Pistachios are edible seeds of the pistachio tree, member of the cashew family. They are nutrient-packed nuts that can be enjoyed both as a healthy snack or as part of a delicious recipe. Available both in the shell (in-shell) or with their shell already removed (shelled), they’re typically sold roasted and salted, although unsalted options are available, as well as some flavoured varieties, too.
Pistachios originate from the Middle East but today, 99 per cent of the pistachios produced in the United States come from California.
How Does It Give a Powerful Nutritional Punch?
- Loaded with Vitamins and Minerals: Pistachios are a rich source of protein, dietary fibre, several minerals such as phosphorus, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, zinc, copper, sodium and selenium. It is also a good source of vitamins like vitamin A, K, C, E, B6, B1, B2, B3, B9, and B5.
- Good Source of Antioxidants: They contain more antioxidants than most nuts and seeds, second only to walnuts and pecans. You can literally “see” the nutrients through the various colours in pistachio. The green and yellow colour of the actual nut comes from lutein and zeaxanthin. The thin purple skin surrounding the nut is loaded with anthocyanins, the same type of antioxidants found in grapes and cranberries.
- Lowest in Fat: A serving of pistachios has 13 grams of fat, of which about 1.7 grams are saturated, 3.5 grams are polyunsaturated, and 7 grams are monounsaturated fats. Compared to most other tree nuts, pistachios are one of the lowest in fat.
- Cholesterol-Free: Pistachios have the highest phytosterol content (214 milligrams per 100 grams) amongst nuts. Phytosterols come from plants and because they have a similar structure to cholesterol, they compete with cholesterol for absorption by the body, ultimately limiting the amount of cholesterol absorbed.
- Compared to other tree nuts, pistachios have a higher essential amino acid ratio and the highest percentage of branched-chain amino acids. Pistachios are a great plant-based protein option for everyone, but especially those eating a vegetarian or vegan diet.
Health Benefits of Pistachios
- Heart Health: A number of studies have shown that pistachios significantly reduced total cholesterol and the “bad” LDL-cholesterol levels while increasing the “good” HDL-cholesterol level. They may increase antioxidant concentrations, which is linked to improved dilation of blood vessels as a result of a reduction in inflammation.
- Weight Management: It may seem counterintuitive but eating pistachios—a high-fat, calorie-dense food—has actually been associated with weight management. Pistachios are rich in fiber and protein, both of which increase satiety by helping you feel full and eat less .
- Gut Health: Pistachios are high in fiber, which moves through our digestive system mostly undigested. But some types of fiber are digested by the good bacteria in your gut, acting as prebiotics. Gut bacteria then ferment the fiber and convert it into inflammation-fighting short-chain fatty acids, & also results in decreased the number of lactic acid bacteria. It also increases the number of butyrate-producing bacteria in the gut more than eating almonds does.
- Blood Sugar Control: Despite having a higher carb content than most nuts, pistachios have a low glycemic index, meaning they don’t cause a large spike in your blood sugar. Also rich in fiber and healthy fats, antioxidants, magnesium, carotenoids and phenolic compounds, which are beneficial for blood sugar control.
- Good For Eye Health: Pistachios are rich in antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which are essential for eye health, as they reduce the chances of developing eye conditions, including age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts.
- Prevents Cellular Damage: As our cells grow older, they accumulate oxidative damage due to the presence of free radicals, which can cause considerable damage to cells. Pistachios, being rich in antioxidants, including lutein, beta-carotene, and gamma-tocopherol, has oxidative damage-fighting benefits which also play a key role in reducing the risk of disease, such as cancer.
How to Include Them in Your Diet?
One of the simplest ways to enjoy pistachios is as a snack on their own. You can also throw chopped pistachios on your yogurt or morning oatmeal or use them as a crunchy topping for your salads. Pair pistachios with a piece of fruit for your afternoon snack, their fiber, fat and protein will keep you satisfied.
Pistachios are very nutritious. Regularly eating pistachios may be a good way to improve health and wellbeing. But stick to plain, unsalted pistachio nuts in their shells and avoid eating more than 30gm a day. Before you begin eating them, do consult with your doctor, nutritionist or dietitian.