It comes from the Greek word pistachio meaning “the green nut”, pistachios are a beloved nut of the tree that has been around for centuries. But the popular nut snack is extremely versatile and can be used in everything from pesto to biscuits. Here’s everything you need to know about the nutritious walnut, including the benefits and side effects of pistachio.
What are pistachios?
Pistachios are nuts that grow in clusters on large trees. They start out as yellow and reddish fruits that ripen to green and purple. “Most pistachios in the United States are grown in the naturally rich soils of California’s San Joaquin Valley, where warm days and cool nights create the perfect environment for growing heart-healthy pistachios,” says Maggie Moon, MS, RD, Head of Nutrition Communications for Good Cleaning Nutritionist Approved Wonderful Pistachios.
The famous walnut is available with or without shells and comes in raw or roasted varieties. Plus, they are packed with nutritional benefits. “Pistachios are also one of the most protein-rich snacks.”
Some other notable health benefits of pistachio include:
1. Pistachios are a good source of numerous vitamins and minerals.
Moon says one serving of pistachios boasts more than 30 different vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. “Nearly 90% of the fat in pistachios is also the best unsaturated type for you.” A one-ounce serving, which is about 49 pistachios, provides:
- 159 calories
- 13 grams of total fat
- 2 grams of saturated fat
- 8 g of carbohydrates
- 3 grams of fiber
- 6 grams of protein
Additionally, pistachios are also cholesterol-free, and Moon says one serving provides more than 10% of the daily value of copper, vitamin B6, thiamine (B1), manganese, and phosphorus.
2. Pistachios are a complete protein of plant origin.
“Pistachios are a great choice of plant-based protein over meat because they are naturally cholesterol-free and add fiber to your day,” says Moon. Note that since pistachios provide adequate amounts of all nine essential amino acids, this makes them a complete source of protein.
“The protein in pistachios is of higher quality than other popular nut snacks, with a protein digestibility-corrected amino acid (PDCAAS) score of 94 out of 100 for dry roasted pistachios. That’s a solid A right there. “adds Moon.
3. Pistachios can improve blood sugar control.
“Pistachios can be included as part of a healthy diet for eating well with diabetes,” says Moon. The American Diabetes Association even calls walnuts a “diabetes superfood,” as their healthy fat profile and fiber count can help manage hunger and blood sugar control.
A study published in Diabetes care found that consumption of pistachios in particular may have glucose- and insulin-lowering effects in prediabetic individuals. Research on type 2 diabetics has found that pistachio intake has favorable effects on blood sugar control as well.
4. Pistachios can fight inflammation.
Pistachios contain a unique composition of powerful antioxidant compounds, including tocopherols, phylloquinone, carotenoids, chlorophyll and flavonoids. Research shows that polyphenols and flavonoids are widely present in all portions of the pistachio and also have anti-inflammatory properties. “The green and red-purple colors of pistachios come from antioxidants,” says Moon.
5. Pistachios can promote a healthy heart.
Since about 90% of the fats in pistachios are unsaturated, Moon says they are a very heart-healthy snack. “Scientific evidence suggests, but does not prove, eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, such as pistachios, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, can reduce the risk of heart disease.”
Additionally, walnuts are cholesterol-free and also a good source of fiber. Our experts recommend opting for unsalted or lightly salted varieties to ensure they remain a heart-healthy choice.
6. Pistachios can promote a conscious diet.
“Breaking open pistachio shells can slow you down during snack time,” shares Moon. “Empty shells can be a visual cue that helps snacks to eat mindfully.” She adds that pistachios in the shell can help you “tease you” because the leftover shells can be a visual cue for portions, potentially helping to curb intake. “We call this the pistachio principle”.
7. Pistachios can help with weight management
Recent research has found that regular pistachio consumption was associated with increased dietary fiber intake, reduced consumption of sweets, and even weight loss. Plus, a one-ounce serving offers a whopping 49 pistachios for less than 200 calories.
Can you eat pistachios every day?
“Not only can you eat pistachios every day, there are good reasons for it,” says Moon. “Protein is an essential part of a healthy diet. Being a complete protein, pistachios can help you meet your protein needs.”
He adds that this is especially important for vegans and vegetarians, but it’s also great for anyone who’s just looking to add more plant-based protein to their day.
Are there any side effects or risks of eating pistachios?
Individuals who have chewing and / or swallowing problems may need to avoid pistachios and nuts in general. Those who have a nut or pistachio allergy, then follow the guidance of their healthcare team. But for most people, pistachios should be safe to consume and useful enough to eat on a regular basis. If you have a peanut allergy, it is important to check that your chosen brand is not processed in a facility that contains peanuts.
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