Pistachios may be small, but they pack a big nutritional punch. Recently published studies have added to the reams of existing evidence that further prove how healthy these tiny green nuts are for the body. Here are five little known facts about the health and nutritional benefits of pistachios that may surprise you.
Pistachios are a Complete Protein
The latest research reveals that pistachios contain all 9 essential amino acids, making them a “complete” protein similar to eggs, dairy and meats. Even more impressive, one ounce of pistachios contains 6 grams of protein — that’s as much protein as an egg!
Compared to other complete proteins that need to be cooked or refrigerated (like fish, beef or cheese), pistachios are more convenient for a grab-n-go post-exercise snack since they contain the amino acids required to build and maintain muscle mass and lean body tissue. Plus, being a complete plant-based protein, pistachios are an ideal snack or dessert topping for those who follow a vegan or vegetarian eating pattern.
Pistachios Support a Healthy Immune System
While vitamin C-rich oranges tend to steal the spotlight as the go-to food for building a healthy immune system, pistachios provide other important nutrients to help boost immunity, including protein, B-vitamins, zinc, magnesium, selenium and other bioactive compounds. Here’s how:
Pistachios are Good for Your Heart
Thanks to their heart-friendly unsaturated fats and antioxidants—including vitamin E and lutein and zeaxanthin-—pistachios are a heart-healthy choice. These satisfying nuts also provide plant phytosterols, naturally-occurring compounds which lower blood cholesterol levels to help protect the heart. According to the FDA’s qualified health claim for nuts: “Scientific evidence suggests, but does not prove, that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, such as pistachios, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease.”
Pistachios are Loaded with Nutrients
According to the USDA Nutrient Database, pistachios provide more than 30 different vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. Some of the key essential substances in this nut (which are sold either shelled or in-shell) include magnesium, fiber, copper, potassium, iron, manganese and B-vitamins. What’s more, you get all those nutrients as well as the same amount of protein as an egg. And here’s an eye-opening fact: Pistachios are one of the only nuts that provide lutein and zeaxanthin, two carotenoids that are important for protecting your eyes from the sun’s rays, blue light from phone and computer screens and age-related eye damage.
Pistachios May Help Win at Losing (weight that is)
It’s true. Pistachios provide the dynamic duo of protein and fiber—two nutrients that help keep you satisfied and tame cravings ultimately making you less likely to overeat. If your goal is to lose unwanted pounds, research suggests that in-shell pistachios may be your best option. In one study, participants ate 41% fewer calories when they had to crack the nuts open compared to the time when the nuts had already been removed from their shells. The researchers believe seeing the evidence of the empty shells may serve as a reminder of how much you’ve eaten, reducing the likelihood of overindulging.