- What Are
- Nutrition Facts
- Low-Calorie Content
- Eye Health
- Gut Health
- Heart Health
- Blood Sugar
- Colon Cancer
- Protein Metabolism
- Weight Loss
- Health Benefits
What are pistachios?
If you like eating nuts for a snack, try pistachios. These seeds of the pistachio tree are nutritious as well as tasty. Read on to know more about pistachios and their health benefits.
Although pistachios are called nuts, they’re classified as seeds. They are typically green, have a tinge of sweetness, and are packed with nutrition.
The pistachio plant has been a source of nutrition for thousands of years. Different varieties of pistachio are grown in many regions around the world. But the Pistacia vera is currently the most important commercial pistachio tree grown for its edible seed. In this article, we’ll look at the Pistacia vera's health benefits.
Pistachio trees usually bear fruit five to seven years after planting. But there have been instances where a tree may take 15 years to bear fruits. Although they bear fruit yearly, the harvest is larger every second year. The pistachio trees bear maximum fruit when they are around 20 years old.
A single tree typically gives out around 50 kilograms of nuts every two years, which translates to roughly 50,000 nuts.
Pistachio nutrition facts
Pistachios are packed with several macronutrients critical for maintaining your bodily functions, such as proteins, fiber, and carbohydrates. They’re also a great source of many micronutrients that regulate essential physiological activities like minerals and vitamins.
Pistachios are also a great source of amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. 100 grams of pistachios contain:
- Calories: 560
- Carbohydrates: 27.2 grams
- Fiber: 10.6 grams
- Protein: 20.2 grams
- Fat: 45.3 grams
- Vitamin B6: 0.052 milligrams
- Vitamin C: 5.6 milligrams
- Thiamin: 0.87 milligrams
- Riboflavin: 0.16 milligrams
- Niacin: 1.3 milligram
- Pantothenic acid: 0.52 milligrams
- Vitamin A: 26 micrograms
- Vitamin B6: 1.7 milligrams
- Folate: 51 micrograms
- Beta-carotene: 305 micrograms
- Lutein + Zeaxanthin: 2900 micrograms
- Tocopherol, gamma: 20.4 milligrams
- Tocotrienol, gamma: 1.67 milligrams
- Vitamin E: 2.86 milligrams
- Calcium: 105 milligrams
- Iron: 3.92 milligrams
- Magnesium: 121 milligrams
- Phosphorus: 490 milligrams
- Potassium: 1020 milligrams
- Sodium: 1 milligram
- Zinc: 2.2 milligrams
- Copper: 1.3 milligrams
- Manganese: 1.2 milligrams
- Selenium: 7 micrograms
- Fluoride: 3.4 micrograms
Pistachios also contain several essential amino acids your body cannot produce, such as histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. This nutrient-rich seed comes with several health benefits.
Pistachio has one of the lowest calorie contents among all the nuts. You can eat pistachios without having to worry as much about your calorie intake. For example, one ounce of pistachios contains only 159 calories.
On the other hand, the same quantity of macadamia nuts and pecans contain 204 and 196 calories, respectively. That said, all nuts' calorie content is higher than other food sources.
Rich in antioxidants
Antioxidants protect your cells against the harmful effects of free radicals produced when your body breaks down food. Free radicals are also formed due to tobacco smoke and by coming into contact with radiation from the sun or X-rays.
Free radicals are known causes of many severe health conditions such as heart diseases and cancer.
Pistachios are rich in several molecules that exhibit antioxidant properties, including vitamin C, lutein, and zeaxanthin. The antioxidant content of pistachios is higher than most other nuts.
A study that was done over four weeks suggested that people who ate pistachios once or twice a day had higher levels of lutein and γ-tocopherol (pronounced as gamma-tocopherol) as compared to those who did not eat pistachios for the duration of the study.
Improves eye health
The lutein and zeaxanthin content in pistachios is also important for your eyes. Many studies have shown that lutein and zeaxanthin lower the risk of eye diseases. Research has also shown that these molecules reduce the risk of cataracts.
Lutein and zeaxanthin lower the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), an eye disease that blurs your central vision. This typically occurs due to damage to the macula, the part of your eye that regulates your linear vision. The macula is part of the light-sensitive tissue at the rear end of the eye called the retina.
Aids gut health
Pistachios have a high fiber content that promotes a healthy digestive system and aids the passage of nutrients through your digestive tract. An ounce of pistachios (roughly 50 kernels) contains three grams of fiber.
As fiber moves through the digestive system, it is digested by the good bacteria in your gastrointestinal tract and acts as a prebiotic. This aids the growth of good bacteria necessary for your gut health, as they convert some of the fiber into short-chain fatty acids.
These fatty acids have many health benefits, such as lowering the risk of digestive disorders and heart diseases. Butyrate is one such fatty acid that is a major source for colonocytes.
Colonocytes (epithelial cells of the colon) are responsible for stabilizing the organ functions by regulating the colonic microbiome. An enriching energy source for these colonocytes leads to a healthy colon. Studies have shown that eating pistachios increases butyrate-producing bacteria in the gut.
