Like many of you, we love pistachio nuts – raw as a snack, in the famous Italian pistachio gelato or on toast in the shape of our sweet pistachio spread.
We’ve been impressed with their particularly delicious taste in our Sicilian food products but we didn’t know until recently about all the health benefits of these small nuts. So we’ve decided to share a few facts with you…
Pistachio nuts come from old times and special places
Pistachio nuts originated in Asia about 6,000 years ago, and most of the pistachios sold today come from the Mediterranean countries.
The “Pistacia Vera” grows in Sicily on lava lands in the Southwest slope of Etna, especially in the areas of Bronte (mainly), Adrano, Ragalna, Biancavilla, Belpasso. More than 90% of Italian pistachio production (that is 2% of world production) represent the so-called Bianca type (or Napoletana), cultivated in the area of Bronte and protected by the POD mark.
What kind of food are they?
Technically they are actually a fruit as they grow in a tree. The edible seeds of the “Pistacia Vera” tree contain healthy fats and are a good source of protein, fiber and antioxidants!
Pistachio nutrition is truly impressive. A typical serving size of pistachios is about 28 grams or 49 kernels. When you consume 49 raw pistachios, you eat the following healthy nutrients:
• Calories - 159 calories
• Carbohydrates - 7.7 grams
• Protein - 5.7 grams
• Fat - 12.9 grams
• Fiber - 3 grams
• Vitamin B6 - 25 percent of RDI
• Thiamine - 20 percent of RDI
• Copper - 20 percent of RDI
• Potassium - 8.3 percent of RDI
• Magnesium - 8.5 percent of RDI
• Iron - 6.1 percent of RDI
• Zinc - 4 percent of RDI
• Folate - 3.5 percent of RDI
• Calcium - 3 percent of RDI
• Vitamin A - 2.9 percent of RDI
• Vitamin C - 2.7 percent of RDI
• Vitamin E - 2.7 percent of RDI
• Niacin - 2 percent of RDI
8 benefits of eating pistachios
1. Improve your overall health. Pistachios are high in protein, fiber, vitamin B6 and potassium. Vitamin B6 is important for several functions, including blood sugar regulation and the formation of hemoglobin, a molecule that carries oxygen in red blood cells.
2. Reduce the risk of different diseases. They are high in antioxidants which are vital to your health. They prevent cell damage and play a key role in reducing the risk of disease, such as cancer. Pistachios contain more antioxidants than most nuts and seeds. In fact, only walnuts and pecans contain more. Among nuts, pistachios have the highest content of lutein and zeaxanthin, both of which are very important antioxidants for eye health. Furthermore, two of the most abundant antioxidants in pistachios — polyphenols and tocopherols — may help protect against cancer and heart disease. Interestingly, the antioxidants in pistachios have been shown to be very accessible in the stomach and thus more likely to be absorbed during digestion.
3. May help you lose weight. Despite being an energy-dense food, nuts in general are one of the most weight loss friendly foods in the world. Pistachios are rich in fiber and protein, both of which increase satiety by making you feel full with less. One factor possibly contributing to pistachios' weight loss properties is that their fat content might not be fully absorbed. In fact, studies have demonstrated the malabsorption of fats from nuts. This is because part of their fat content is stuck within their cell walls, preventing it from being digested in the gut. What's more, eating in-shell pistachios is great mindful eating as shelling the nuts takes time and slows down the rate of eating. The pile of shells on the table also gives you a good idea of how many nuts you consumed.
4. May lower your cholesterol and blood pressure. As well as being high in antioxidants, pistachios may lower blood cholesterol and improve blood pressure, thus lowering your risk of heart disease. Moreover, pistachios seem to lower blood pressure more than other nuts.
5. May lower your blood sugar. Despite having a higher carb content than most nuts, pistachios have a low glycemic index, meaning they don't cause a large spike in your blood sugar. In addition to being rich in fiber and healthy fats, pistachio nuts are rich in antioxidants, magnesium, carotenoids and phenolic compounds, all of which are beneficial for blood sugar control.
6. May benefit your blood vessels. Pistachios are a great source of the amino acid L-arginine, which is converted to nitric oxide in the body. Therefore, these tiny nuts may play an important role in promoting blood vessel health.
7. They are fun to eat. Pistachio nuts are not only tasty but also fun to eat. The shells partially split open during growing, making for convenient access to the small green nuts inside. Some of the shells are tricky for the small fingers of children and even adults so the tip of a knife comes in handy. But be careful as this procedure can be dangerous. Interestingly the tightly closed shell is a sign that the nut inside is not fully ripe yet. Pistachios that are ready for consumption have an open shell.
8. They make delicious meals. Pistachios can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. These include as a snack, salad garnish, pizza topping or even in baking, adding a beautiful green and purple colour to your food. Some delicious and green-coloured desserts include pistachio gelato or cheesecake. And, like other nuts, they can be used to make pesto or nut butter. You can even try sprinkling them over your favourite oven-baked fish, adding them to your morning porridge, cereals, granola or making your own dessert decoration. Last but not least, pistachios can be enjoyed on their own as a quick, tasty and healthy snack.