Ever since ancient times, pistachios have been considered to be the mark for better health and overall wellness. Known as pista in Central Asia, Pistachio are often referred as “the green almond”. As a popular snack, in China pistachio is called ‘happy nut’, while in Iran as ‘smiling nut’. These tiny fruits enclosed within white colored shells are supplemented with immense nutrition that offers a multitude of health benefits to humans. Although referred to as nuts, pistachios are actually dried fruits of trees that belong to the Anacardiaceae family. They grow well in cool winters as well as hot and dry climates. You can eat pistachios raw or add them to dishes such as salads, rice, and baked goods. The high nutritional value of pistachios makes them a healthy snack, but make sure to consume them in moderation.
Pistachio nutrition facts
Just like other nuts, pistachios are also excellent sources of protein, unsaturated fats, fiber and many other nutrients. They contain all the essential amino acids that cannot be synthesized by the human body. They are a wonderful source of energy providing about 557 calories in pistachio per 100 grams. Many people tend to stay away from pistachios as they have a reputation for being high in calories and fat. But the fact is, much of this fat content is unsaturated, which is considered healthy. Another reason why pistachios are healthy is that they contain almost no cholesterol or sodium. Pistachios are high in phytochemicals and other antioxidants that help to eliminate the dangerous free radicals from our body. These nuts contain high amounts of vitamins like vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K and B complex vitamins like thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, vitamin B6 and folates. They are also packed with essential minerals like calcium, potassium, copper, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, zinc and selenium.
Health benefits of Pistachios
Are pistachios good for you? Besides being an incredibly tasty snack, pistachios possess a myriad of health benefits too. The following are some of pistachios health benefits that would make you want to add them to your regular diet.
Pistachios for a healthy heart
The presence of high levels of nutrients that includes various vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and unsaturated fats, make pistachios a heart healthy snack. Eating these nuts may help in lowering the levels cholesterol in your blood. According to a study published in the September 2008 issue of the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition”, people who ate a low calorie diet that included pistachios had their cholesterol levels lowered more than those who didn’t take pistachios. Pistachios contain l-arginine, an amino acid that can increase the flexibility of the lining of your arteries, thus reducing your risks of developing blood clots that could lead to heart attack. They also contain vitamin E, which prevents the clogging of arteries with plaque. Pistachios also lower bad cholesterol (LDL) and triglycerides levels and increase the levels of good cholesterol (HDL). They also improve the elasticity of the blood vessels, which helps in preventing high blood pressure. By lowering cholesterol and high blood pressure, pistachios help in lowering your risks of heart diseases. To enjoy these benefits of pista, you should be snacking unsalted pistachios.
Pistachio benefits for skin
Pistachios are packed with vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant that is essential for healthy and beautiful skin. It protects your skin from the harmful effects of the ultraviolet rays and also prevents many skin diseases. Pistachio controls the insulin levels and maintains proper blood circulation, which is helpful in preventing acne breakouts. Changes in blood sugar levels are often responsible for producing excess oil, which may lead to acne and pimples. Pistachio also contains selenium, another antioxidant that helps in reducing inflammation and the appearance of blemishes and marks.
The high concentration of antioxidants in pistachio helps to fight off the free radicals and inhibit the ageing process. It prevents free radical damage to the cells, thus preventing the onset of wrinkles, fine lines and other ageing signs. Vitamin C in pistachio increases the production of collagen that improves the elasticity of the skin, making it appear smooth and supple. The essential oil in pistachio acts as an emollient and soothes skin dryness. It moisturizes the skin and controls the production of sebum, thus preventing dry skin. Because of this property, pistachio oil is an important ingredient in many beauty products and cosmetics.
Pistachios for healthy hair
Pistachios offer several benefits for the hair as well. They contain essential fatty acids that stimulate the growth of healthy hair. They also help in strengthening the hair strands and in increasing the flexibility of hair by moisturizing and nourishing the hair follicles. Pistachios are also used as an effective remedy for treating split ends, dry and damaged hair. Biotin, also known as vitamin H, vitamin B7 or vitamin B8 is a B vitamin that is taken orally for preventing hair loss. Pistachios are rich in this vitamin and hence its consumption is beneficial in preventing loss of hair.
