Pistachios are one of the healthiest nuts to eat. They are the lowest calorie nut and they are chock-full of nutrients and fiber. Some studies have indicated that eating a small serving of pistachios, or other nuts, daily might lower a person’s risk of heart disease.
Pistachios have the largest serving size of all nuts, with one serving being about 49 kernels. This 1-ounce snack offers more than 30 different beneficial nutrients while having only 173 calories.
A 1-ounce (approx 1/4 cup) serving of pistachios contains 3.2 g or 12 percent of the recommended daily amount of fiber. This is beneficial since fiber has been shown to help the body regulate blood glucose and cholesterol levels.
Pistachios have 6 grams of protein in one serving. Protein, along with fiber and healthy fat, makes the body feel full or satiated, so a person will likely eat less throughout the day. Although pistachios do not contain all of the essential amino acids, and are therefore not a complete protein, they do contain significant amounts of some amino acids, especially arginine and phenylalanine. Phenylalanine can boost mood, decrease pain and curb appetite, while arginine can boost the immune system.
Bananas are well known for their high potassium content. However, 1-ounce of pistachios has a whopping 310 mg. of potassium, the same amount as half a large banana.
Almost 90 percent of the fat found in pistachio nuts is the healthy unsaturated variety. Pistachios contain unsaturated fats and essential fatty acids that might help lower blood cholesterol levels when regularly substituted for foods that contain saturated fats.
Antioxidants, Vitamins & Minerals
Pistachios contain more than 10 different antioxidants. These antioxidants have been shown to help stave off illnesses such as heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and even cancer. Some antioxidants, such as lutein, have also been shown to reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration. Pistachios are low in vitamins A, C and E, but they contain large amounts of two of the B vitamins. One cup supplies 40 percent of the DRI for vitamin B6 and more than 20 percent of the DRI for thiamine. B6 assists in the metabolism of both amino acids and glycogen. Thiamine, also known as B1, is important for proper digestion, brain function and appetite. Pistachios supply large amounts of some essential minerals, especially copper, manganese and phosphorus. One cup of pistachios contains 44 percent of the DRI for copper, which is essential for bone, red blood cell and collagen formation. One cup also provides more than 20 percent of the DRI for phosphorus and more than 15 percent for manganese. Phosphorus is important for energy storage, and manganese is used in bone formation and cholesterol metabolism. One cup of pistachios also supplies more than 10 percent of the DRI for magnesium and potassium.
“Prescription for Nutritional Healing”; Phyllis A. Balch, CNC; 2006
Dietary Reference Intakes: Elements
Dietary Reference Intakes: Vitamins
USDA Nutrient Data: Pistachio Nuts
Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion: Nutritional Goals