1-ounce (28.35g) serving of raw, unsalted pistachios — about 49 pistachios — contains:
How to Eat Pistachios
Pistachios are often found in ice cream and other desserts, but there are lots of creative ways to add them into your recipes to enjoy their health benefits. Here are a few ideas to try with pistachios:
- Add slivered or grated pistachios to salads for a little extra crunch and protein.
- Try a blend of pistachios and spices on top of roasted vegetables like brussels sprouts, beans, or marinated beets.
- Use finely chopped roasted, salted pistachios in place of breadcrumbs for a crunchy, savory crust on thin cuts of meat, like pork.
- Blend pistachios, instead of pine nuts, with herbs and spices to make a pistachio pesto.