14 Surprising Pistachios Health Benefits

Pistachios health benefits have been studied through various researchers. Results had shown that they can aid in weight management, lower risks of cancer and diabetes. They can even improve erectile dysfunctions. Here is a list of 14 pistachios health benefits which scientific evidence has shown to support.

#1 Pistachios support weight controlpistachios, weight, health benefits, benefits, potassium, the most potassium, the least potassium, pistachios, health benefits, benefits of pistachios, why to eat pistachios, nutrition in pistachios, nutrients in pistachios, fiber in pistachios, protein in pistachios, protein, fiber, minerals, vitamins, carbohydrates

Pistachios health benefits extend to weight loss and weight management. Significant amounts of fiber, protein and healthy fat found in pistachios promote fullness and reduce hunger. (1)  A study, led by researcher Dr. Cyril WC Kendall from the University of Toronto’s Department of Nutritional Sciences and publicized by the Nutrition Horizon, indicated a reduction in stomach emptying and reduction in hunger among participants fed with pistachio diets. (21)

As published by the Oxford University Press “when consumed in moderation, pistachios may help control body weight because of their satiety and satiation effects and their reduced net metabolizable energy content.”(9)

Read MorePistachio nuts: composition and potential health benefits

There is an increasing evidence that pistachios consumption does not lead to weight gain. A study, conducted by Wang X and colleges from the Department of Endocrinology, Sino-Japan Friendship Hospital, China, published by the BioMed Central, has shown that a daily pistachios consumption did not result in weight gain. In this study subjects with metabolic syndrome were fed with 42 grams or 70 grams of pistachios for period of 12 weeks. It was observed that:

“the daily ingestion of either 42 g or 70 g of pistachios…did not lead to weight gain or an increase in waist-to-hip ratio”. (8)

Another study conducted by the University of California obtained similar results. In this study, it was observed that subjects who replaced pistachios for foods such as candy bars, popcorn, diary products, potato chips accounted for 20% of their total calories in a period of three weeks did not gain body weight. (1)

These findings were also supported by one large study that investigated effects of nut consumption and risk of pancreatic cancer  in which body weight was also assessed. Analysis of results has shown no increase in body weight, as published by the British Journal of Cancer.(23) In fact, the opposite was observed.

As reported by Dr. Bao, the results had shown that “women who consumed the most nuts tended to weigh less”. (23)


Tip

In-shell or shelled pistachios? For weight management, in-shell pistachios seem to be better. Behavioral eating expert Dr. James Painter, PhD, RD, Chair of the School of the Family and Consumer Sciences at Eastern Illinois University, had observed that study subjects who ate in-shell pistachios consumed 41% fewer calories compared to those who ate shelled pistachios. In particular, those who ate shelled pistachios on average consumed 211 calories, while the other group consumed 125 calories. It is believed that the additional time to consume nuts and/or visual perception of extra volume of in-shell nuts are behind the calorie difference and not the satiety of study subjects.(7)

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#2 Pistachios display anti-cancer properties

Consumption of pistachios may lower risk of pancreatic cancer. One study published by the British Journal of Cancer evaluated nut consumption and risk of pancreatic cancer among 75,680 women with no previous history of cancer. The results had shown an inverse relationship between nut consumption (including pistachios) and risk factors for developing pancreatic cancer. The study revealed that women who consumed 1 ounce serving of nuts two or more times a week had shown a significantly reduced risk of pancreatic cancer as compared to those who did not consume nuts. (23)

Pistachios contain anti-cancer agents such as gamma tocopherol. It has been known that diet rich in gamma tocopherol is protective against cancer.Research conducted by Ladia M. Hernandez, M.S., R.D., L.D., a senior research dietitian from the Department of Epidemiology at the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, had shown that pistachio diet increases levels of gamma tocopherol. (24)

Pistachio nuts may lower the risk of lung cancer and other types of cancer.

