9 Health Benefits of Pistachios

Pistachios are edible seeds of the Pistacia vera tree that 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 9 evidence-based health benefits of pistachios.

1. Loaded with Nutrients

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.

2. High in Antioxidants

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.

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.

3. Low in Calories yet High in Protein

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.

4. May Help You Lose Weight

Despite being an energy-dense food, nuts are one of the most weight loss friendly foods on the planet.

Pistachios are rich in fiber and protein, both of which increase satiety by helping you feel full and eat less.

One factor possibly contributing to pistachios’ weight loss properties is that their fat content might not be fully absorbed.

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.

5. Promote Healthy Gut Bacteria

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.

6. May Lower Cholesterol and Blood Pressure

Pistachios may reduce your risk of heart disease in various ways. As well as being high in antioxidants, pistachios may lower blood cholesterol and improve blood pressure, thus lowering your risk of heart disease.

Moreover, pistachios seem to lower blood pressure more than other nuts.

7. May Benefit Your Blood Vessels

The endothelium is the inner lining of blood vessels. It’s important that it works properly, as endothelial dysfunction is a risk factor for heart disease (30).

Vasodilation is the widening or dilating of blood vessels. Endothelial dysfunction is characterized by reduced vasodilation, which decreases blood flow.

Nitric oxide is a compound that plays an important role in vasodilation. It causes blood vessels to dilate by signaling the smooth cells in the endothelium to relax.

Pistachios are a great source of the amino acid L-arginine, which is converted to nitric oxide in the body. Therefore, these tiny nuts may play an important role in promoting blood vessel health.

Proper blood flow is important for many bodily functions, including erectile function.

But note that 100 grams is quite a large serving of pistachios, containing about 557 calories.

8. May Help Lower Blood Sugar

Despite having a higher carb content than most nuts, pistachios have a low glycemic index, meaning they don’t cause a large spike in your blood sugar.

Perhaps not surprisingly, studies have shown that eating pistachios can have beneficial effects on your blood sugar.

In addition to being rich in fiber and healthy fats, pistachio nuts are rich in antioxidants, magnesium, carotenoids and phenolic compounds, all of which are beneficial for blood sugar control (6, 33).

Therefore, simply adding pistachios to your diet may help control your blood sugar levels in the long term.

9. Delicious and Fun to Eat

Pistachios can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. These include as a snack, salad garnish, pizza topping or even in baking, adding a beautiful green or purple color to various desserts and dishes.

Some delicious and green-colored desserts include pistachio gelato or cheesecake.

And, like other nuts, they can be used to make pesto or nut butter.

You can even try sprinkling them over your favorite oven-baked fish, adding them to your morning granola or making your own dessert crust.

Last but not least, pistachios can be enjoyed on their own as a convenient, tasty and healthy snack.

Source: Authority Nutrition

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