Move over peanuts and pepitas. In the world of nuts and seeds, the pistachio is a true standout in surprising ways. It takes center stage as a star of health benefits like boosting eye health and lowering bad cholesterol. Eating pistachios may even support weight loss and reduce symptoms of erectile dysfunction.
We like to call them nuts, but pistachios are actually seeds wrapped in egg-shaped shells. Originating from Asia, the most common pistachio is called Pistacia vera.
Pistachios grow on trees, with the highest crop productions coming mainly from Iran, USA, Syria, Turkey and China. It takes about 20 years for a pistachio tree to reach peak production.
Part of the fun of eating dried or roasted pistachios is pulling them from their cracked shells one by one. Their subtly sweet taste is earthy and their nutrient value is out of this world.
8. Pistachio Nutrition
This nutrient-rich kernel comes with healthy fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated), high-quality protein, and a remarkable number of vitamins and minerals per serving compared to other seeds.
About 49 pistachio kernels equals a serving size of one ounce. Each ounce of pistachios contains the Percent Daily Value (DV) of 25% for vitamin B6, 20% for copper and 20% for thiamine. Other nutrients pistachios provide are magnesium, potassium, iron, zinc, folate, and calcium. Pistachios also contain niacin and vitamins A, C and E.
American Pistachio Growers is proud of the pistachio’s recently earned status as a complete protein, which is rare for a plant food. Most complete proteins come from meat, fish, eggs and dairy. A food earning the distinction of a complete protein is one that contains all nine of the essential amino acids needed to create protein.
In addition to being a complete protein, pistachios rate well with the Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS). The PDCAAS provides scoring values for the quality of protein a food provides. The pistachio ranks right up there at about 81% of the protein quality of high-ranking milk protein casein.
7. Pistachios and Lowering LDL Cholesterol
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is the kind of cholesterol doctors warn could be a factor in developing cardiovascular disease. Lowering LDL cholesterol by eating a healthy diet that includes pistachio nuts could be a game changer for supporting heart health.
A study of pistachio effects on cardiovascular health featured in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed promising results. Study participants were all put on a healthy diet. The group eating one serving of pistachios per day lowered their LDL levels by about 9%. The group of participants who ate two servings of pistachios per day lowered their LDL cholesterol by as much as 12%.