As reported by Science News in 2009 and according to data presented by the American Association for Cancer Research Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research Conference “a diet that incorporates a daily dose of pistachios may help reduce the risk of lung and other cancers.” (24)

Further, a tree nut consumption, including pistachios, has been associated with lower mortality rate due to cancer. One large study published by the New England Journal of Medicine in November 2013 and reported by the Journal of the National Cancer Institute revealed that those who regularly ate nuts (including pistachios) were significantly less likely to die from cancer. The study found that there were almost as much as three times more reported deaths among no-nut eaters compared to those who ate nuts on a daily basis. (28) The number of deaths was as follows:

  • 1,883 deaths – non-nut eaters
  • 632 deaths – nut eaters (28)

Tip

How many pistachios to eat to increase gamma tocopherol levels (vitamin E type)? As reported by the UF Health Podcast, a handful of pistachios is enough to significantly increase levels of gamma tocopherol. (25)

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#3 Diabetes

Pistachios were fond to improve insulin resistance, a major risk factor of developing diabetes. (17,22) One study published by the Diabetes Care showed that chronic consumption of pistachios exhibits a glucose and insulin lowering effects and consequently lead to an improvement in insulin resistance and healthier metabolic profile (metabolic syndrome is associated with the increased risk of type II diabetes; cardiovascular disease; kidney disease).(17,18) Data obtained in this study also suggested that pistachios may help to reverse some harmful consequences of pre-diabetic conditions. (17)

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Consuming pistachios may help with erectile dysfunction. As reported by the Natural Medicine Journal and the American Growers of Pistachios, one study investigated effects on pistachio consumption and erectile dysfunction.  The study included 17 married men who complained of erectile dysfunction in minimum of 12 months. Participants consumed 100 grams of pistachios (approx. 3.5 oz) each day for 3 weeks. At the end of the study, the International Index of Erectile Function (IIEF) scores increased 151% after pistachio diet. The results had shown that men experienced improvements in several areas of erectile disfunction. Positive outcomes were observed in sexual intercourse satisfaction, sexual arousal, orgasmic function as well as in overall satisfaction. It was also noted that a blood flow in the penis increased 22 percent. (27,34)

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#5 Important for eye health

Pistachios protect eyes. Pistachios are the only nut source of carotenoids such as lutein, zeaxanthin and beta-carotene, antioxidants essential for eye health. Lutenin and zeaxanthin are potent antioxidants that play an important role in maintaining a good vision as they protect retina (in macula area of an eye) from harsh light. (2) Lutenin and zeaxanthin have been associated with reduced risk an age-related macular degradation, or AMD, and “the most common cause of irreversible blindness in Americans over 65.”(1)

Beta-carotene is another antioxidant essential for eye health. Studies had demonstrated that diets ample in beta-carotene help to keep eyes and skin healthy. Beta-carotene role extends beyond eye health. Studies demonstrated that this antioxidant can protect against cardiovascular disease and it may enhance function of the immune system. Interestingly, beta-carotene can even be transformed into vitamin A in the body. (2)

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#6 Blood pressure

Pistachios may have beneficial effects on a blood pressure. Of the nuts, pistachios rank at the top in a potassium content. They provide 312 mg of potassium in just 1 oz, or one serving, which is approximately 9%DV(daily value based on 2,000 calorie diet). Sources: www.nutritiondata.self.com and www.accessdata.fda.govSee table below for details.

Potassium is required for normal cellular function and a blood pressure. Emerging evidence shows an association between potassium and blood pressure. As reported by the Acadamia, “observational and clinical studies suggest that increased potassium intake may help control blood pressure in normal and hypertensive people.” (33) Read MorePistachio nuts: composition and potential health benefits

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#7 Nutrient dense food

Pistachio nuts are nutrient-dense foods. They are source of protein, fiber, favorable unsaturated fatty acids, antioxidants, numerous vitamins and minerals, bioacitve compounds and amino acids including essential minerals and amino acids. (2)

As noted in the article ‘Pistachio nuts: composition and potential health benefits’ published by the PubMed:

“among nuts, pistachios contain the highest levels of potassium, γ-tocopherol, vitamin K, phytosterols, xanthophyll and carotenoids.” (4)

