Are Pistachios Healthy For You?

The pistachio nut belongs to the cashew family. They are very tasty and highly beneficial to your health.

The botanical name for pistachio is Pistacia vera, a small tree that originates from Central Asia and the Middle East. The seeds of Pistacia vera are edible and rich in healthy fats, fiber, protein, and antioxidants.

Also, they are loaded with many essential nutrients and can boost gut health, heart health, and weight loss.

It is important to note that pistachios have been consumed since 7000 BC. They are now used in desserts and ice cream (1).

This article highlights some nutritional facts evidence-based health benefits of pistachios.

Pistachios contain a lot of nutrients

Pistachios have a very high nutritional value. An ounce serving of 49 pistachios can provide the following nutrients (2):

  • 159 calories
  • 8 grams of carbs
  • 3 grams of fiber
  • 6 grams of protein
  • 13 grams of fat. Most of the fats are unsaturated.
  • 6 percent of the RDI of potassium
  • 11 percent of the RDI of phosphorus
  • 28 percent of the RDI of vitamin B6
  • 21 percent of the RDI of thiamine
  • 15 percent of the RDI of manganese
  • 41 percent of the RDI of copper

It is worth noting that pistachios are one of the richest sources of vitamin B6.

Vitamin B6 is healthy for your body. It helps in the regulation of blood sugar. It also contributes to hemoglobin formation. Hemoglobin is a molecule in your red blood cell. It has a very high affinity for oxygen. It is what helps your red blood cells to transport oxygen to all of your body’s tissues.

Pistachios also contain potassium. An ounce of pistachio contains more potassium than what you’d find in half of a large banana (3).

They have high antioxidant properties

Your body needs antioxidants. They are vital to your health. Antioxidants protect your cells from damage and are also important in reducing the risk of cancer and other diseases.

One of the health benefits of pistachios is their high antioxidant content. The antioxidant content of pistachios is much more than other seeds and nuts. They are second only to pecans and walnuts (4).

A 2010 study conducted by Colin et al. sought to investigate the effects of pistachios on serum antioxidant levels. 28 adults participated in the study. The study which lasted for 4 weeks found that adults who ate at least a serving of pistachios daily had higher levels of γ-Tocopherol and lutein, compared to those who did not (5).

Pistachios also have a high content of zeaxanthin and lutein. Both are antioxidants and contribute immensely to eye health (67).

Lutein and zeaxanthin protect your eyes from blue light damage and age-related macular degeneration. Age-related macular degeneration is a condition that causes impairment of central vision (89).

What’s more? Pistachios also contain tocopherols and polyphenols. They are both antioxidants and protects against heart disease and cancer (610).

Pistachios are also easily absorbed by your body (11).

They have very little calories yet rich in protein

Nuts have many health benefits. However, they contain many calories.

The good news is that pistachios do not contain as many calories.

Nutritional studies have shown that an ounce of pistachios contains just 159 calories. Conversely, walnuts contain 185 calories while pecans have a whooping 193 calories (21213).

Proteins comprise only 20 percent of the weight of pistachios. This implies that pistachios are second only to almonds with regards to protein content (6).

Pistachios also contain more essential amino acids compared to other nuts (10).

Essential amino acids are so-named because your body cannot produce them. They are obtained only from your diet.

Amino acids may also be classified as non-essential. This means that they can be essential under some circumstances, such as your health.

L – arginine is an example of semi-essential amino acid. Over 2% of the amino acids in pistachios are L – arginine. Your body converts L – arginine into nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is a compound that promotes vasodilation (dilation of your blood vessels), thus enhancing the flow of blood (6).

Weight loss effects of pistachios

Nuts may be energy-dense, but they are also weight-loss-friendly.

Some studies have examined the weight loss effects of pistachios. The results are promising.

Pistachios contain many proteins and fiber. Both nutrients increase satiety (the feeling of fullness) thus reducing your calorie intake (1415).

A 12 – week weight loss program found that those who consumed more than an ounce of pistachios daily experienced a great reduction in body mass index compared with those who ate 2 ounces of pretzels daily (16).

Also, a 24 – week study involving overweight individuals found that those who ate pistachios lost up to 1.5cm of waistlines compared with those who didn’t (17).

An important factor that might contribute to this is the poor absorption of their fat content (18).

Several studies have found that fats from nuts are usually mal-absorbed. Why? Because the fats in these nuts are usually stuck within the walls of their cells, thus preventing its digestion (619).

It is also important to note that shelled pistachios are great for mindful eating. Shell the nuts seem to be more time-wasting and slow down the eating itself. And with the leftover shells, you can figure out how much you’ve eaten (20).

A particular study showed that consumption of shelled pistachios translated to a 41% reduction in calorie intake compared to those who ate shelled pistachios (21).

Enhances the growth of good gut bacteria

We have established that pistachios contain a lot of fiber, with a serving containing up to 3 grams (2).

Your digestive system cannot digest fiber. However, good gut bacteria can digest some of these fibers, which in turn act as prebiotics.

Your gut bacteria ferment these fibers and convert them into short-chain fatty acids. Short-chain fatty acids have many health benefits. For instance, they reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease, and digestive disorders (2223).

The healthiest short-chain fatty acid is butyrate. Studies have shown that pistachios increase the population of butyrate-producing bacteria in your digestive tract compared to almonds (24).

Pistachios lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels

Pistachios may reduce your risk of heart disease in several ways.

First, they have high antioxidant properties. Apart from that, they can improve your blood pressure and lower your cholesterol levels, thus reducing your risk of heart disease (610).

Also, studies have proven beyond doubt that pistachios possess cholesterol-lowering effects (252627).

Most researches on blood lipids and pistachios are done by replacing some of the calories in a diet with pistachios. At least 60% of these studies have proven that pistachios reduce total and LDL cholesterol levels while increasing HDL cholesterol (28).

However, none of these studies showed that pistachios affected the blood lipid profile (28).

A one-month study in people with high LDL cholesterol had participants consume 10% of their daily calories from pistachios.

Results from the study revealed that the diet reduced LDL cholesterol by 9 percent. Also, a diet consisting of 20 percent of calories from pistachios reduced LDL cholesterol by 12 percent (25).

Other health benefits of pistachios are their blood sugar-lowering effects, as well as their ability to promote blood vessel health.

In conclusion

Pistachios are a healthy source of protein, fiber, fats, antioxidants, and many other nutrients, including thiamine and vitamin B6.

The health benefits of pistachios include weight loss, cholesterol-reducing effects, improved eye health, gut, and blood vessel health.

Also, they are delicious – very delicious.