Five Reasons to Eat Pistachios

health and nutrition benefits of eating pistachios

Pistachios Recognized for their Role in Weight Management, Heart Health, Blood Pressure Control, Antioxidant Support and Eye Health
by VERGE Staff | Food and Health | Wednesday, August 19, 2015

According to a scientific review of several clinical studies, eating pistachio nuts does not contribute to weight gain or an increased body mass index (which is a measure of body fat based on height and weight) when included in a balanced diet. This is among the many findings described in a review article published in the British Journal of Nutrition titled, “Nutrition Attributes and Health Effects of Pistachio Nuts.” 

The article analyzes the results of more than 100 research studies and clinical trials regarding nut consumption and health, highlighting the potential health benefits of pistachios, which are a source of plant-based protein, vitamins and minerals, and also a good source of fiber.

Pistachios and Weight Management

Reviewers analyzed randomized controlled trials that looked at pistachios’ effect on body weight and found that diets that include pistachios have not been linked to weight gain. In fact, one study found a decrease in body mass index, and another noted a significant decrease in waist circumference for those who ate pistachios.

An important component of weight management is "satiety," the feeling of fullness after eating. Evidence shows that all nuts help promote satiety, suppress hunger and inhibit eating. Two studies looked specifically at the effect of pistachios, and researchers found that participants ate fewer calories and expressed greater feelings of satiety when consuming pistachios in the shell versus the pistachio kernels alone. Authors suggest that participants may have eaten less because the physical act of shelling the nuts may slow the eating process, and the visual cue of empty pistachio shells may serve as a signal to stop eating.

Pistachios and Heart Health

Researchers also looked at five studies that examined the effects of pistachios on heart disease. Many of the studies found that diets that include pistachios tend to be linked to significantly lowered cholesterol and blood pressure levels, even for those who are at high risk of diabetes. Research suggests that these benefits may be due, in part, to the pistachios’ protein, fiber, and lower fat content when compared to other nuts. Pistachios also have the highest phytosterol content among nuts, which appear to help lower blood cholesterol levels by: 1) decreasing the absorption of cholesterol in the intestines during digestion and 2) reducing the amount of cholesterol produced by the body.

The Nutrition Power of Pistachios

Researchers found that a one-ounce serving of pistachios (about 49 nuts) provides 10 percent of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of protein and 11 percent of the RDA of fiber for adults. With three grams of fiber per serving, pistachios rank among the top two nuts in fiber content. The authors note that fiber intake is linked to decreased weight gain and helps lower the risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some types of cancer.

Pistachios also stand out among other nuts for its:

Vitamin Content: Pistachios contain Vitamin K and the B vitamins, including thiamin (B1), pyridoxine (B6), and folic acid (B9).

Mineral Content: Pistachios contain a number of minerals, including potassium, magnesium, calcium, copper, and manganese, which are thought to play a role in blood pressure control, bone health management, and the prevention of several chronic diseases.

Antioxidant Support: Numerous studies suggest that pistachios contain phytochemicals that may act as antioxidants in the body.

Role in Eye Health: Pistachios contain approximately 13 times more lutein and zeaxanthin (carotenoids) than the next highest nut. High amounts of these carotenoids are found in the retina of the eye and are known to benefit eye health, which may help prevent vision loss associated with aging.

Photo caption: The health benefits of eating pistachios include weight management, heart health, blood pressure control and other benefits according to a new study published in the British Journal of Nutrition. The study notes that pistachios also stand out among other nuts for their vitamin and mineral content and role in eye health.
Photo credit: American Pistachio Growers (APG) 


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