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Pistachios and blood glucose control
Several studies indicate that pistachios, when consumed in moderation, may help in maintaining healthy blood glucose levels. According to a new study conducted in Spain, people with pre-diabetes who consumed about two ounces of pistachios every day showed considerable reduction in blood sugar levels and insulin levels as well as improvements in the processing of glucose and insulin. It also helped in reducing inflammation to a great extent. The addition of pistachios to foods with high carbohydrate content helps in reducing the overall glycemic effect of the foods, thus preventing the spikes in blood sugar levels after meals. Studies have also found that in adults with diabetes, two servings of pistachios daily helped in improving neural control of the heart and in lowering vascular constriction during stress.
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Pistachios for weight management
Pistachios are high in fat content because of which people think eating these nuts can increase their weight. However, it has been found that eating pistachios in moderation can actually help you attain a leaner body. Pistachios are rich in dietary fiber and protein. Fiber is not digested by the body, as a result of which it creates bulk in the stomach. This helps in filling you up, curbing your hunger and in giving you a satiated feeling for a longer period of time. So you are less likely to overindulge in snacks and other high calories foods.
Pistachios for a healthy nervous system
Vitamin B6, found in pistachios plays a major role in the healthy functioning of the nervous system. Amines are the messaging molecules that depend on amino acids for their development. Vitamin B6 is essential for the synthesis of these amino acids. This vitamin is also important for the development of myelin, the insulating sheath that covers the nerve ﬁbers. Additionally, vitamin B6 is needed for the creation of neurotransmitters like epinephrine, melatonin, serotonin,and gamma-aminobutyric acid, (GABA), that helps in the transmission of nerve impulses from one neuron to another.
Pistachios have anti-inflammatory properties
Studies indicate that pistachios contain bioactive molecules and compounds that have anti-inflammatory properties. The oil extracted from these nuts has the ability to decrease the levels of an inflammatory marker known as IFIT2 (Interferon-induced protein with tetratricopeptide repeats 2). In addition pistachios also contain a compound known as oleanolic acid with anti-inflammatory effects. According to an animal study, this compound helped in providing relief from dermatitis because of its ability to inhibit the production of leukotriene B4, which is a pro-inflammatory agent.
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Pistachios increase hemoglobin in the blood
Hemoglobin is a protein found in the red blood cells that carries oxygen from the respiratory organs to different parts of the body. A high amount of this protein ensures that all the organs in your body receive proper oxygen supply and function at their best. Pistachios are rich in vitamin B6, a vitamin needed by your body to create hemoglobin.
Pistachios prevent macular degeneration
Macular degeneration is an age related eye disorder characterized by gradual reduction in the eye sight. It is mainly caused by the free radicals in your body that attack the eye, leading to their damage. Pistachios have high amounts of Lutein and Zeaxanthin, two anti-oxidants that fight against these harmful free radicals and destroy them, thus preventing oxidative stress and cell damage.
Pistachios for a healthy immune system
Pistachios are high in B vitamins and minerals like copper and magnesium that work together to ensure a strong immune system thus preventing a wide range of diseases. Vitamin B6 in these nuts increases the production of white blood cells or WBCs in the lymph nodes, which helps in strengthening the immune system and in fighting against the various infections and diseases.
Pistachios improve the digestive system
The high amount of dietary fiber found in pistachios help in regularizing the bowel movements and in preventing digestive disorders like constipation. They also promote the growth of gut friendly bacteria that improves digestion.
Pistachios protect against cancer
Studies show that eating pistachios may reduce the risk of cancer. This anti-cancer activity of pistachios may be attributed to the presence of gamma-tocopherol, which is a form of vitamin E. Being a powerful antioxidant, vitamin E helps to prevent cell and DNA damage caused by the free radicals. Pistachios are also the highest source of phytosterols, which are found to have anti-cancer properties.
If you love to eat nuts then you should probably eat more pistachios as they are the healthiest among the other nuts available. Filled with essential nutrients and antioxidants, they offer several health benefits that allow you to live a healthy and disease-free life. However, as with any other nuts, moderation is the key. Eating too much of pistachios can have side effects on your gastrointestinal tract, blood pressure and weight. Pistachios work as great ingredient to your desserts; try out pistachio pudding or pistachio cakes. Find pistachio cake recipe and pistachio ice cream recipe here.Image Credits: Wikimedia - kobi schutz, Flickr - Azlan Hashim