Many may think that pistachios are just one another set of dry fruits. Only if you research in great detail you become aware of the plentiful health benefits of pistachios. They are also known as pista and are nuts grown on small deciduous trees. The nuts are basically seeds from the tree which is wind pollinated. A male tree sends it pollen across with the wind. Once it reaches the female tree and gets pollinated the female starts producing nuts from 5 years onwards. They are biennial plants. They can last up to 200 years.
The trees originated in Central Asia and Middle Eat. Now you find them growing in Mediterranean countries, India, Syria, Lebanon, Greece, Pakistan, Australia, United States of America etc. Pistachios are known to be consumed by humans since 6000 BC. The seeds are part of the fruit. They form the inner portion and are are soft and yellow in color. They are dried and then consumed.
Pistachio Nutrition Content
Pistachios are one of the healthiest dry fruits you could consume.
100 grams of pistachios contain the following nutrition. Pistachios calories equals to 571 kcals.
- Fats = 45.44 gm
- Carbohydrates = 28 gm
- Proteins = 21.6 gm
- Omega 3 fatty acids = 262 mg
- Omega 6 fatty acids = 13636 mg
- Polyunsaturated fats = 13.9 gm
- Monounsaturated fats = 24.2 gm
- Fiber = 10.3 gm
- Sugars = 7.8 gm
- Vitamins: Pistachios contain a good amount of varied vitamins.
- Vitamin A = 553 IU
- Vitamin C = 5mg
- Vitamin K = 13.2 mcg
- Vitamin E = 22.6 mg
- Thiamin = 0.87 mg
- Riboflavin = 0.160 mg
- Niacin = 1.3 mg
- Pantothenic acids = 0.520 mg
- Pyridoxine = 1.7 mg
- Folates = 51 micro gram
- Minerals: A good amount of varied minerals are also present in pistachios.
- Calcium = 107 mg
- Copper = 1.3 mg
- Manganese = 1.2 mg
- Phosphorous = 376 mg
- Iron = 4.15 mg
- Magnesium = 121 mg
- Selenium = 7 micro grams
- Zinc = 2.2 mg
- Sodium = 1 mg
- Potassium = 1025 mg
- Carotene = 332 micro grams
- Lutein and zeaxanthin = 1025 micro grams
- 100 grams of pistachios provides you with a good source of energy that is about 571 calories.
- They also contain healthy monounsaturated fatty acids like oleic acid and antioxidants too.
- Vitamin E makes up 23 grams in the 100 grams of pistachios. It is a potent lipid soluble antioxidant.
- Important vitamin B complex and vitamin B-6 are also present in these nuts.
- Copper which is an essential trace mineral required for RBCs generation, neurotransmission and metabolism is also present in pistachios. 100 grams of pistachios provides about 144% of the daily requirement.
- Pytochemical substances like carotenes and polyphenolic compounds are also part of pistachios.
Let’s have a look at the health benefits of pistachios.
Health Benefits of Pistachios
1. Protects The Heart
- Regular munching of pistachios helps in reducing cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the body.
- The good cholesterol levels i.e HDL level is found to increase with regular consumption of these nuts.
- With its adequate vitamin E and antioxidants content, it reduces the inflammation of the blood vessels and hence reduces risks of heart diseases.
- With monounsaturated fatty acids, it protects the heart against strokes, coronary heart diseases and helps in maintaining a healthy lipid profile.
- It keeps the blood pressure in the body under control by its low sodium and higher potassium content.
2. Maintains Blood Sugar Levels
Regular consumption of pistachios helps in maintaining blood sugar levels. This is mainly due to its high phosphorous content. The phosphorous helps in breaking down the complex protein molecules into amino acids thereby avoiding hyperglycemia or high blood glucose levels.
3. Improves Condition Of Anemia In The Body
In enhances blood flow throughout the body thereby increasing the oxygen content to the cells. Vitamin B6 present in pistachios helps in increasing hemoglobin count in the blood.
4. Pistachios For Weight Loss
Pistachios are low in calories and the best dry fruits you could eat during weight loss regime. It has high fiber content and low saturated fats which make it an ideal food to chew on though in moderation. A 30 gram serving of pistachios contains about 3 grams of fiber. After eating it you feel less full and hence avoid binging on other foods. Its high protein content also hastens metabolism and fat burning exercise promoting weight loss.
5. Protection Against Macular Degeneration
As you age the vision may get deteriorated due to macular degeneration. Pistachios contain carotenoid antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin which destroy the free radicals and protect the eyes against age related disorders. The macula is responsible for central vision and clarity. If the macula is degenerated it results in blurred vision and black spots in the central vision. Thus visual impairments and blindness in the elderly can be avoided by regularly consuming pistachios.
6. Enhances Body Immunity
The vitamin B6 present in the pistachios help in increasing oxygen supply to all the cells in the body. It also improves the hemoglobin count thereby improving body’s immunity to fight against diseases. It also nourishes lymph nodes and hence there is improved WBCs in the body. This helps the body to fight infections.
7. Improves The Nervous System In The Body
The nervous system messaging molecules need amino acids for their development. This, in turn, is got from vitamin B6 present in pistachios. Vitamin B6 helps in maintaining the outer sheath of nerves which is known as myelin. All elements needed for communication through nerve cells depend upon vitamin B6. It also increases blood supply and oxygen to the brain thereby making you alert and active. Thus brain health and a complete nervous system is protected and maintained in good health.
