By Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.A.C.N., C.N.S., C.B.T.
If you’re a health nut, the pistachio is one of your healthiest snack choices. Encased in its tiny shell is a treasure trove of nutrients, from vitamins and minerals to antioxidants and cholesterol-lowering nutrients. Pistachios also have excellent anti-inflammatory powers.
That’s the conclusion of a report published in April 2015 in the British Journal of Medicine by a group of Spanish researchers.
Pistachio Health Benefits
What nutrients are in pistachio nuts? The Spanish researchers cited the following:
Vitamins: Pistachios contain vitamin K, important for normal blood clotting; vitamin E, which helps prevent heart disease; and thiamin (B1) and pyridoxine (B6), both part of the B vitamin family that assists the body in energy production.
Minerals: Pistachios are endowed with several minerals, including potassium and magnesium, both of which help regulate blood pressure, among other benefits; calcium for strong bones; copper, necessary to the formation of blood cells, for maintaining neuromuscular function, and supporting healthy skin; and manganese, which helps metabolize cholesterol.
Antioxidants: Pistachios contain powerful antioxidants called xanthophyll carotenoids that may be very important for healthy eyes.
Phytosterols: Pistachios are high in phytosterols, a group of naturally occurring plant compounds that can reduce blood levels of total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.
Clearly, there’s a lot to love about pistachios, in addition to their amazing taste.
My Viewpoint: Pistachio nuts are often put down by some people because they tend to be a little higher in carbohydrates and lower in fat than other nuts. But there’s such a variety of nutrients in pistachios, that such criticisms are unwarranted. My only caveat is to make sure you eat unsalted pistachios; nuts are notorious for containing excess salt, which can contribute to high blood pressure.
What This Means to You: I’m a big fan of pistachio nuts – and all nuts, really, because they are such compact purveyors of protein, fiber, healthy fat, and antioxidants. Pistachio nuts take a longer time to shell and eat – which means they make a great snack if you’re watching your weight and want to curb your appetite.
My Recommendation: Enjoy pistachios when they’re fresh. It’s best to buy them from a whole-foods-type store and eat them soon after purchasing. If they sit around too long, they will turn rancid. Rancidity means the nuts no longer have any antioxidant or anti-inflammatory properties. You can tell if the nuts have spoiled because they won’t be as crunchy. Nor will their flavor be as robust. Unlike almonds, walnuts, and other nuts, pistachios have a short shelf life.
- Bulló, M, et al. Nutrition attributes and health effects of pistachio nuts. British Journal of Nutrition. 2015;113(Supplement S2): S79-S93.
© 2015, 2016 HeartMD Institute. All rights reserved.