Pistachios also are high in minerals such as copper, manganese, iron and magnesium and vitamins such as vitamin B6 and B1 (thiamin). (5) They also contain folate and zinc. See the list and the label below for details (Label Sourceshttps://ndb.nal.usda.gov and www.onlinelabels.com):

pistachios health benefits, health benefits, benefits of pistachios, why to eat pistachios, nutrition in pistachios, nutrients in pistachios, fiber in pistachios, protein in pistachios, protein, fiber, minerals, vitamins, carbohydratesHere are some key pistachios nutrients:

  • copper – reduces blood cholesterol and blood pressure
  • fiber – important for intestinal function
  • folate – helps to lower fatigue and tiredness
  • iron – essential for normal transport of oxygen
  • manganese – plays a role in fat and carbohydrate metabolism, calcium absorption, and blood sugar regulation; essential for normal brain and nerve function
  • magnesium – supports antidant defense system, important for would healing and healthy bones; supports functioning of the nervous system
  • phytosterols – lower blood cholesterols levels and support prostate health
  • potassium – helps nerves and muscles communicate; aids to move nutrients and offsets sodium’s harmful effects
  • protein – essential for growth, development and maintenance of body tissue (such as muscle, skin, nails as well as enzymes, hormones and neurotransmitters)
  • vitamin B1 (thiamin) – plays an important role in energy metabolism- growth,development and function of cells
  • vitamin B6 – helps to make antibodies, maintain normal nerve function, breakdown protein, maintain normal glucose level
  • vitamin K – aids in blood clotting
  • y-tocopherol – potent anti-oxidant; reduces inflammation, prevents degenerative diseases associated with aging
  • zinc – supports healthy vision (1,2,12,13,14,15,16)

Read More: Photochemical Database & Health Function from American Pistachios Growers

Interestingly, out of common nuts, pistachio rank top two in their fiber content. 30 gram serving provides with 3.1 grams of fiber, or 13%DV (daily value based on 2,000 calorie diet). Sources: www.nutritiondata.self.com and www.accessdata.fda.gov

Check out the tables below for more:

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Tree-nut eaters, including pistachio-eaters, tend to have a higher nutrient quality diets as well as adequacy of nutrients compared to non-nut eaters. As reported by the NCBI, studies had shown that tree-nut consumers have a higher levels of fiber, vitamins including vitamin A, C, E, D, B12, folate, choline and minerals including zinc, magnesium, iron, calcium, and potassium. (37)


Tip

For optimal health benefits, choose pistachios that were not processed. Processing removes many health macronutrients. Avoid pistachios that were bleached. Bleaching of nuts is a process that restores pistachios shells and destroys most of the antioxidants in pistachios. Opt for whole raw and not peeled nuts. (19)

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#8 Heart Health

Pistachios deliver numerous nutrients and bioactive compounds that have shown to lower the risk of heart disease. Pistachios contain fiber, plant sterols and unsaturated fats which help to reduce low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL) that has been associated with artherosclerosis and heart disease. Pistachios contain fair amount of potassium which together with fiber helps to maintain normal blood pressure and muscle function. Pistachios also contain omega-3 fatty acids which inhibit unsafe heart rhythms that can ultimately lead to heart attacks, magnesium which can aid in ventricle arrhythmia, copper that lowers cholesterol and blood pressure, and folic acid which lowers blood homocysteine levels. Further, pistachios are a good source of L-arginine, an amino acid that improves the health of artery walls. L-arginine makes artery walls flexible and less prone to blood clots and blood flow blockages. In addition, pistachios contain no trans fats and are low in saturated fat and cholesterol which promote heart health. (1,12)

Read More: Healthy Nuts Go Nuts

The benefits of pistachios on heart health extend to individuals with type II diabetes. In the study conducted by Dr. Sheila G. West and her colleges from Pennsylvania State University  30 participants with type II diabetes were tested with 2 diets: one with low-fat/high carbohydrate diet and the other with moderate-fat pistachio diet. After period of 4 weeks, separated by 2-week washout, it was observed that the pistachio diet significantly reduced several cardiovascular risk factors including total peripheral resistance, increased cardiac output, improved some measures of heart rate variability (recognized as a cardiovascular risk factor), and reduced 24-hour and sleep systolic ambulatory blood pressure. The study suggested that pistachio diet contributes to reducing cardiovascular risk factors but more research is still needed. (20)

