Research suggests that people have been eating pistachios for thousands of years. People consume them today in a variety of dishes from salads to ice creams.
Here are 10 science-backed benefits of eating pistachio nuts.
Benefits of pistachios
According to science, pistachios are:
1. Rich in nutrients
Pistachios contain many important nutrients.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), 1 ounce or approximately 49 kernels of unroasted nuts contain:
Protein: 5.72 grams (g)
Fat: 12.85 g
Carbohydrates: 7.70 g
Fiber: 3.00 g
Sugars: 2.17 g
Magnesium: 34 milligrams (mg)
Potassium: 291 mg
Phosphorus: 139 mg
Vitamin B-6: 0.482 mg
Thiamin: 0.247 mg
A serving of pistachios provides about 37 percent of the recommended daily vitamin B-6 intake or 1.3 mg for adults.
Vitamin B-6 plays a vital role in the body, particularly in relation to protein metabolism and cognitive development.
2. Low in calories
Pistachios are one of the lowest calorie nuts, which means people can enjoy the health benefits of nuts while more easily staying within their daily calorie limits.
One ounce of macadamia nuts, for example, contains 204 calories, while 1 ounce of pecans provides 196 calories. The same 1 ounce of pistachios contains just 159 calories.
3. Packed with antioxidants
Antioxidants are substances that play a critical role in health. They reduce the risk of cancer and other diseases by preventing damage to the body’s cells.
Nuts and seeds contain several antioxidant compounds, but pistachios may have higher levels of some antioxidants than other nuts.
Research reports that pistachios have among the highest levels of antioxidants including:
- xanthophyll carotenoids
These substances have high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
In one small study involving 28 participants with high cholesterol who ate 1 or 2 daily servings of pistachios over 4 weeks, researchers showed that they experienced an increase in their levels of the antioxidants lutein, α-carotene, and β-carotene compared to those who ate none.
The antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin are essential for eye health. Pistachios are a rich source of both of these substances.
According to the American Optometric Association, lutein and zeaxanthin reduce the chances of developing eye conditions, including age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts.
AMD and cataracts are the leading causes of blindness in the United States.
Eating a healthful diet, including pistachios, is a promising way to help prevent these eye diseases from developing.
5. Beneficial for gut health
All nuts are rich in fiber, which encourages a healthy digestive system by moving food through the gut and preventing constipation.
A type of fiber called prebiotics may also feed the good bacteria in the gut. Feeding the good bacteria helps them multiply and “crowd out” harmful bacteria.
According to a small, 2012 study, eating pistachios may increase the levels of beneficial bacteria in the gut. In the study, volunteers ate a standard diet with either 0 ounces, 1.5 ounces, or 3 ounces of pistachios or almonds.
Researchers collected stool samples and found that people who ate up to 3 ounces of pistachios daily showed an increase in potentially helpful gut bacteria, much more so than those who ate almonds.
6. High in protein for vegans and vegetarians
Pistachios contribute to a person’s daily protein needs, at almost 6 g of protein per 1 ounce serving.
Protein accounts for approximately 21 percent of the total weight of the nut, making it a good source for vegetarians and vegans, among others.
Pistachios also boast a higher ratio of essential amino acids, the building blocks of protein, when compared with other nuts, including almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, and walnuts.
Women who frequently eat nuts may enjoy modest protection from cardiovascular disease, according to a 12-year study published in 2001 based on the Iowa Women’s Health Study.
The study also showed a small link between regularly eating nuts and reduced risk of death from other causes.
Pistachios, in particular, may protect the heart by reducing cholesterol levels and high blood pressure.
Research on a small sample of 28 participants that looks specifically at pistachios for heart health, reports that two portions daily reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. Another study suggests that pistachios may help reduce levels of harmful cholesterol.
A 2015 analysis of 21 studies reports that eating nuts may lead to a significant reduction in blood pressure in people without type 2 diabetes. Pistachios had the strongest effect of all the nuts tested on reducing both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
9. Good for blood sugar balance
Pistachios have a low glycemic index, so they do not cause a sharp rise in blood sugar after someone has eaten them.
In a small study of 10 people, eating pistachios reduced high blood sugar when eaten with a carbohydrate-rich meal, such as white bread. The researchers suggest that this is one of the ways that nuts lower the risk of diabetes.
For people with diabetes, another study suggests that eating pistachios as a snack is beneficial for blood sugar levels, blood pressure, obesity, and inflammation markers.
10. Reduce colon cancer risk
Pistachios may reduce the risk of some cancers, such as colon cancer, due to their high fiber content.
Scientists demonstrated this in 2017 research that showed that roasting the nuts did not affect their health benefits in relation to colon cancer cells.
Myths about pistachios
Some people may avoid eating pistachios because of various common myths including:
Myth 1: Pistachios make you fat
People may avoid pistachios and other nuts because they believe they contribute to weight gain.
When eaten as part of a healthful and calorie-controlled diet, research suggests that pistachios may actually aid weight loss.
Myth 2: Pistachios are high in sodium
Consuming salted pistachio nuts can increase daily sodium intake, sometimes beyond the recommended level. Choosing unsalted pistachio nuts is a low-sodium alternative.
Myth 3: Snacking on pistachios ruins your appetite
Pistachios are a great option for people who wish to eat more healthfully, as long as they eat them as part of a balanced diet. To avoid filling up on nuts before meals, stick to 1 ounce or one-half of an ounce daily and do not eat them too close to mealtimes.
Pistachios are a very nutritious food. They offer several health benefits, especially for the heart, gut, and waistline.
Regularly eating pistachios may be a good way to improve health and wellbeing. But people should stick to plain, unsalted pistachio nuts in their shells and avoid eating more than one ounce a day.
Pistachios are available for purchase in most grocery stores and online.
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