Time to Go Nuts for Pistachios !
A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition in 2015 found numerous health benefits of eating pistachio nuts.
These include weight loss, improved heart health, lower blood pressure and eye health benefits. The study also notes that pistachios stand out among other nuts for their vitamin and mineral content.
The study was a review article titled “Nutrition attributes and health effects of pistachio nuts.”
The researchers analysed the results of more than 100 research studies and clinical trials regarding nut and pistachio nut consumption and health, highlighting the potential health benefits of pistachios, which are a source of plant-based protein, vitamins and minerals and also a good source of fibre.
Importantly eating pistachio nuts does not contribute to weight gain or an increased body mass index (BMI) when they are included in a balanced diet. This was a major conclusion of this research review of numerous clinical studies.
Pistachios and Weight Management
The reviewers analysed randomised controlled trials that looked at pistachio nut’s effect on body weight. They discovered that diets which include pistachios have not been linked to weight gain. In fact, one study found a decrease in body mass index, and another noted a significant decrease in waist circumference for those who ate pistachios.
An important component of weight management is satiety, the feeling of fullness after eating. Evidence shows that all nuts help promote satiety, suppress hunger and inhibit eating. Two studies looked specifically at the effect of pistachios, and researchers found that participants ate fewer calories and expressed greater feelings of satiety when consuming pistachios in the shell versus the pistachio kernels alone. The authors suggested that participants may have eaten less because the physical act of shelling the nuts may slow the eating process. The visual cue of empty pistachio shells may serve as a signal to stop eating.
Pistachios and Heart Health
The researchers also looked at five studies that examined the effects of pistachios on heart disease. Many of these studies showed that diets that include pistachios are linked to significantly lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels, even for those who are at high risk of diabetes.
Research suggests that these benefits may be due, in part, to the pistachios’ protein, fibre, and lower fat content when compared to other nuts. Pistachios also have the highest phytosterol content among nuts, which appear to help lower blood cholesterol levels by:
- Decreasing the absorption of cholesterol in the intestines during digestion
- Reducing the amount of cholesterol produced by the body.
The Nutritional Power of Pistachios
The study authors discovered that a one-ounce serving of pistachios (about 49 nuts) provides 10 percent of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of protein and 11 percent of the RDA of fibre for adults. With three grams of fibre per serving, pistachios rank among the top two nuts in fibre content. The authors noted that fibre intake is linked to decreased weight gain and helps lower the risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some types of cancer.
Pistachios also stand out among other nuts for their:
Pistachios contain Vitamin K and the B vitamins: thiamine (B1), pyridoxine (B6), and folic acid (B9).
Pistachios contain minerals, including: potassium, magnesium, calcium, copper, and manganese. These minerals play a role in blood pressure control, bone health management, and in the prevention of several chronic diseases.
Many medical studies show that pistachios contain phytochemicals that act as antioxidants in the body.
Role in Eye Health:
Amazingly, pistachios contain approximately 13 times more lutein and zeaxanthin (carotenoids) than the next highest nut. High amounts of these carotenoids are found in the retina of the eye and are known to benefit eye health. Pistachios may help prevent the loss of vision which occurs with ageing.
About The Study
The review was conducted by researchers with the Human Nutrition Unit, Hospital Universitari de Sant Joan de Reus, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences; Institut d’Investigació Sanitária Pere Virgili, Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Reus, Spain; Centro de Investigación Biomédica en Red Fisiopatología de la Obesidad y Nutrición, Institute of Health Carlos III, Madrid, Spain. The Institut d’Investigació Sanitária Pere Virgili received research funding from American Pistachio Growers. None of the authors declared a conflict of interest.
M. Bulló, M. Juanola-Falgarona, P. Hernández-Alonso, J. Salas-Salvadó, Nutrition attributes and health effects of pistachio nuts, British Journal of Nutrition (2015), 113. 879-893. Doi:10.1017/80007114514003250.