Healthy Foods



Why pistachios not only taste delicious, but are also jam-packed with nutrition for your lean healthy body.

Do you remember eating pistachios when they used to be dyed a deep pinkish/red? They were always so delicious, but after eating a bunch of those bright "red" nuts, your fingers and hands would be stained red.

Pistachios, as we now know, do not grow as magenta-colored nuts but come in a nice natural tan colored shell with a mild-tasting, crunchy, green and yellow interior. Nuts have risen in popularity lately, but did you know that pistachios are probably one of the most nutritious of all nuts?

It's hard to compare anything to the nutritional benefit of nuts like almonds, walnuts, and pecans... but pistachios give them a run for the money!

Just a one-ounce serving of pistachios will give you over thirty vitamins, minerals and other super nutrients.

One of the best things about nuts in general, is that they are full of minerals that are VITAL to our body's proper functioning. And if you have paid much attention to nutrition news lately, you may be aware that minerals are getting harder and harder to obtain from our diet, and many people are mineral-deficient in one way or another.

So what are these great nutrients in pistachios?

Well for starters, pistachios are full of copper, phosphorus, and manganese (different from magnesium).

Copper is made up of multiple enzymes that help to create many of the necessary biochemical reactions in your body and also forms connective tissue. Manganese also helps form connective and skeletal tissue, and is instrumental in growth, reproduction and (this is good!) carbohydrate and fat metabolism. Phosphorus is very important for strong bones and teeth and works with calcium to prevent osteoporosis.

Other important minerals are magnesium -- necessary for more than 300 different important biochemical reactions in your body, and good for your heart and blood pressure; potassium --an electrolyte that keeps the body in the correct acid/base balance and also helps in forming proteins, metabolizing carbohydrates and building muscle.

And there is more to this nutritional powerhouse...

Pistachios are a rich source of B vitamins. B vitamins are essential for good nerve transmission, muscle building, a good mood, lots of energy, and infection-fighting power. They are also one of the highest protein nuts (as well as healthy fats), so they make a great satisfying snack that keeps your blood sugar and insulin at a good steady level.

In one study on pistachios and antioxidants, pistachios ranked up in the group with the highest amount of antioxidant activity above over 100 other foods. Antioxidants help to prevent free radical damage, which saves your cells and prevents aging and disease among other things.

We hear a lot about eye health and nutrients for the eyes lately, and guess what-- pistachios contain generous amount of lutein and zeaxanthin which prevent macular degeneration and other eye diseases related to aging.


Last but not least, pistachios are full of appetite satisfying fiber -- as much as a serving of oatmeal.

Nuts in general are a great source of fiber, which is valuable for fighting cancer, controlling blood sugar, and aids in a feeling of fullness. Most people only get about half the recommended amount of fiber they need in their diets, so eating pistachios will help add to your dietary intake.

Healthy Fats

While eating extremely large quantities of pistachios would be a LOT of calories... the good news is that the protein, good fats and fiber in them are nutritious and satisfy so much of the nutrient needs of your body, it's VERY difficult to overeat them.

Even when only eating small servings of these nuts, they have been proven to provide a high rate of satiety. Besides, having to shell all those pistachios actually ends up making you eat them a little more slowly, so the message to your brain that you are full happens on less nuts than if you were eating something already out of its shell.



Nutritional Benefits in a Nutshell

In general, nuts have been shown to have protective heart health benefits and provide a good source of protein and dietary fiber, along with many important vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. But all nuts are not created equal.

Crack Open Nutritional Benefits of Pistachios
A 30g serving (about 1 ounce) of pistachios has 49 kernels, 170 calories and offers more than 30 different vitamins, minerals and beneficial phytonutrients. This little nut comes out big on nutrition: an excellent source of copper, manganeseand vitamin B6 and a good source of protein, dietary fiber, thiaminand phosphorus. Pistachios offer a high amount of total polyphenol antioxidants and are the only nut to offer significant amounts of luteinand zeaxanthin. Pistachios also offer a high satiety level and as an in-shell snack, have a slower consumption time.

Only Nut to Contain Significant Amounts of Luteinand Zeaxanthin
Pistachios are the only nut to contain a significant amount of the carotenoidsluteinand zeaxanthin. The intake of these carotenoidshas been associated with a reduced risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). AMD is the most common cause of irreversible blindness in Americans over 65.

