Pistachio Health Benefits
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Many agree that pistachios are one of the world’s original "superfoods." They’re one of the few foods that contain all the nutrients we need to maintain our health. Pistachios are full of vitamins and minerals, like plant-based protein, carotenoids, polyphenols, and iron, that have been linked to benefits such as:
- High in Antioxidants Pistachios contain powerful antioxidants and antioxidants are vital to your health. (1) As our cells age, they accumulate oxidative damage, which can be related to the presence of free radicals. Antioxidants can sweep up free radicals and heal some cellular damage. Preventing and healing cell damage is critical to reducing the risk of some diseases, such as cancer. A research reported that pistachios have among the highest levels of antioxidants for nuts, and these antioxidants include: gamma-tocopherol, phytosterols, xanthophyll carotenoids, and beta-carotene. (2) The anti-inflammatory effects of these anti-oxidants may protect against some cancers and heart-related diseases. In another study involving 28 participants with high cholesterol, researchers showed that participants who ate 1 or 2 services of pistachios per day over 4 weeks experienced an increase in their levels of the antioxidants lutein, α-carotene, and β-carotene compared to those who ate none. (3)
- Weight Loss Help Pistachios are one of the lowest-calorie nut at 156 calories per ounce, and contains protein in 20% of its weight, which is high for tree nuts. Pistachios also have a higher ratio of essential amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein, than any other nut. (4) Because pistachios are rich in fiber and protein, they can help increase satiety and feeling more full. In a 12-week weight loss study, participants who snacked on 2 ounces of pistachios per day had twice the reduction in body mass index than those who ate 2 ounces of pretzels a day. (5) Another great aspect of eating in-shell pistachios is that they’re good for mindful eating since shelling each pistachio nut will slow down consumption. The leftover shells should also give you a visual cue on how much you’ve eaten and if you should stop. (6)
- Reduce the Risk of Heart Disease High in antioxidants, pistachios may lower blood cholesterol and improve blood pressure, both of which can help lower your risk of heart disease. (7, 8) In addition, studies on pistachios and blood lipids showed that participants who replaced part of their caloric intake with pistachios experienced a reduction in total and LDL “bad” cholesterol. (9) In another four-week study, participants with high LDL cholesterol who consumed 10% of their daily calories from pistachios lowered their LDL cholesterol by 9%, and those who consumed 20% of their daily calories from pistachios lowered LDL cholesterol by 12%. (10)
- Lower Blood Sugar Levels Studies have shown that eating pistachios can have beneficial effects on your blood sugar. Pistachios might be higher in carbohydrates compared to most nuts, but they have a low glycemic index and don’t cause a large spike in blood sugar. Pistachios are also full of vitamins and nutrients that are beneficial for blood sugar control, such as fiber, health fats, antioxidants, magnesium, carotenoids, and phenols. In one study, participants who added 2 ounces of pistachios to a carbohydrate-rich diet reduced their blood sugar response after a meal by 20–30%. (11) In another study, participants with type 2 diabetes showed a 9% reduction in fasting blood sugar after eating about an ounce of pistachios twice a day as a snack for 12 weeks. (12)
- Promotes Eye Health Among tree nuts, pistachios contain the highest level of the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin. (13) These carotenoids are both essential for eye health and can help reduce the chances of developing eye conditions, including age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts. (14) In a four-week study, participants who ate either one or two servings of pistachios per day had greater levels of lutein and γ-tocopherol, compared to participants who did not eat pistachios. (15)
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Healthy Fats Pistachios are a high-fat food, but over 80% of the fats are polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, which are actually good for your heart. Pistachios also include omega-3 fatty acids, which has been linked to lowering levels of “bad” cholesterol and raising levels of “good” cholesterol. (16) The omega-3 fatty acids in pistachios are in the form of alpha-linoleic acid (ALA). ALA itself is beneficial and the body can also convert it to DHA and EPA, the two other forms of omega-3s that is usually only found in fish.
- Phosphorus Phosphorus is an essential nutrient for our proper physiological functioning. Phosphorus makes a structural component of all cells and also regulates a variety of physiological reactions. It helps your cells to produce energy and strengthen bones.
- Vitamin B6 Vitamin B6 contains many benefits. It’s associated with reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, certain types of cancer, and cognitive dysfunction. It also helps carry oxygen in the blood, so increasing your vitamin B6 intake can increase the oxygen quantity in your blood and increase the hemoglobin count in it. This is important for a proper immune system. (17) Vitamin B6 very beneficial to nervous system as well. It supports amino acids, which help in proper transmission of nerve impulses. In addition, there are studies that suggest vitamin B6 may be important for defending against cognitive decline and age-related memory loss. (18)
- Lowers Glucose and Insulin A study with 54 participants showed that a pistachios supplemented diet consumed for 4 months led to significant decrease in glucose and insulin. It suggests that pistachios can promote a healthier metabolic profile and potentially fight against type 2 diabetes. (19)
- Healthy Skin and Anti-Aging Pistachios contain vitamin E, which is essential for healthy skin. It fights the aging process of skin and helps keep your skin looking younger by combating against free radicals. (20) It may also prevent some skin diseases. The vitamin E in pistachios are in the form of gamma tocopherol, which helps you naturally block harmful UV rays from penetrating into the skin and cause skin damage. Vitamin E also helps safeguard cell membranes from effects of UV damage and dehydration, helping fortify the health of the cells. (21)
- Hair Health Pistachios contain biotin and vitamin E. Both of these nutrients are critical for hair growth and strength. Biotin deficiency is one of the key factors contributing to hair loss. (22) On the other hand, vitamin E can fight free radicals and reduce gray hair. (23)
- Male Vitality Pistachios have been shown to have a positive effect on men’s sexual vitality. A 2011 study involving men with erectile dysfunction had participants eat 100 grams of pistachio nuts at lunch every day for three weeks. Results showed that these men with ED had a significant improvement in erectile function as well as improvement in their serum lipid levels. One reason pistachio nuts improve ED is the fact that they’re high in the amino acid arginine, which maintains flexible arteries and enhances blood flow by boosting nitric oxide, a compound that relaxes blood vessels. (24)
- Brain Stimulation One study showed that consuming some tree nuts stimulated the brain more than others. Interestingly, participants who ate pistachios produced the greatest gamma wave response on EEG tests. Gamma waves are critical to enhancing cognitive processing, information retention, learning, perception, and rapid eye movement during sleep. (25)
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has authorized a health claim related to nuts that states "scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, such as pistachios, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease." Pistachios are also approved by the American Heart Association for the Heart Check certification.