Nutrition 101: Pistachios

Let’s talk about a very beautiful, specific type of nut that most of you food and dessert lovers out there probably know about… Pistachios. They aren’t just a beautiful and delicious nut that makes the best ice-cream, macarons or crunchy topping on a salad, avocado toast or smoothie bowl, but they’re also one of the most nutrient-dense nut options out there. I did a quick-fact post on my Instagram the other week and got a few messages asking for a more in-depth blog on them, so here it is!

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Pistachios (Pistacia vera) is one of the food world’s most popular nuts. Research suggests that people have been eating them for thousands of years. That’s no surprise, when you consider that they are a great source of protein, fibre and antioxidants.

There’s quite a lot to cover when talking about the nutritional benefits of pistachios, but I’ve condensed down some of the most vital info in the points below:

A Great Source of B6

Pistachios are rich in  vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 (a.k.a. Pyridoxine) is used by our body for over 100 enzyme reactions related to metabolism. It impacts cardiovascular, digestive, immune, and nervous system function. In the brain, pyridoxine is critical for the production of the hormones serotonin and norepinephrine, which regulate mood. It’s also involved in the production of melatonin, which helps your body regulate its sleep and wake cycles. Lastly, it plays a crucial role in the formation of haemoglobin, a molecule that carries oxygen in red blood cells and is important for maintaining energy levels and preventing fatigue.

Benefits Gut Health

We all know the importance of fibre in a healthy and balanced diet (read my post here), and you’ll be happy to learn that a certain type of dietary fibre called prebiotics present in pistachios has been shown to aid in gut heath. In a 2012 study, volunteers ate a standard diet with either 0 ounces, 1.5 ounces, or 3 ounces of pistachios or almonds and those who ate up to 3 ounces of pistachios daily had an increase in potentially helpful gut bacteria, much more so than those who ate almonds.

pistachios

Packed with Heart-Healthy Fats

Pistachios are packed with heart-healthy fats and have been linked with lowering blood cholesterol and improving blood pressure. Multiple studies on pistachios and blood lipids have been conducted by replacing part of the calories in a diet with pistachios. Around 65% of these studies showed significant reductions in total and “bad” LDL cholesterol and increases in “good” HDL cholesterol in those who consumed pistachios.

Additionally, pistachios lower blood pressure more than other nuts. A review of 21 studies found that eating pistachios reduced the upper limit of blood pressure by 1.82 mm/Hg, while the lower limit was reduced by 0.8 mm/Hg

High Antioxidant Content

Antioxidants prevent cellular oxidation and cell damage, thus play a key role in reducing the risk of disease, such as cancer. Although we’re often preached about the high contents of antioxidants in dark berries, it’s important to note that Pistachios contain more antioxidants than most nuts and seeds, also making them a great option.

Among nuts, pistachios have the highest content of lutein and zeaxanthin, both of which are key antioxidants in 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.

High Protein 

Although all nuts are packed with healthy fats, pistachios also have a high amount of protein in them- approximately 21% of the nut, second only to almonds. They also have a higher ratio of essential amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein, than any other nut.

Help Stabilise Blood Sugar Levels 

Pistachios have a low glycemic index, meaning they don’t cause a large spike in your blood sugar and instead, slowly release the sugar into your bloodstream (similarly to whole-grains and seeds). Several studies have shown that increasing pistachio consumption can reduce the blood sugar response in healthy individuals and those with type 2 diabetes.

Weight-Loss Friendly

Interestingly, although they’ve got high protein and fat content in them, pistachios are one of the least calorie-dense nuts out there, making them a great option for those trying to loose weight. Also, the little shells you have to open up to enjoy them may help you control your portions. In fact, a study in 2011 showed that individuals who ate in-shell pistachios consumed 41% fewer calories than individuals who ate shelled pistachios as having to de-shell them, promoted mindful eating.

So next time you’re looking for a healthy snack or trying to choose between the variety of  nuts out there, why not pick the lovely pistachio? 🙂

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