Pistachios are always smiling their faces off; no wonder they're so popular ;) They are well nicknamed, 'smiling nut' in Iran & the 'happy nut' in China.
They're one of the oldest known nuts, with archeological evidence linking them to human consumption as far back as 9,000 years, throughout Asia.
They belong to the Anacardaceae family, genus Pistacia & are considered a drupe since the fruit has a large, edible seed in the centre, making it a distant cousin to the mango & sumac. It takes approximately 10-12 years for a pistachio tree to produce its first crop, making it a very large investment. Pistachios are available year round. They're hardy plants capable of growing in dry, arid soil, & surviving cold winters. They're also able to grow with saline water.
The low down:
- 160 calories / 1 ounce
- 6g of protein / 1 ounce
- 3 g of dietary fiber / 1 ounce
- More potassium than any other nut
- Lowest fat content of any nut
- Zero sodium
- More protein than any other nut with fewer calories.
- Best to buy them unshelled as they are least processed in this form
- Known to lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) a.k.a bad cholesterol & increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL), a.k.a good cholesterol
- Its beautiful purple & green hue is due to its antioxidant properties
Pistachios contain most of the nutrients & many trace elements required by the human body: carbohydrates, proteins, fats, dietary fiber, phosphorus, potassium, thiamine, vitamin B6, beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, copper, manganese, vitamin C, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, folate, vitamin E, vitamin A, potassium, selenium, & vitamin K. (see below for details)
Why are these important?
Carbohydrates are the body's energy source. Consumption of complex carbs aids weight management, promotes heart health, & improves digestion.
Proteins repair & build tissues, make enzymes, hormones, & other body chemicals. It is an important building block of hair, nails, muscles, skin, cartilage, & blood.
Fats improve insulin sensitivity, reduce inflammation, & supports your metabolism. They also support hormone production, brain function, & reduces hunger/cravings.
Dietary Fiber normalizes bowel movements & helps maintain bowel health. It lowers cholesterol, maintains weight, & aids in glucose regulation.
Phosphorous " is a mineral that makes up 1% of a person's total body weight. It is the second most abundant mineral in the body. It is present in every cell of the body. Most of the phosphorus in the body is found in the bones & teeth." (Mediline Plus) It is important for the use of carbohydrates & fats in the body. It is needed for the protein production responsible for growth, maintenance, & repair. It aids in the production of ATP (energy) & is required for kidney function, muscle contractions, healthy heartbeat, & nerve signals.
Potassium can be found in most food, particularly leafy greens. Like magnesium, calcium, & chloride, it's an electrolyte, promoting electrical charges throughout the body, as well as an essential mineral in the maintenance of proper blood levels & the maintenance of healthy heart & nerve function.
Thiamine, vitamin B1 is essential for glucose metabolism. We need it so that we can use carbohydrates as energy. It is also necessary for proper nerve, muscle, & heart function.
Vitamin B6 aids in the production of red-blood cells & the metabolism of carbohydrates. It's essential to the brain & nervous system health, liver detoxification, & is believed to have anti-inflammatory properties.
Bata-Carotene is typically the strong red-orange pigment found in fruit & vegetables. It is a member of the carotene family. It helps maintain healthy skin & promotes eye health.
Lutein is a carotenoid, or eye vitamin. It functions as an antioxidant & makes it possible to absorb blue light safely from free-radicals. It is essential to retina health.
Zeaxanthin is a carotenoid, or eye vitamin. It "...provides powerful antioxidant activity, neutralizing the free radicals that destroy eye cells." (Visivit)
Calcium is an electrolyte, promoting electrical charges throughout the body. It is needed to build & maintain strong bones, as well as heart, muscle, & nerve health.
Iron is a key ingredient in the production of hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is in your red blood cells & carries oxygen through your body.
Magnesium helps regulate a diverse range of biochemical reactions in the body including: energy production, structural development of the bones, it’s an antioxidant, transports calcium & potassium. It also aids in the regulation nerve impulses, muscle contraction, & the maintenance of normal heart rhythms. It is an electrolyte, promoting electrical charges throughout the body.
Zinc is an essential mineral involved in cellular metabolism. "It is required for the catalytic activity of approximately 100 enzymes & it plays a role in immune function, protein synthesis, wound healing, DNA synthesis, & cell division." (National Institutes of Health). It supports growth & is necessary for proper sense of taste & smell. The body is unable to store zinc, so it needs to be consumed daily.
Copper is a trace element aiding in the proper function of organs & metabolic processes. It aids in the absorption of iron.
Manganese assists in bone production & the maintenance of skin integrity & health. It also fights against free radicals & blood sugar control.
Vitamin C is one of the vitamins humans are not able to produce themselves. They can only get it by consuming it through food or supplements. It's required for the absorption of iron, maintaining immunity, & correcting protein imbalances. It's also an antioxidant in the fight against free-radicals. Honestly thought, its list of uses is a mile long.
Riboflavin, part of the B-vitamin group (B2), is required for many enzyme reactions including the activation of other vitamins.
Niacin or B3 lowers cardiac risk & improves (HDL) cholesterol levels (lowering triglicerides).
Pantothenic Acid has historically been known as B5. It is a water-soluble vitamin that allows us to use fats, carbohydrates, & proteins as energy sources. Additionally, our immune system would collapse without it & we'd be unable to make hormones.
Folate is a B vitamin richest in green vegetables. An insufficient intake has shown to result in birth defect, cancer, & heart disease. It is considered a disease reducing vitamin.
Vitamin E is an essential antioxidant component protecting cells from cancer & heart-disease causing free-radicals.
Vitamin A is fat-soluble & essential for immune function, vision, reproduction, & cellular communication. It is an essential ingredient in rhodopsin, one of the proteins that absorb light. It is key to cellular differentiation & growth. It is necessary for proper formation & maintenance of heart, kidneys, liver, & other organs.
Selenium is a powerful antioxidant & supports normal thyroid function.
Vitamin K is named after the German word, koagulation, or 'blood-clotting' which is what it is most commonly known for. It is found in many green vegetables & is necessary for the process of photosynthesis.
Among the many health benefits are: heart health, weight management, combatant against diabetes & hypertension, & improved digestion. They are also said to increase sexual vitality (aphrodisiac), aid digestion, act as an antioxidant, & improve eye health.
Studies show that 1.5 ounces of overall nut consumption per day may reduce the risk of heart disease as a source of low saturated fat. Eliminates dry skin due to the saturated fats which act as both base and carrier oil.