The Happy Nut - Pistachios
Filled with nutrients this little nut has plenty to be smiling about!
Have you ever noticed those little green nuts smiling back at you from inside their shells? Well there’s a lot to be happy about! Not only are they a nutritious and tasty snack but the shells (and science) are literally piling up when it comes to their role in promoting good health and weight, too!
Pistachios date back over 7,000 years and have been lauded as a royal delicacy, garnering special praise, attention... and sometimes protection (legend has it that the Queen of Sheba reportedly hoarded them all for her personal use and forbade them from commoners) for centuries. Native to the areas in the Mediterranean, Middle East and Western Asia from Greece to Iran and parts of China, pistachios are relative newcomers to the United States, arriving during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. But since the moment they arrived, they gained our attention and our affection. And now more than ever as we have learned with pistachios: what’s good to our tastebuds is also good to our health.
And, oh yes, they’re NUT-ricious!
When else can you eat 49 of something and consider it one healthy and nutritious serving? Well that’s how many pistachios there are in one ounce—a nearly overflowing handful when they’re in the shell! For just 160 calories, one serving of pistachios offers up to 6 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber—both nutrients important to providing long lasting energy to keep you feeling charged up. And when it comes to vitamins, minerals and other powerful plant nutrients, pistachios are nearly 20% of your daily needs of vitamin B6 and copper and nearly 10% of your daily potassium and manganese. They’re also a good source of phosphorus, a mineral essential to healthy bones and teeth. And they’re the only nut with a significant source of lutein and zeaxanthin, two powerful antioxidant nutrients that together help preserve eye health and reduce the risk of the most common cause of irreversible blindness and eye-disease as we age—age-related macular degeneration. In fact, when you look at a pistachio, it’s the lutein—the green pigment—looking right back at you and protecting those eyes.
Nuts contain fat—of the heart-healthy variety—so their portions do need to be watched as their benefits are enjoyed on a regular basis. Pistachios contain heart-friendly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats in abundance, which has led researchers to find that they play a nice role in helping reduce cholesterol as a regular part of a healthy diet.
Heart-Healthy, Eye-healthy, Weight-Friendly
A growing number of studies have shown that including pistachios—like other nuts—in the diet can help reduce cholesterol levels, particularly the ‘bad’ LDL-cholesterol and may even help increase the ‘good’ HDL-cholesterol. In fact, researchers at Penn State recently found that adults who got a full 20% of their calories from pistachios—equal to about 1/2 cup daily) reduced their LDL-cholesterol by 12%.
Studies have also shown that eating pistachios may help with weight loss and satiety, too. Since feeling hungry is a major obstacle to sticking with a reduced calorie diet until a weight goal is met, feeling satisfied is paramount! And since many people enjoy pistachios by cracking them one by one out of their shell, the resulting pile of shells that grows becomes a type of trail of evidence, an important indicator that has been shown to help us know when to stop—and stop sooner at that—before the calories are mindlessly consumed in excess!
Everyday Pistachios—Simply add and enjoy
Here are a some easy tips and recipes to inspire your mind and tantalize your tastebuds, too:• Breakfast:Add a couple tablespoons of pistachios (unshelled, of course) to yogurt and fruit or sprinkle them onto your morning oatmeal.
• Lunch: Toss some into your salad or add them into a pita or wrap.
• Snacks: Make a trail mix with pistachios and dried cranberries or raisins for a long-lasting boost, spread some pistachio-butter onto whole grain crackers or use to dip apple slices, or just grab a handful in the shell plain and simple to enjoy.
• Dinner: Chop and use the pleasing pistachios as a flavorful ‘crust’ instead of breadcrumbs on fish or chicken before baking.
• In Recipes Use pistachios in any recipe that calls for other nuts to add variety and for a new flavor experience. Try my own mother-in-law’s famously delicious—and antioxidant-rich Dried Cherry and Pistachio Bazilian Biscotti recipe. The biscotti freeze wonderfully, too, so you can enjoy them little-by-little in good health. And before you get to afternoon tea or dessert with the biscotti, you could also prepare a meal with Golden Door’s Arugula-Pistachio Pesto & Whole Grain Penne Pasta with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes recipe. This recipe is a wonderfully complete vegetarian entrée or easy side dish. And you can make it ahead and serve it later. That’s convenient!