As reported by the Journal of the American Heart Association and revealed by Dr. Sheila G. West and her colleges from Pennsylvania State University a “moderate-fat diet containing pistachios improves some cardiovascular risk factors in adults with well-controlled type 2 diabetes.” (20)

Tree nut consumption, including pistachios, has been associated with lower mortality rates due to a cardiovascular disease. One large study published by the New England Journal of Medicine in November 2013 and reported by the Journal of the National Cancer Institute revealed that those who regularly ate nuts (including pistachios) were less likely to die from a cardiovascular disease. The study found that there were as much as three times more deaths among no-nut eaters compared to those who ate nuts daily. The number of deaths was as follows:

  • 1355 deaths – no-nut eaters
  • 457 deaths – nut eaters (28)

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#9 Anti-oxidants

Emerging research shows that pistachios increase level of antioxidants. As reported by the American Pistachios Growers, a research published by the Journal of Nutrition (June 2010) revealed that pistachio diet increases levels of serum antioxidants including lutein and gamma tocopherol. (10) It is believed that boosting blood antioxidant levels is a mechanism that may protect one from heart disease. (27)

As reported by the Penn State News, antioxidants are of interest to researchers because of the presumption that antioxidants prevent LDLs from oxidizing which leads to inflammation and a plaque buildup inside blood vessels and ultimately to heart disease. (30)


Tip

Pistachios –  fresh or dry? In terms of antioxidants, fresh or dry may suffice. What matters is the pistachio seed coat. A study published in the Journal of Food Composition and Analysis revealed that anti-oxidant activity was not significantly different between fresh and dry nuts (including pistachios). However, it was observed that a removal of a seed coat has reduced anti-oxidant activity of pistachios by 55%. (3)

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#10 Lipid profile

Pistachios health benefits extend to lipids in our bodies. Pistachio consumption had shown to positively affect lipid profile. Typically, a lipid profile constitutes cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or good cholesterol, low-density lipoproteins (LDL), or bad cholesterol, and triglycerides. (29) A study published by the Taylor&Francis Online demonstrated that “a diet consisting of 15% of calories as pistachio nuts (about 2–3 ounces per day) over a four week period can favorably improve some lipid profiles in subjects with moderate hypercholesterolemia”. (11)

Lipids are types of fats and fat-like substances that are essential components of cells. They are also sources of energy. Maintaining healthy levels of lipids is important for staying healthy. (29)

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#11 Cholesterol effects

Pistachios lower cholesterol levels in the body. As reported by the NCBI, several intervention studied had shown reductions in the LDL-cholesterol levels. Reductions in the LDL-cholesterol were ranging from 4% – 11% when compared to other comparable diets. (26)

Other studies had shown pistachios cholesterol lowering effects as well. As reported by the American Pistachio Growers, a pool analysis of 25 studies published in 2010 in the Archives of Internal Medicine, suggested that eating nuts, including pistachios, results in cholesterol-lowering effects in both total and LDL cholesterols. Analysis involved 583 normal and hypercholesterolemic men and women who were not on cholesterol-lowering medications. As reported by the American Pistachio Growers, it was observed that “those who consumed an average of 67 g (or 2.4 ounces) of nuts per day had a mean estimated reduction in total cholesterol , LDL-cholesterol, LDL/HDL ratio and total cholesterol/HDL.” (27)

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#12 Moderate blood sugar levels

Pistachios health benefits extend to blood sugar. Evidence suggests that pistachios diet may provide benefits in improving blood sugar level control. (21) Diet enhanced by pistachios had shown to decrease blood sugar peaks. A study led by researcher Dr. Cyril WC Kendall from the University of Toronto’s Department of Nutritional Sciences and publicized by the Nutrition Horizon found that pairing pistachios with meals may moderate a blood sugar response or postprandial glycemic impact after a meal. During the study 15 men and women who were fed with 3 similar types of test meals: white bread with two ounces of pistachios, white bread with butter and cheese, and white bread. Over a 3-hour period blood samples were taken and satiety measures were evaluated in each of the test subjects. It was observed that pistachios meal decreased peak blood sugar levels after a meal. Results also indicated reduction in stomach emptying and reduction in hunger. (21)

