Pistachios (Pistacia vera) are one of the oldest, and most nutritious, edible nuts. Pistacia vera originated in West Asia and Middle-East countries like Iran and Iraq. Today, they also grow abundantly in countries like Pakistan, India, Turkmenistan, Tunisia, Lebanon, Syria and Greece.

Species of Pistachio

Pistacia vera often is confused with other species in the genus Pistacia that are also known as pistachio. These species can be distinguished from P. vera by their geographic distributions (in the wild), and their seeds which are much smaller and have a shell that is soft.

There are several species of pistachio trees, but the two main species cultivated for their edible nuts are:

Pistacia vera: Also known as the common pistachio or Persian pistachio, it is the most widely cultivated species for commercial nut production.

Pistacia atlantica: Also called the wild pistachio, it is native to regions of Asia and the Middle East. While less commonly cultivated for commercial purposes, it is still valued for its edible nuts and is sometimes grown in home gardens or for conservation efforts.

Description of Pistachio Nuts

Pistachios are a good-tasting nut with a unique look. They have a distinctive appearance with their green kernel peeking out from the partially opened shell. This is why they are referred to as the “happy nut” in China and the “smiling pistachio” in Iran.

Unlike other nuts which are mostly shades of beige, pistachios are green, although they do have a beige-coloured shell. The shell splits open when ripe to reveal the green kernel inside. The kernel itself is small, elongated, and slightly curved, with a pale green color. When roasted or salted, the outer semi-opened shell may have a brownish tint due to the processing.

Pistachio Health Benefits

Pistachios have many health benefits, which we will explore below:

Pistachios for Weight Loss

Pistachios are known for their power to curb the appetite, which is great for people who are trying to shed some weight. According to experts, people who want to lose weight should substitute pistachios for regular snacks. This is mainly because this nut is very low in calories and can leave you with a feeling of being full. Each serving can include around 50 nuts that equate to around 170 calories.

Although this snack alternative is highly recommended, individuals should still watch out for portion sizes. Pistachios are undoubtedly nutritious, but the amount consumed should still be controlled in order to succeed in the weight loss plan.

Pistachios for Cardiovascular Health

Studies claimed that pistachios can help reduce the body’s bad cholesterol or LDL. Results suggest that individuals who consume 20 percent of their calories from pistachios during a diet lost about 14 percent of LDL and had a 25 percent increase in good cholesterol or HDL. This equates to a 12 percent total cholesterol reduction. With the right amount of pistachios consumed regularly, people can lower the risk of developing heart disease.

Antioxidant Properties of Pistachios

Pistachios have antioxidant properties. They contain phytochemicals such as β-carotene from vitamin A, γ-tocopherol from vitamin E, lutein and polyphenolic antioxidants, as well as containing selenium, flavonoids and proanthocyanidins. Proanthocyanidins are the predominant polyphenols in almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans and pistachios.

These compounds help remove free radicals that destroy the cells. This process is important in reducing the amount of inflammation in the blood vessels that is also one of the essential determinants of heart disease risk. A good amount of pistachios in the diet can increase lutein levels to protect the body against oxidized LDL.

Pistachios for Diabetes

Furthermore, the antioxidant properties in pistachios can help treat diabetes and related conditions. This is because these nuts have the capability to stop the glycation process where sugar bonds with protein inappropriately.

Pistachios for Eye Health

Zeaxanthin and lutein found in pistachios have protective antioxidant properties. These two carotenoids are not commonly found in other nuts. These antioxidants protect the body tissues from harmful free radicals. This is especially true in delicate body organs like the eyes.

With a sufficient supply of zeaxanthin and lutein, eyes can be protected from age-related macular degeneration that commonly leads to acquired blindness and visual impairment.

Other Health Benefits of Pistachios

Pistachios also contain copper, vitamin B6 and manganese. These elements are essential in tissue and bone development and fat and carbohydrate metabolism, and they help to boost immune system function. Pistachios are also rich in fiber that is great for digestion.

A Handful of Pistachios a Day

Pistachios offer people easy and healthy consumption. A good way to include pistachios in your diet plan is to eat a handful per day. This portion is enough to meet the daily recommended dose of antioxidants, protein, mineralsvitamins and other essential nutrients.

Pistachios are best consumed unroasted and unsalted, as food high in sodium increases the risk of developing hypertension. During the holidays, pistachios come out in a variety of colors. The best ones to pick are light green with beige shells. The rest are artificially dyed and obviously not healthy.

People should avoid dyed pistachios because they can be harmful to health. This is especially true for ADHD patients as food additives can trigger them.

Pistachio Supplements

Today, there are pistachio supplements in oil form and nut extract in gel capsules. These supplements provide the same nutrients found in fresh pistachios. They contain carotenoids and other vitamins that are present in fresh pistachios. The main advantage of opting for these supplements rather than real nuts is that they are easy to consume and contain a relatively small amount of calories.

Pistachio Oil for Dry Skin

Pistachio oil is also used to treat dry skin. It has excellent emollient properties with a nutty aroma that can be used in traditional treatments like aromatherapy and massage therapy. In the cosmetics industry, it is also used in makeup, and other beauty products that serve as a moisturiser.

Always take care when taking herbs and Read Our Disclaimer.

Pistachio Notes / Side Effects

Pistachios are generally safe for most people when consumed in moderate amounts as part of a balanced diet. However, like other nuts, pistachios may cause side effects in some individuals.

Here are some potential side effects of pistachios:

Allergic Reactions: Pistachio allergy is relatively common, particularly in individuals with tree nut allergies. Allergic reactions can range from mild symptoms like itching, hives, or swelling to severe reactions such as difficulty breathing, wheezing, or anaphylaxis. People with known nut allergies should avoid pistachios and products containing them.

Gastrointestinal Issues: Eating large amounts of pistachios or consuming them too quickly may lead to digestive discomfort in some individuals. Symptoms may include bloating, gas, stomach cramps, diarrhea, or constipation. Moderation is key to avoiding gastrointestinal upset.

High Caloric Content: Like other nuts, pistachios are calorie-dense and contain significant amounts of fat and calories. While the fats in pistachios are mostly healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, consuming them in excessive amounts without accounting for the additional calories may contribute to weight gain or hinder weight loss efforts in some individuals.

Fungal Contamination: Raw or improperly stored pistachios may become contaminated with mold, fungi, or aflatoxins, which are toxic substances produced by certain types of fungi. Consuming contaminated pistachios can cause foodborne illnesses and pose health risks. It’s essential to store pistachios properly in a cool, dry place and ensure they are fresh and free from signs of spoilage before eating.

Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS): Some individuals with pollen allergies may experience mild allergic reactions, such as itching or tingling in the mouth or throat, after consuming pistachios. This condition, known as oral allergy syndrome (OAS) or pollen-food syndrome, is caused by cross-reactivity between proteins in certain foods and pollen allergens.

Overall, pistachios can be a nutritious and delicious snack when consumed in moderation as part of a balanced diet. However, individuals with allergies, sensitivities, or underlying health conditions should exercise caution and consult with a healthcare provider if they have any concerns about consuming pistachios or experience adverse reactions.

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