Excellent Source of Important Vitamins and Minerals
Pistachios are an excellent source of copperand manganeseand a good source of phosphorus. Pistachios are also an excellent source of vitamin B6, containing as much as beef liver, which is often touted as an “especially rich source” of this vitamin. Per serving, pistachios provide 20% of the Daily Value. In addition to vitamin B6, pistachios are a good source of thiamin(15% DV) and contain lesser amounts of other B vitamins, such as folateand biotin at 4% DV, and riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic acid at 2% DV.

One of the Highest Fiber Nuts
Most Americans take in much less than the recommended 14 grams of fiberper 1000 calories.1 As one of the highest fibernuts, pistachios can help meet this goal. A serving of pistachio nuts provides 3 grams of dietary fiber, or about 12% of the Daily Value. This is twice the fiberin an ounce of walnuts, and about the same amount as in a serving of oatmeal.



Health Benefits of Pistachios

Pistachios were once a treasured delicacy among royals. In modern times, pistachios are appreciated for their flavor and the nutritional benefits they offer.

Nutrition research has uncovered an exciting connection between pistachios and health. According to the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, pistachios are a nutrient dense food that should be included in the diet. Nutrient dense foods contain considerable amounts of vitamins and minerals; hence, pistachios make a perfect snack food.

Nutrition in Pistachios
Pistachios are a good source of copper, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, and B6. The nuts deliver 30 vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, so they pack a considerable wallop from a nutritional standpoint.

Fiber in Pistachios
Pistachios contain fiber. Lots of it! Pistachios, in fact, contain higher amounts of fiber than many high-fiber foods. If you are trying to boost your intake, pistachios are an excellent source of dietary fiber.

Pistachio Protein
If you are looking to replace animal protein with vegetable protein, pistachios eaten in conjuction with protein-rich grains, vegetables, and fruits, can help you to add protein to your diet. Pistachio nuts are an excellent source of vegetable protein.

Pistachios and Antioxidants
Oxidative stress can cause damage to the human body, resulting in diseases such as cancer and heart disease. Dietary antioxidants help to reduce the damage. Pistachios contain phenolic compounds, which are believed to account for the antioxidant capability of certain foods. The pistachio nut is placed in the highest group for antioxidants.

Pistachios and Carotenoids
Pistachios contain significant amounts of the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin. These carotenoids have been linked to reduced risk of developing macular degeneration, a condition that results in blindness for aging Americans.

Pistachios and Phytosterols
Pistachios are also rich in plant sterols. Current research suggests that phytosterols may lower the absorption of dietary cholesterol from other foods. In fact, plant sterols are now being added to foods because of this beneficial effect.

A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry reported on a comparison of 27 nut and seed varieties for phytosterol content. Sesame seeds and wheat germ topped the list, but are not consumed in significant amounts as individual foods, while pistachios and sunflower seeds had the highest phytosterol content of commonly eaten foods.

Pistachios Lower Cholesterol

Numerous studies have validated the health benefits of nuts. In particular, nuts render a cardio-protective effect. Dr. Koeyigit (Department of Clinical Biochemistry, Harran University, Turkey) carried out a study to evaluate a pistachio-rich diet as compared to a diet that excluded the nuts to determine whether inclusion of pistachios could affect cardiovascular health. The results demonstrated that the pistachio diet lowered total cholesterol. LDL and HDL levels were also affected.

Dr. Hu (Harvard Department of Nutrition) reports in an overview article that nuts render a favorable effect on blood lipids and may also protect against coronary artery disease because of amino acids such as arginine, which is a precursor to nitric oxide, a vasodilator that can inhibit platelet adhesion.

Pistachios and Heart-Healthy Fats

Pistachios are a good source of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These fats reduce blood cholesterol levels and lower risk of heart disease when they replace saturated fats in the diet. (Institute of Medicine, 2002a).

Pistachio Diet
In trials, people on the 4-week pistachio diet showed no weight gain while improving risk factors for heart disease (Journal of the American College of Nutrition). The study showed that a daily dose of pistachios is beneficial in relation to cardiovascular disease. Study participants had moderately high cholesterol levels and consumed 15% of their calories from pistachios. Over a four-week period, blood lipid levels improved.

Benefits of Pistachios
Eating pistachios renders significant benefits in relation to human health. Pistachio nuts deliver a nutritious array of important nutrients and compounds that support and assist body function.

Serving Suggestions
Add chopped pistachios to yogurt or cream cheese
Pistachios can be added to muffins, pancakes, or oatmeal
Try to consume approximately 30 nuts (18 g) 4 times per week
Unsalted pistachios are an excellent addition to vegan or vegetarian diets
Including delicious pistachios into any eating plan may be one of the best things you can do to protect your health.

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Copyright (c) 2009 David Arthur.

This page was last updated on December 9, 2009