The health benefits of pistachios include a healthy heart, weight management, protection against diabetes and hypertension, and improved digestion. The vitamins, minerals, fats, and protein found in pistachio are all good for health.
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What are Pistachios?
Pistachios are one of the oldest edible nuts and are commonly used all over the world. They are native to Asia, particularly in Iran and Iraq. Archaeological evidence dates the association of pistachios and man as early as 6,000 BC. They were cultivated in Iran, Iraq, and Syria and were introduced to the Romans only in 100 AD. Today, apart from Iran, Iraq, and Syria, pistachios are being produced in many countries such as the United States, Australia, Turkey, and China, among others.
Pistachio nuts belong to the Anacardiaceae family from the genus Pistacia. A pistachio tree takes about 10 to 12 years to produce the first crop. They are drupe, where the fruit has a large seed in the center. This seed is edible. The nuts of pistachio are not seasonal and are available all year long. They can be bought from almost any grocery store.
Pistachios are available today in various forms such as shelled, unshelled, sweetened or salted. The shell of the nut protects it from physical damage and various infections. On the other hand, salted and sweetened pistachios may not be a good choice because of their high sodium and sugar content. The ideal way is to buy unshelled nuts, as they are in their natural form. They must be stored in airtight containers in cool and dry places so that they can last for many months without going bad.
Pistachios are one of the few nuts that contain most of the nutrients required by humans to maintain their overall health.
Pistachio Nutrition Facts
Pistachios contain nutrients such as carbohydrates, protein and amino acids, fats, and dietary fiber. They are rich in minerals such as phosphorus, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, zinc, copper, sodium, and selenium. They also provide you with essential vitamins like vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin B6, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, folate, pantothenic acid, choline, and betaine.
According to Thomas and Gebhardt (2006), pistachios contain a lower calorie content of only 160 calories per one ounce in comparison to other nuts and dried fruits such as cashew nuts, walnuts, almonds, pecans, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, and chestnuts.
Pistachios contain a higher amount of protein in comparison with other nuts such as almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, and walnuts. The amount of protein found in pistachio is 6 grams per 1 ounce, which is the highest in comparison to other nuts.
The fat content in pistachios is also the lowest as compared to the other nuts. Statistics collected by Thomas and Gebhardt (2006) show that the fat content is 13 grams per 1 ounce.
They are also a good source of mono-unsaturated fatty acids such as oleic acid and antioxidants. Taking them on a regular basis helps in decreasing low-density lipoprotein (LDL cholesterol), which is known as bad cholesterol and increasing the amount of high-density lipoprotein (HDL cholesterol), commonly known as good cholesterol.
All of these nutrients make pistachios best suited for a good health.
Health Benefits of Pistachios
Health benefits of pistachio include:
One of the biggest health benefits of pistachios is that they are heart-friendly nuts. Research suggests that regular pistachio consumption can decrease the levels of bad LDL cholesterol in the body. The antioxidants, phytosterols, and unsaturated fatty acids (both polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids) are great for promoting a healthy heart.
Pistachios are also the first choice of people who are dieting. Evidence suggests that pistachios, with their lower calories, high protein, low saturated fat, and high unsaturated fats, are a perfect contender for ideal weight management.
Prevent Macular Disease or AMD
Pistachios contain carotenoid antioxidants such as lutein and zeaxanthin. These antioxidants help in reducing the risk of contracting an age-related macular disease in the elderly, according to the research conducted by Chen CYO and Blumberg JB from Tufts University, Boston, USA. They can be included, along with vegetables, for an increased supply of lutein and zeaxanthin.
Pistachios also help in eliminating dryness from the skin. The saturated fat plays a major role in this aspect. The fat also acts as a good carrier or base oil as it is used as an ingredient in traditional therapies like aromatherapy and traditional massage therapy.
One of the other health benefits of pistachios is that it is a good source of dietary fiber, which helps in the smooth digestion of food. A serving of about 1 ounce or 30 grams of pistachios contains about 3 grams of dietary fiber, more than enough to get your digestive tracts working at optimum capacity.
According to research conducted by Aldemir et al (2011), pistachios greatly influence sexual vitality in men. Studies have shown that those men who had a daily intake of about 100 grams of these nuts for three weeks improved their erectile function by around 50 percent. This was confirmed by ultrasound scans of blood flow in the penis.
Even the shells of pistachios are found to contain a considerable amount of antioxidants. Researchers from Tarbiat Modarres University, in Tehran, Iran were able to successfully identify and extract these antioxidants to be added to other foods. Antioxidants neutralize the free radicals that form in the body after cellular metabolism and can cause conditions like cancer and heart disease.
Defense Against Diabetes
One of the final health benefits of pistachios is that they function in controlling diabetes. In people suffering from diabetes, the sugars form inappropriate bonds with proteins and make them unusable. This process is known as glycation. The antioxidants present in them help in reducing the process of glycation and thus can help in controlling diabetes.
Absorption of Iron
Pistachios have a high copper content, which helps in the higher absorption of iron into the body from food sources. This can help combat conditions like anemia.