The people of the Mediterranean region have been enjoying pistachios for centuries. In fact, it is thought that the name “pistachio” comes from a Greek word meaning “nut from Persia.”
Despite having a reputation as a high-fat food, pistachios are actually very healthy and contain many nutrients essential to good health. In this article, we will consider their nutritional facts to find out what exactly these nuts contain. We will also look at ten important health benefits of pistachios, and also their side effects.
Pistachios Nutrition Facts
According to the USDA, a 1 ounce serving of pistachios contains (5):
- Calories: 159
- Carbs: 8 grams
- Fiber: 3 grams
- Protein: 6 grams
- Fat: 13 grams (90% are unsaturated fats)
- Potassium: 6% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI)
- Phosphorus: 11% of the RDI
- Vitamin B6: 28% of the RDI
- Thiamine: 21% of the RDI
- Copper: 41% of the RDI
- Manganese: 15% of the RDI
Health Benefits Of Pistachios
Here are ten important health benefits of pistachios that you should know about.
Pistachios contain high levels of phytosterols, which have been shown to help reduce levels of LDL cholesterol. When LDL cholesterol enters the bloodstream in large amounts it can cause plaque buildup in the arteries and blood vessels, which over time may lead to heart disease and other cardiovascular conditions (9).
If you would like to make pistachios part of a regular diet for cardiovascular health, consider snacking on them between your meals or substituting them for snacks such as candy bars or potato chips, which are high in sugar and unhealthy fats.
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Blood Sugar Control
Pistachios are extremely healthy for people with diabetes because of their low glycemic index (GI) and glycemic load (GL). Pistachios also contain several nutrients that are important for blood sugar control, including thiamine, vitamin B6, folate, and manganese (9).
If you have diabetes or are at risk for developing the condition, consider substituting pistachios for high-GI foods such as pretzels or potato chips.
The combination of protein and fiber in pistachios makes them a very satiating food that can help with weight loss and maintenance (9).
Eating nuts like pistachios is unlikely to cause weight gain, even if it adds calories to your diet, according to epidemiological studies (9). The satiating fiber, healthy fat and protein in nuts may actually reduce subsequent food intake.
Additionally, pistachios’ high concentration of antioxidants can help fight obesity-related oxidative stress, which damages the cells throughout the body (9).
For these reasons, it’s a good idea to consider pistachios as part of your daily weight loss regime. Just be sure to eat them in moderation. A recommended portion size is 1 ounce, or about 49 kernels. It may be better to eat the ones in the shells, because the visual cue of the empty shells may help tell your brain that you are full.
Vitamin E is an essential nutrient for healthy skin because it helps repair cell damage caused by oxidation and protects against UV radiation from sunlight (15). Because pistachios are rich in vitamin E, they are excellent for maintaining healthy skin and preventing sunburns (together with daily sunscreen use).
Pistachios’ high concentration of copper and manganese, coupled with their low glycemic index, make them a smart choice for oral health.
Research has shown that these nutrients can help prevent tooth decay by reducing bad breath and plaque buildup on the teeth (9). Eating pistachios on a regular basis may also reduce your risk of getting cavities because they contain less sugar than most nuts.
Along with copper and manganese, pistachios are rich in phosphorus, which is important for healthy bones. In fact, 100 grams of this nut contains more phosphorus than 100 grams of milk (5). These nuts also contain calcium, magnesium, and potassium nutrients that are essential for bone health. Some studies have even linked higher intakes of dietary calcium with increased bone mineral density in older adults (14).
Prevention Of Cancer
Pistachios’ high concentration of antioxidants may play an important role in preventing cancer by protecting cells from damage caused by free radicals (9). Pistachios also contain several nutrients that have been linked with a lower risk of certain types of cancer including:
- A high dietary intake of folate may help protect against cervical, breast, and pancreatic cancers (4).
- People who eat fiber-rich and plant-based diets tend to have a lower risk of developing certain types of cancer.
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Pistachios contain moderate amounts of tryptophan, an amino acid that the body uses to make serotonin – a neurotransmitter that has mood-boosting effects on the brain. According to research, snacking on pistachios may help to elevate your mood and improve symptoms associated with depression (10).
Improved Eye Health
Pistachios may protect against age-related eye diseases like cataracts and macular degeneration (7).
