Life Extension Magazine®
Pile of pistachios rich in minerals like potassium

Super Foods: Pistachios

Protein-packed pistachios boast higher levels of potassium, tocopherol, vitamin K, phytosterols, and xanthophyll carotenoids than any other nut. They protect the heart and control blood sugar.

By Laurie Mathena.

Pistachios have a history as rich and varied as the nutrients they contain. Archaeological evidence indicates that they were consumed as far back as 7,000 B.C.

They were prized by royalty, like the Queen of Sheba, who decreed them to be an exclusively royal food, and Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, who had pistachio trees planted in his hanging gardens.

Ancient medicine men also reportedly used pistachios to treat ailments ranging from toothaches to liver problems.

But it wasn’t until the 1930s that pistachios made their way to America as a healthy snack food that we enjoy to this day.

Little Nut, Big Benefits

One ounce of pistachios contains more than 5.5 grams of protein, as well as magnesium, potassium, vitamin B6, and thiamin.

Pistachios are also lower in calories than many other nuts, containing just 159 calories per ounce, compared to 196 in pecans and 204 in macadamia nuts. However, they boast the highest levels of potassium, tocopherol, vitamin K, phytosterols, and xanthophyll carotenoids of any other nut.1

They also contain a higher ratio of amino acids (the building blocks of protein) and a higher percentage of branched chain amino acids than other nuts.

Heart Protection

Pistachios contribute to better heart health in numerous ways. Five randomized trials have shown that consuming pistachios helps promote heart-healthy lipid profiles.1

And a meta-analysis of 21 studies showed that eating nuts could reduce blood pressure in people without type II diabetes. Of all the nuts tested, pistachios had the strongest effects on reducing both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.2

Blood Sugar Control

Pistachios could be an ideal snack for type II diabetics or those looking to control their blood sugar.

One study showed that consuming 25 grams of pistachio nuts twice a day for 12 weeks had a beneficial effect on glycemic control, blood pressure, obesity, and inflammation markers in people with type II diabetes.3

And eating pistachios along with a carbohydrate-rich meal has been shown to reduce the body’s glycemic response.4

The most common way to enjoy pistachios is by cracking open their shells and eating them whole (just be sure to choose the unsalted variety). But there are many more creative ways to include them in your diet.

Their creamy flavor and crunchy texture make them an excellent nut-based crust (especially when looking for an alternative to flour, eggs, or milk).

Include them in a protein-packed energy ball with oats, dates, almond butter, and ground flax seed. Try a pistachio-crusted cod dish by making a paste of ground pistachios, parsley, garlic, and olive oil to coat the fish.

Or, simply chop up the pistachios and sprinkle them on salads for a tasty crunch.

References

  1. Nutr Rev. 2012 Apr;70(4):234-40.
  2. Am J Clin Nutr. 2015 May;101(5):966-82.
  3. Rev Diabet Stud. 2014 Summer;11(2):190-6.
  4. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2011 Jun;65(6):696-702.