Health Benefits of Pistachios

What Are Pistachios?

Pistachios are the seeds of the pistachio tree. They’re usually green and slightly sweet. They’re called nuts, but botanically pistachios are seeds. Peoplehave been eating them for thousands of years.

The kernels can have different colors, ranging from yellow to shades of green. They’re usually about an inch long and half an inch in diameter. But if you want to taste one, you’ll have to crack open its hard shell first.

The pistachio tree originated in western Asia, and archaeologists believe pistachios became a food as early as 7,000 B.C. They came to the United States in the mid-19th century and commercial production began in the 1970s.

California, Arizona, and New Mexico make up all of America’s commercial pistachio production. You can buy pistachios shelled or unshelled, roasted, or salted. They’re available in most grocery stores, and you can buy them in bulk from pistachio growers.

 

Pistachio Health Benefits

Among the possible health benefits of pistachios:

  • High levels of unsaturated fatty acids and potassium. Both have  antioxidant and anti-inflammatory traits.

  • They can lower your chances for  cardiovascular disease

  • Pistachios are bursting with the fiber, minerals, and unsaturated fat that can help keep your  blood sugarblood pressure, and cholesterol in check.

  • Their fiber and  protein can make you feel fuller for longer. This fiber can also have a positive effect on your gut by aiding "good" bacteria.

  • They can help you manage your weight since they’re a nutritious and satisfying snack. This may help you eat less overall and lose weight. Buying pistachios in their shells slows down your eating.

  • Some studies suggest that eating pistachios lowers the amount of fat and sugar (glycemic index) in your blood, as well as improves the flexibility and tone of your blood vessels. 

Risk of Pistachios

Although raw pistachios don’t have much sodium (1 cup has about 1 milligram), that’s not true for roasted pistachios, which are often salted. A cup of dry roasted pistachios with salt has 526 milligrams of sodium. Too much sodium can lead to things like  high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke

If you have fructan intolerance -- a bad reaction to a type of  carbohydrate -- pistachios might bother your belly. If so, you may have:

  • Bloating

  • Nausea

  • Pain in your abdomen

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Pistachio Nutrition

A 1-ounce serving of pistachios, which is about 49 kernels, has about 159 calories and:

  • 5.72 grams of  protein

  • 7.7 grams of carbs

  • 12.85 grams of  fat

  • 3 grams of fiber

Pistachios are  cholesterol-free and a great source of vitamins and minerals, including:

  • Manganese

  • Phosphorous

  • Copper

  • Vitamin B6

They also pack quite a punch of  potassium. In fact, a 2-ounce serving has more potassium than a large banana and as much fiber as a cup of cooked broccoli.

 

How to Prepare and Eat Pistachios

Pistachios can sometimes be tricky to eat since they have a tough shell. If there’s a crack in the shell, you can use the shell of another pistachio to pry it open. If there isn’t a crack, you can place the nuts on a cutting board, cover them with a towel, and hit them just hard enough so the shells open.

Pistachios will stay fresh (shelled or in shell) for up to a year in a refrigerator or for up to 3 years in the freezer.

You can enjoy them raw, on their own, and in things like:

  • Salads

  • Ice cream or gelato

  • Baklava (a sweet pastry)

  • Pesto

  • Nut butter

  • Biscotti

  • Granola

  • Turkish delight

  • Yogurt

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on July 31, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

American Pistachio Growers: “History -- Pistachio Origins,” “2018-2019 Member Processors/Suppliers,” “The Power of Pistachios.”

California Rare Fruit Growers, Inc.: “PISTACHIO.”

Pistachio Health Institute: “Frequently Asked Questions,” “Nutritional Benefits in a Nutshell.”

United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service: “Basic Report: 12151, Nuts, pistachio nuts, raw.”

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: “Effects of pistachios on cardiovascular disease risk factors and potentials mechanisms of action: a dose-response study.”

Natural Product Research: “Health benefits of pistachios consumption.”

British Journal of Nutrition: “Effects of almond and pistachio consumption on gut microbiota composition in a randomized cross-over human feeding study.”

University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources: “Nuts: Safe Methods for Consumers to Handle, Store, and Enjoy.”

Tufts Medical Center: “Fructan Intolerance.”

Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School: “Diabetes? Go nuts to lower your heart risk.”

Harvard T.H. Chan, School of Public Health: “Salt and Sodium.”

Fruits and Nuts.UCDavis.Edu: “The Pistachio Tree; Botany and Physiology

and Factors That Affect Yield.”

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: “Nut intake and adiposity: meta-analysis of clinical trials.”

Nutrition, Metabolism, and Cardiovascular Diseases: “Cross-sectional association of nut intake with adiposity in a Mediterranean population.”

Nutrition: “Effect of pistachio nut consumption on endothelial function and arterial stiffness.”

 

 

 

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