Evidence suggests that pistachios may help to moderate blood sugar response of other foods. One study had shown that pistachios can lower glycemic response, or a blood sugar response, of foods with a high glycemic index. As disclosed by the Acadamia:

“a recent clinical study reported that the addition of pistachios to foods with a high glycemic index, like parboiled rice, pasta, and mashed potatoes, can reduce the total postprandial glycemic response by 20–30%… Incorporating pistachios into meals or snacks with a high glycemic index may be beneficial.” (33)

Further, pistachios are a food source that have a very low glycemic index. (33) Glycemic index indicates how a given food product rises a blood sugar. Glycemic index is ascribed by numbers ranging from 0-100 where the lower numbers indicate the lesser food’s impact on the sugar and insulin levels and the higher numbers indicate the higher the impact. (31) Low GI foods contain 55 GI or less. Pistachio’s glycemic index falls between 4 to 9 GI range. (31,33)


Tip

Some of the foods that are also low in GI include: 100% stone-ground whole wheat, pumpernickel bread, oatmeal, pasta, rice, sweet potato peas, legumes, lentils, most fruit and non-starchy vegetables, etc. (32) Read More: Glycemic Index and Diabetes


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#13 Lower mortality rates

Pistachios promote health and longevity, and may lower risks of mortality. In one large study published by the New England Journal of Medicine in November 2013 and reported by the American Pistachios Growers, it was revealed that those who regularly ate nuts were significantly less likely to die from any disease when compared to those who ate no nuts. (27) The study had investigated association of tree nut consumption (that is pistachios, walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, almonds, cashews, and macadamias), total mortality and cause-specific mortality. Researchers had looked at 76,464 women in the Nurses’ Health Study and 42,498 men in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study for a period of 30 years. At the end of the study, it was discovered that consumption of tree nuts, including pistachios, had an inverse relationship on mortality among both men and women.  (27) Mortality rates were lower among participants who consumed nuts regularly. In particular, death rates were reduced by 20% among subjects who consumed at least 1 ounce of tree nuts a day and by 39% among participants who ate more than 3 serving of tree nuts per week. (27)

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#14 Ideal post-exercise snack

Pistachios serve as a perfect post-excercise snack, as they are a powerhouse of nutrients that help to support the active lifestyle. They contain significant amount of protein. Just a single serving of pistachios provides 6.4 grams of protein, or 13%DV (daily value based on the 2,000 calorie diet). See the tables below for more. (36) As reported by the American Pistachios, eating protein after an intense workout has been shown to be beneficial for muscle recovery. (35)

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Pistachios contain potassium. Potassium is a major electrolyte that is essential to nerve function and muscle control. Loss of potassium during exercise can lead to muscle weakness. (35) As reported by the American Pistachios, consuming potassium-containing foods, such as pistachios, with water can help to restore the potassium in the body.(35) Pistachios also contain antioxidants which, according to an emerging research, may help with muscle recovery. However, more studies are sill needed in this area to validate antioxidants role in a muscle recovery. (35)

Pistachios are more than just protein, potassium and antioxidants. They contain several other nutrients important for energy restoration and nourishment. As delineated by the American Pistachios, key nutrients found in pistachios that help support active lifestyle include:

“Vitamin B – helps to give you energy

Vitamin A – supports healthy vision

Magnesium – supports healthy nerve function

Iron – helps supply your body with oxygen

Phosphorus – helps support bone health

Protein – helps build muscle

Manganese – supports joint health and wound healing

Copper – helps keep skin healthy” (35)

Read More: American Pistachios – Nutrition Tips for Athletes

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Related Readings:

Tree Nut Consumption Is Associated with Better Nutrient Adequacy and Diet Quality in Adults: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2005–2010

American Pistachios

American Pistachio Growers


Disclaimer: This article is offered for information purposes only and is protected under freedom of speech. It is not medical advice nor should it be construed as such. Nothing in this article is intended to diagnose or treat any disease. Always work with a qualified health professional before making any changes to your diet, prescription drug use, lifestyle or exercise activates. This information is provided as-is, and the reader assumes all risks from the use, non-use or misuse of this information.


Image Sources:

  1. www.pixabay.com

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