Pistachios, Healthy and Delicious

Pistachios have benefited from a great PR campaign over recent years. And for a good reason. Their great taste and nutrition profile have made people go nuts over these easily-shelled legumes. Pistachios are filling, lower in calories than many other nuts. With nutritional properties that help with a variety of health conditions and goals, pistachios are a great snack option for many. High in protein and dietary fiber, pistachios are in everything from trail mix to ice cream. Easy to incorporate into an everyday diet, pistachios have many surprising health benefits. One word of caution, however.  If you have a nut allergy, do not consume pistachios without consulting your health provider.

Important Source of Antioxidants

Pistachios contain more antioxidants than most nuts and seeds. In fact, only walnuts and pecans contain more per serving. Including antioxidants in your diet can inhibit the population of free radical molecules. These are damaging particles that impede health regeneration of your body at the cellular level. Antioxidants reduce the effects of aging on many of your systems. They prevent cell damage and play a key role in reducing the risk of disease, such as cancer. By helping your body achieve a proper balance of free molecules and antioxidants, your cells regenerate normally. Many degenerative diseases can be avoided or mitigated.

Good Source of Plant Protein

Finding enough dietary protein from non-animal sources can be a challenge. Especially for those who choose to follow a vegetarian or vegan diet. With 6 grams of protein per one ounce serving, pistachios are a great way to add plant protein to your healthy meat-free diet. Protein is essential to healthy muscle rebuilding and regrowth. For those who exercise, eating plenty of protein not only helps reduce muscle soreness, but it can also help with musculature growth and strength goals. The plant protein in two servings of pistachios can make up at least 15 percent of your daily protein macronutrient goals.

Aid with Weight Loss

Choosing pistachios in favor of other higher-calorie snacks can help with weight loss goals. The high protein value of pistachios and dietary fiber help you to feel fuller, longer. Increasing satiety while keeping calories low can help reduce unhealthy cravings. Consuming pistachios has resulted in a lower body mass per-person in dietary studies. Some theorize that 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 your gut.

Promote Healthy Gut Bacteria

Eating plenty of dietary fiber can help your overall gut (gastrointestinal tract) health by keeping digestion moving smoothly. Fiber usually moves through your digestive system mostly undigested. Some types of fiber, however, are digested by the good bacteria in your gut, acting as prebiotics. Pistachios have a fairly high amount of dietary fiber per serving, making them especially helpful for a healthy gut. 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. Having healthy gut bacteria can also help with managing metabolic syndrome, as well as soothe the symptoms of IBS and other digestive complaints.

Help Lower Cholesterol

Choosing unsaturated fats for your diet, versus saturated fats, can help improve the levels of LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol) in your bloodstream. Reducing cholesterol helps improve your heart’s ability to pump blood through your body, keeping your arterial walls supple and the arteries themselves free from dangerous blockages. Choosing pistachios, along with following a heart-healthy diet with unsaturated fats instead of saturated fats, can also improve your HDL cholesterol (the “good’ cholesterol) levels. Eating pistachios can also improve your overall blood lipid profile.

Improve Sexual Function in Men

Pistachios have been shown to have a positive effect on men’s sexual vitality. They contain compounds that have been demonstrated to improve vasodilatation of blood vessels in the body, improving blood flow to many organs, including the man’s sexual organ. Vasodilation is the widening or dilating of blood vessels. Studies indicate that the nutrition found in pistachios is relatively high in the nonessential amino acid arginine, responsible for maintaining flexible arteries and enhancing blood flow by increasing the presence of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide can relax blood vessels, allowing for a more responsive dilation.

Reduce Risk of Heart Disease

Relaxing your blood vessels and reducing the amount of LDL cholesterol in your blood can have a very positive effect on your overall heart health. In the context of a heart-healthy diet, the study showed that adding as little as one serving of pistachios per day can reduce cholesterol and improve arterial flexibility. Both of these effects allow the heart to pump more efficiently. When your heart doesn’t have to work as hard to move blood throughout your body, your risk of heart disease is reduced. In fact, high cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart disease, so by lowering your LDL level, you can lower your risk of developing serious heart problems like coronary heart disease. Pistachios are also loaded with antioxidants, which are excellent for heart health.

Help Control Metabolic Syndrome

Although pistachios have a fairly high amount of complex carbohydrates, they also have a low glycemic index, meaning they don’t cause a large spike in your blood sugar. This is important for those who manage pre-diabetes, metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes through proper diet and exercise. Reducing blood sugar swings helps reduce the cravings for simple sugars, as well. Furthermore, simply adding pistachios to your diet may help manage and control your blood sugar levels over the long term. Choosing foods that are higher in protein and fiber also help your gut digest your food more slowly, so you’re able to avoid insulin spikes that can worsen diabetic conditions.

Boosts Eye Health

Pistachios are unique in the nut family in that they contain nutrients called carotenoids. Dietary carotenoids provide health benefits to the body. They decrease the risk of disease, particularly certain cancers and eye disease. These compounds are found in the cornea and retina of the eyes, and it’s believed that incorporating these into your diet can provide your body with essential nutrients to rebuild damaged cells in the eyes. Higher levels of carotenoids may also help reduce the risk of degenerative eye diseases, such as cataracts and macular degeneration. The antioxidants found in pistachios may also play a role in the healthy regrowth of optical cells.

Incorporating Pistachios Into Your Diet

Pistachios are a flexible food, fun to shell and eat alone, as a snack alternative to potato chips. They may also find a home as a salad garnish, pizza topping or even in baking. Pistachios add a beautiful green or purple color to various desserts and dishes. Some delicious and green-colored desserts include pistachio gelato or cheesecake. You may also use pistachios in your favorite nut butter or pesto recipes, substituting them gram-for-gram with the nuts specified in the original recipe. You can even try sprinkling them over your favorite oven-baked fish, adding them to your morning granola or making your own dessert crust.