The pistachio nut is native to the Middle East and is one of the oldest flowering nut trees with archaeological evidence dating back to 7,000 BC.
Currently I’m enjoying a stay in the Mediterranean region of Southern Turkey where the pistachios are renowned for being especially delicious. The word for pistachio in Turkish is fistik (fuh-STUK), which is also slang for “hot babe” a testament to how much they love them!
Interestingly China is the top pistachio consumer worldwide. If you pick up pistachios with their openings facing you, you will see a smile. That’s why the Chinese people call them “happy nuts” and they traditionally eat and give them as gifts during the Lunar New Year.
In Turkish cuisine pistachios generally feature in sweet desserts like baklava and Turkish delight.
They are also sometimes used in other dishes such as kebabs and rice pilaf. But no matter where you are in the world there are so many ways you can incorporate these nutritional powerhouses into your diet in a healthy way. They make a fantastic snack!
Pistachios are one of the lowest-calorie, lowest-fat and highest-fiber nuts. In addition they provide a variety of more than 30 different nutrients, vitamins, minerals and beneficial phytonutrients.
Five Reasons to Eat Pistachios
1. Stress Management and Cardiovascular Protection
Pistachios are rich in vitamin B6, which boosts production of the neurotransmitter GABA [gamma-aminobutyric acid] that acts as a mood elevator and stress reliever.
Experts at Pennsylvania State University claim that eating handful of pistachios a day can help reduce the damage done to the body by acute stress. Their studies showed the nuts help lower blood pressure and heart rate in difficult situations, which has a protective effect on the cardiovascular system.
Pistachios contain more than 10 different antioxidants including carotenes, vitamin E and polyphenolic antioxidant compounds. They rate a 7983 on the ORAC scale, giving them a rank even higher than blueberries and pomegranates.
They are the only nuts that contain lutein and zeaxanthin, which can reduce the risk of macular degeneration. In fact their lutein content is what creates their characteristic green color.
3. Digestive Health
Pistachios are a good source of dietary fiber, providing 12 percent of the daily value per one ounce serving.
Pistachios modify the microbial environment in the gastrointestinal tract to improve the health of the digestive system. One study showed that eating three ounces of pistachios for 19 days produced positive changes in levels of various gut bacteria.
4. Weight Control
Because pistachio shells take time to remove people tend to consume 50 percent less when eating in-shell pistachios. Yet they report feeling just as satisfied as those who eat a larger portion of shelled nuts.
Studies also show that empty shells can serve as a visual cue as a “reminder” of consumption. This results in a reduction of calorie intake by 35 percent compared to eating nuts without shells.
5. Sexual Health
A diet rich in pistachio nuts improves sexual function in men with symptoms of erectile dysfunction. Men eating pistachios experienced a significant improvement in blood flow through the penis accompanied by enhanced sexual performance after just three weeks.
This is likely related to their high content of arginine as well as antioxidants and phytosterols that improve the health of the peripheral blood vessels.
What You Need to Know About Eating Pistachios for Health
The key to obtaining maximum benefits is knowing how to choose pistachios wisely. Commonly they are roasted and contain added refined salt making those varieties a potential danger for cardiovascular health.
For the best flavor and health benefits choose raw pistachios and ideally ones that have been soaked, sprouted and dehydrated.
An appropriate serving is size is one ounce – about a handful – four times a week.
How To Include Pistachios in Your Diet
- Add them to oatmeal, raw granola or coconut yogurt.
- Start your day with Chia Pudding with Pistachios.
- Enjoy plain or sprouted and seasoned pistachios as a satisfying between-meal snack.
- Sprinkle chopped pistachios on top of a green salad.
- Dip veggie sticks into raw pistachio butter
- Add to guacamole for an interesting crunchy texture.
- Use instead of pine nuts to make pesto.
- Stuff them inside pitted dates for a healthy dessert.
- Try Raw Goji Pistachio Biscotti
Do you have a favorite way to eat pistachios? If so please share!