Research has shown that eating nuts like pistachios on a regular basis can increase blood levels of lutein and zeaxanthin, two key nutrients for good vision health. In fact, some studies have found that people with higher intakes of these nutrients have lower risks of getting cataracts or macular degeneration as they age (13).
Promote Healthy Gut Bacteria
Pistachios are rich in prebiotic fibers, which function as “food” for healthy bacteria in the gut. A healthy microbiome can help improve digestive health and boost immune response in the body (9).
Formation Of Collagen
Collagen is a protein found throughout the body that maintains strength and elasticity in connective tissue like skin, hair, nails, ligaments, tendons, cartilage, bones, teeth, gums, and blood vessels.
Collagen production slows down with age resulting in weaker skin tissue. A lack of collagen can also increase your risk factors for various ailments including osteoporosis.
To compensate for this loss of collagen over time you need to increase your consumption of foods rich in proline and hydroxyproline, the two amino acids that help build collagen. Studies indicate that 60% to 70% of dietary proline is usually converted into these two compounds (11). Pistachios are one of the best sources of dietary proline.
May Promote Muscle Recovery
Compared to other tree nuts, pistachios have a higher essential amino acid ratio and the highest percentage of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs).
These three amino acids – leucine, isoleucine and valine – are especially important for building and repairing muscles. Pistachios’ high BCAAs and low levels of tryptophan can help improve your mood while also promoting muscle recovery after exercise (8).
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Side Effects Of Eating Too Many Pistachios
There are a few reasons why you should moderate your consumption of these nuts. They include:
Increased Risk Of Gout
Pistachios contain high levels of purine, a compound that breaks down into uric acid in the body and increases your risk of gout flare-ups if you have a history of them (12).
Consuming too many pistachios may also cause digestive issues because they are difficult to digest and can irritate the gastrointestinal tract if eaten in excess (7).
May Worsen Kidney Issues
People who suffer from kidney disease should avoid eating large amounts of pistachios as well. This is because pistachios are high in potassium, phosphorus, and magnesium which can build up in the blood when kidney function is impaired (3).
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Pistachio nuts may be responsible for triggering an allergic reaction in people who are sensitive to them. This can lead to hay fever, asthma, hives, rashes, or breathing difficulties. The best way to treat a pistachio food allergy involves avoiding pistachios entirely (6).
The Bottom Line
Pistachios are one of the healthiest nuts you can eat. They are versatile ingredients that can be used to make healthy snacks or enjoy as-is as part of a low-carb diet.
These nuts are also an ideal snack option for individuals trying to lose weight because they’re filled with fiber, plant-based protein, and healthy fats that help control hunger without containing too many calories.
It’s best to eat raw pistachios rather than those processed into other products like pesto sauce or ice cream because this preserves more antioxidants and nutrients found naturally in these nuts. Consuming too many pistachios may interfere with weight loss goals so stick to 1 ounce per day for optimal results when trying to slim down.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Arginine and Cancer (2004, oup.com)
- B-Carotene Supplementation and Lung Cancer Incidence in the Alpha-Tocopherol, Beta-Carotene Cancer Prevention Study: The Role of Tar and Nicotine (2018, nih.gov)
- Effect of Potassium Citrate on Calcium Phosphate Stones in a Model of Hypercalciuria (2015, nih.gov)
- Folate and Its Impact on Cancer Risk (2018, nih.gov)
- Nuts, pistachio nuts, raw (2019, usda.gov)
- Pistachio nut allergy: An updated overview (2017, pubmed.gov)
- Pistachios: Health Benefits, Nutrients per Serving, Preparation Information, and More (2020, webmd.com)
- Pistachios for Best for Athletic Performance (n.d., americanpistachios.in)
- Pistachios for Health (2016, nih.gov)
- Pistachios May Calm Acute Stress Reaction (2007, sciencedaily.com)
- Proline-dependent regulation of collagen metabolism (2019, nih.gov)
- Purine-rich foods intake and recurrent gout attacks (2014, nih.gov)
- The Effect of Lutein on Eye and Extra-Eye Health (2018, nih.gov)
- The Role of Calcium in Human Aging (2015, nih.gov)
- Vitamin E (n.d., nih.gov)