You know I’m “nuts” about the health benefits of, well, nuts.
In fact, study after study shows that just a handful a day of tree nuts (like almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, pecans, and walnuts) can substantially lower your risk of many chronic diseases.
But there’s not as much research on the health benefits of pistachios.
These delicious (and colorful!) nuts tend to be less popular than others because they are perceived as high in fat, costly, or too difficult to shell and eat.
And that’s a pity because a new research review reports that this little green nut actually has more nutrients than many of the other tree nuts.1
The authors say pistachios are an excellent source of monounsaturated fatty acids (the so-called “good” fats), protein, and fiber. They gush about pistachios’ “remarkable” mineral content, especially potassium. And they note that pistachios are an excellent source of vitamins C and E.
And that’s not all! The review states that pistachios are also rich in disease-fighting phytochemicals like tocopherols, carotenoids, and phenolic compounds.
Plus, the research tends to concentrate on how these little green nuts can prevent “code red” health alerts…
A handful a day keeps the doctor away?
One serving of pistachios (about 50 nuts) has been shown in studies to lower your risk of the following serious health conditions:
Heart disease. Pistachios are richer than most other nuts in antioxidants, which can substantially lower your heart disease risk. Their essential fatty acid and fiber content also make them a heart-healthy snack.
Research shows that one way pistachios help protect against heart disease is by lowering your blood pressure (BP).
In fact, one review of 21 studies shows that people who ate pistachios reduced their systolic BP (top number) by about 2 points, and their diastolic BP (bottom number) by about 1 point, compared to those who didn’t eat pistachios.2
Other research shows this blood-pressure effect may be at least partly due to an amino acid in pistachios that helps promote blood-vessel health.
Obesity and weight gain. Fifty pistachios only contain about 150 calories, making these tasty nuts a good snack for weight management.
Plus, the fiber and protein in pistachios make you feel fuller for longer—called “satiety.” And having to shell pistachios makes you more mindful of your snacking—meaning you’re less likely to pop them in your mouth by the (high-calorie) handful.
Indeed, one 24-week study of 60 overweight men and women found that the people who ate more pistachios lost over half an inch on their waistlines compared to non-pistachio eaters.3
Blood sugar management. Research shows that pistachios can help you avoid the blood sugar spikes that can contribute to Type II diabetes.
In fact, one study found that people with type II diabetes had a 9 percent reduction in their fasting blood sugar after eating pistachios as a snack.4
Bottom line: There’s a reason why pistachios have been a part of people’s diets since ancient times.
After all, while our ancestors may not have known about the health benefits of these unique nuts, chances are they appreciated the taste just as much as we do.
1“Why Should Pistachio Be a Regular Food in Our Diet?” Nutrients. 2022 Aug 5;14(15):3207.
2“The effect of tree nut, peanut, and soy nut consumption on blood pressure: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled clinical trials.” Am J Clin Nutr. 2015 May;101(5):966-82.
3“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. 2014 Feb;30(2):192-7.
4“Effects of pistachio nut supplementation on blood glucose in patients with type 2 diabetes: a randomized crossover trial.” Rev Diabet Stud. 2014 Summer;11(2):190-6.