Not only are pistachio nuts tasty and fun to eat, they’re also super healthy.
Technically a fruit, these edible seeds of the Pistacia vera tree contain healthy fats and are a good source of protein, fiber and antioxidants.
They also contain several essential nutrients and have benefits for weight loss, as well as heart and gut health.
Interestingly, people have been eating pistachios since 7,000 BC. Nowadays, they’re very popular in many dishes, including ice cream and desserts .
Here are 4 evidence-based health benefits of pistachios.
Pistachios are very nutritious, with a one-ounce (28-gram) serving of about 49 pistachios containing the following :
- Calories: 156
- Carbs: 8 grams
- Fiber: 3 grams
- Protein: 6 grams
- Fat: 12 grams (90% are healthy fats)
- Potassium: 8% of the RDI
- Phosphorus: 14% of the RDI
- Vitamin B6: 24% of the RDI
- Thiamin: 16% of the RDI
- Copper: 18% of the RDI
- Manganese: 17% of the RDI
Notably, pistachios are one of the most vitamin B6-rich foods around.
Vitamin B6 is important for several functions, including blood sugar regulation and the formation of hemoglobin, a molecule that carries oxygen in red blood cells.
Pistachios are also rich in potassium, with one ounce containing more potassium than half of a large banana.
Antioxidants are vital to your health.
They prevent cell damage and play a key role in reducing the risk of disease, such as cancer.
Pistachios contain more antioxidants than most nuts and seeds. In fact, only walnuts and pecans contain more.
In one four-week study, participants who ate either one or two servings of pistachios per day had greater levels of lutein and γ-tocopherol, compared to participants who did not eat pistachios.
Among nuts, pistachios have the highest content of lutein and zeaxanthin, both of which are very important antioxidants for eye health .
They protect the eyes against damage caused by blue light and age-related macular degeneration, a condition in which your central vision is impaired or lost.
Furthermore, two of the most abundant antioxidants in pistachios — polyphenols and tocopherols — may help protect against cancer and heart disease .
Interestingly, the antioxidants in pistachios have been shown to be very accessible in the stomach and thus more likely to be absorbed during digestion .
While eating nuts has many health benefits, they’re typically high in calories.
Fortunately, pistachios are among the lowest-calorie nuts.
One ounce (28 grams) of pistachios contains 156 calories, compared to 183 calories in walnuts and 193 calories in pecans .
With protein comprising about 20% of their weight, pistachios are second only to almonds when it comes to protein content .
They also have a higher ratio of essential amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein, than any other nut .
These amino acids are considered essential because your body cannot make them, so you have to get them from your diet.
Meanwhile, other amino acids are considered semi-essential, meaning that they can be essential under certain circumstances, depending on the health of the individual.
One of these semi-essential amino acids is L-arginine, which accounts for 2% of the amino acids in pistachios. It’s converted into nitric oxide in your body, which is a compound that causes your blood vessels to dilate, helping with blood flow .
Despite being an energy-dense food, nuts are one of the most weight loss friendly foods on the planet.
While few studies have looked at the effects of pistachios on weight, those that exist are promising.
Pistachios are rich in fiber and protein, both of which increase satiety by helping you feel full and eat less .
In one 12-week weight loss program, those who ate 1.9 ounces (53 grams) of pistachios per day as an afternoon snack had twice the reduction in body mass index as those who ate 2 ounces (56 grams) of pretzels a day .
Moreover, another 24-week study in overweight individuals showed that those who consumed 20% of calories from pistachios lost 0.6 inches (1.5 cm) more from their waistlines than those who did not eat pistachios .
One factor possibly contributing to pistachios’ weight loss properties is that their fat content might not be fully absorbed .
In fact, studies have demonstrated the malabsorption of fats from nuts. This is because part of their fat content is stuck within their cell walls, preventing it from being digested in the gut .
What’s more, eating in-shell pistachios is good for mindful eating, as shelling the nuts takes time and slows down the rate of eating. The leftover shells also give you a visual clue of how many nuts you have eaten .
A study showed that individuals who ate in-shell pistachios consumed 41% fewer calories than individuals who ate shelled pistachios .
Pistachios are high in fiber, with one serving containing 3 grams .
Fiber moves through your 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 short-chain fatty acids, which may have several health benefits, including a reduced risk of developing digestive disorders, cancer and heart disease .
Butyrate is perhaps the most beneficial of these short-chain fatty acids.
Eating pistachios has been shown to increase the number of butyrate-producing bacteria in the gut more than eating almonds does .