Packed with proteins
An ounce of pistachios contains roughly six grams of protein, which is more than 20% of the weight of the nut. Eating pistachios contributes immensely to your daily protein needs.
If you’re a vegetarian or a vegan, pistachios can be an ideal protein source. They contain many essential amino acids that your body gets from food sources. These amino acids are central to the formation of proteins in your body. So, pistachios are an excellent direct and indirect protein source.
Improves heart health
Pistachios contribute to improved heart health. A study carried out in 2016 concluded that these nuts have many cardiovascular benefits. The study revealed that pistachios may lower blood pressure and reduce cholesterol levels, which could help avoid many cardiovascular conditions.
Another study done in 2015 indicated that eating pistachios regularly can reduce blood pressure in people who don’t have type-2 diabetes. This study also found that pistachios are the most effective of all the nuts in lowering systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
Balances blood sugar
Pistachios don’t cause a spike in blood sugar levels, as they have a low glycemic index. Other contents of pistachios, such as carotenoids and phenolic compounds, also regulate blood sugar levels.
A study indicated that eating pistachios can lead to a considerable increase in glucose and insulin metabolism in prediabetic patients. The study also found that pistachios decrease insulin resistance and enhance resilience to known cardiovascular risk factors.
A separate study carried out in 2020 found that pistachios may lead to a major reduction in fasting blood glucose levels.
Lowers the risk of colon cancer
The rich fiber content of pistachios may also reduce the risks linked to colon cancer. A study done in 2017 found that several bioactive compounds in pistachio, like B vitamins, γ-tocopherol, polyphenols, and dietary fiber, help reduce the risk of colon cancer.
These compounds may help prevent the growth of cancerous cells in the colon. The study found that even low levels of pistachios led to a considerable reduction in DNA damage due to hydrogen peroxide (H2O2). According to the study, even roasted pistachios show similar chemopreventive effects.
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Enhances protein metabolism
Pistachios are rich in vitamin B6; a single helping of pistachios provides 37% of your daily recommended portion of this vitamin. The vitamin B6 coenzyme is critical in more than 100 enzyme reactions in your body.
One of the essential physiological functions of the coenzyme is the metabolism of proteins. Pyridoxal 5’ phosphate (PLP) and pyridoxamine 5’ phosphate (PMP) are the main coenzyme forms of vitamin B6.
Your body needs both PLP and PMP to metabolize amino acids (that are the building blocks of proteins), while PLP is also involved in the metabolism of carbohydrates and lipids.
May aid weight loss efforts
Pistachios are comparatively low in calorie content and are rich in fiber and proteins. The low calorie content makes it a good option when you’re trying to reduce your food intake. On the other hand, the high fiber and protein content of pistachios fill your stomach and keep your food intake in check.
A study carried out over 24 weeks showed that people who took 20% of their caloric intake every day from pistachios lost 0.6 inches (1.5 centimeters) from their waistlines as compared to those who did not eat pistachios.
Another study found that the participants who ate 53 grams of pistachios as a snack every day reported two times the reduction in their body mass as compared to those who ate 56 grams of pretzels every day.
Pistachios have many health benefits
Pistachios are rich in essential micro and macronutrients such as proteins, fiber, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and antioxidants.
Their health benefits include lower blood sugar, improved vision, and enhanced heart and gut health. Pistachios also make for a tasty snack.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
American Optometric Association: "Diet and Nutrition."
Diabetes & Metabolic Syndrome: "The effectiveness of pistachio on glycemic control and insulin sensitivity in patients with type 2 diabetes, prediabetes and metabolic syndrome: A systematic review and meta-analysis."
Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology: "Colonic health: fermentation and short chain fatty acids."
Journal of the American College of Nutrition: "Pistachio nuts reduce triglycerides and body weight by comparison to refined carbohydrate snack in obese subjects on a 12-week weight loss program," "The effects of high protein diets on thermogenesis, satiety and weight loss: a critical review."
Lancet: "Gut flora in health and disease."
National Institute of Health: "Vitamin B6."
New World Encyclopedia: "Pistachio."
Nutrition: "Effects of pistachio nuts on body composition, metabolic, inflammatory and oxidative stress parameters in Asian Indians with metabolic syndrome: a 24-wk, randomized control trial."
Nutrition Reviews: "Health benefits of dietary fiber."
Nutrition Today: "Pistachios for Health."
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: "The effect of tree nut, peanut, and soy nut consumption on blood pressure: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled clinical trials." The British Journal of Nutrition: "Effects of almond and pistachio consumption on gut microbiota composition in a randomised cross-over human feeding study."
The Journal of Nutrition: "Pistachios Increase Serum Antioxidants and Lower Serum Oxidized-LDL in Hypercholesterolemic Adults."
U.S. Department of Food and Agriculture: "Macadamia Nuts," "Pecans," "Pistachio Nuts."
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