8. Maintains Good Skin
The vitamin E present in pistachios helps in maintaining healthy skin. It helps to nourish the skin cells thereby warding off problems due to the strong UV rays, sunburns and skin cancers. It makes the skin supple and prevents wrinkles and dryness. It aids in hydrating the skin making it soft and smooth. Breakout of Acne is also kept in check.
9. Delays Aging
Its rich antioxidants and vitamin E contents helps you to be healthy and disease free. It delays aging by neutralizing the free radicals in the body. Inflammation in the body is also reduced thereby chances of contracting diseases are also reduced. This aids in bringing a glow to the face and the age does not show up.
10. Protects Against Cancers And Infections
The phytochemicals, carotenes and vitamin E present in pistachios reduces risks of cancers. This also helps in fighting of infections. This includes all kinds of cancers like breast cancer, cervical cancer, prostrate cancer and stomach cancer.
11. Aids In Hair Growth
The fatty acids present in pistachios strengthens the hair follicles allowing for growth of hair from the roots. It is also used in the treatment of split ends. Consuming it on a regular basis will help in stopping of hair loss.
12. Instant Energy Provider
It is a good means of providing instant energy to women and children who are tired. It keeps all the vitals like blood pressure, blood sugar and hemoglobin count under control. Hence there will no cause for dizziness or tiredness.
13. Regulates Bowel Movements
The dietary fiber in the pistachios ensures proper bowel movements and easy passing of motions. Thus issues like constipation will not be there.
14. Relieves Inflammation In The Body
Its vitamin A and vitamin E content helps remove inflammation in the body. Inflammation could be the cause of various diseases in the body and needs to be checked.
15. It Contains Arginine
Pistachios contain a good amount of Arginine. This helps in keeping the bodily processes in order. It enhances metabolism and increases nitric oxide in the body. This prevents plaque build up in the arteries.
Use of Pistachio Oil
Pista oil extracted from the seeds has a number of uses in the cosmetic industry. It is used as the carrier oil in aromatherapies and as massage oil too.
How To Select Pistachios?
Pistachios are available in the market throughout the year. They are available in various forms – shelled, unshelled, salted, roasted, sweetened etc. When you buy pistachios it is better to buy unshelled ones which are heavy and compact. Except for a slit along the outer line they should not have any molds, spots or rancid smell. They are generally off white in color. Unshelled variety can be stored for a few months outside. But if they are shelled it is better to store them in air tight containers in a refrigerator. Else they could turn rancid.
Is Roasting Of Pistachios Advisable?
It is better to consume pistachios raw and they should be organic to get maximum health benefits of pistachios. The action of roasting depletes some of the fatty acids and amino acids nutrients. The outer layer of the seed is supposed to contain phytic acid which is an anti nutrient. It sucks essential nutrients from the body. Hence it is best to soak raw pistachios for 8 to 10 hours. Then remove the outer layer to consume it.
Pistachios in Recipes
Unshelled pistachios can be split open manually or with a nutcracker to separate the seeds from the shell. They can be roasted and salted and consumed as a snack. Roasted plain pistachios are further broken down into pieces and added on top of desserts. This includes puddings, ice-creams, cakes and biscuits.
Plain pistachios are also added to salads and raw vegetables to give a crunchy sweet taste to the dish. Sweet dishes recipes in India, Pakistan and South East Asian countries make use of pistachios.
How Many Pistachios Should You Eat A Day?
Nuts are a good source of healthy proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals. But some of them may contain other compounds too which cause issues if you go over board consuming them. Thus it is advisable to consume only 30 grams of pistachios per day. The better option would be to consume them in the unprocessed form to get the maximum health benefits of pistachios. If you experience signs of allergies it is better to consult with your doctor.
Side Effects Of Pistachios Nuts
Pistachios have to be consumed in moderation; else you might have some health issues. 30 grams of pistachios can be eaten safely on a daily basis. If consumed in excess it could result in the following problems.
- In some people eating few pistachios could cause allergies. This is due to anacardic acid present in the pistachios. Some of the symptoms include headaches, itching of the skin, vomiting or diarrhea.
- If consumed in excess it could result in weight gain, increased blood pressure and digestive issues.
- Eating excess of processed pistachios like the salted ones increases sodium in the body. This could result in increased sugar levels or blood pressure in the body.
- The compound called fructan in pistachios can cause bloating and accumulation of gas in the abdomen if eaten in excess. This could result in flatulence and constipation issues too.
- Like peanuts, pistachios can also get molds on them which are carcinogenic. These are called Aflatoxins. This toxin is supposed to cause liver cancers and suppression of the immune system. Thus it becomes important to source the nuts from a reliable source. Once the nuts are harvested they have to be dried properly to ensure that they do not decay. Some of the farmers today use beneficial fungi which react with the toxic fungi to neutralize its bad effects. This is found to reduce the bad effects by nearly 50% without the use of chemicals. Thus it is safer to buy pistachios with shells since shelled ones are more prone to Aflatoxins. Look for pistachios which are dyed to cover the stains due to the mold. Also avoid eating pistachios which have a sour taste, moist or damage due to insects.
- Avoid nuts which are white in color or are bleached. Since pistachios are highly perishable crops they need to be processed within 24 hours of being harvested. Tannins get released otherwise which cause staining of the nuts.
Dry fruits, in general, are supposed to be super foods. They make a good snacking option. Of the lot, pistachios are rated quite high. Consumption of pistachios has advantages out weighing the disadvantages.