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How pistachios pack a powerful punch in the journey to a healthier weight

How pistachios pack a powerful punch in the journey to a healthier weight

With their naturally sweet-and-salty taste and chewy, satisfying consistency, pistachio nuts just may be the ideal snack.

But these tasty little morsels are much more than an appetizing nibble.  They are also remarkably nutrient-dense, packed with protein, antioxidants, and essential vitamins and minerals.  And pistachio nuts offer some solid - and surprising - health benefits.  Let’s see what these little nuggets can do!

Pistachios promote mindful eating – and help reduce caloric intake

Many integrative healthcare providers advise “mindful eating” to combat automatic overeating and binging.  This natural technique involves focusing on sensory cues (such as the food’s aroma, appearance, texture, and taste) to increase both the pleasure and awareness of eating.  Now, research shows that pistachio nuts are virtually custom-designed for this practice. 

A study published in Appetite shows that snacking on in-shell pistachios helped reduce caloric intake - when compared to nibbling those already “shell-free.”  To conduct the study, researchers gave cups of pistachio nuts to a group of college students and instructed them to snack freely during class.  The results were eye-opening - the team found that those given in-shell pistachios automatically consumed 41 percent fewer calories!

Removing the pistachios’ shells seemed to make people more aware of feelings of satiety or fullness.  In addition, seeing the leftover shells led to a sense of “extra volume perceived” and provided an important visual clue.  (In other words, there’s nothing like a litter of spent pistachio shells to remind you that you’ve just eaten something!)  Strange but true: Pistachio nuts may help you “tap the brakes” when it comes to snacking.

Support heart health with pistachios

Petite pistachio nuts make sizable contributions to cardiovascular health.  Packed with antioxidant flavonoids and carotenoids - such as lutein, zeaxanthin, and resveratrol - pistachio nuts may help prevent the oxidative damage that can trigger heart disease.  Pistachio nuts are also rich in prebiotic fiber, which is converted in the gut into butyrate, an anti-inflammatory short-chain fatty acid thought to help protect against heart disease. 

In addition, they help reduce harmful LDL cholesterol while increasing desirable HDL cholesterol.  Blood pressure issues?  Pistachios may help with that, too.  In one review of controlled studies, the authors noted that consuming nuts significantly lowered blood pressure in non-diabetic patients - with pistachios emerging as the most effective of all varieties studied.  Pistachios are also high in the amino acid arginine, which the body converts to heart-friendly nitric oxide.  Undoubtedly, eating pistachio nuts is a win/win for your heart.

Pistachios are nutrient-dense and low glycemic

Pistachios offer an outstanding blend of protein, healthy fats, dietary fiber, and essential vitamins and minerals.  A one-ounce serving (about 50 pistachio nuts) contains 6 grams of protein, 8 grams of carbs, 13 grams of healthy fats, and 3 grams of dietary fiber.  The serving also contributes 28 percent of the adult daily value for vitamin B6 and 21 percent of the DV for vitamin B1 - both essential for forming hemoglobin, the molecule that carries oxygen into red blood cells.

The same serving of pistachios will give you a whopping 41 percent of the DV for copper - needed for the maintenance of the nervous system and the absorption of iron - along with 15 percent of the DV for manganese, an antioxidant mineral.  And pistachios deliver this top-shelf nutrition at a reasonable 159 calories per serving.  With a low glycemic index, pistachios aren’t likely to cause blood sugar “spikes.”  In fact, they have been shown to significantly lower fasting blood glucose and improve insulin resistance in people with type 2 diabetes.

From pesto to pizza - versatile pistachios are truly MVPs

Pistachios, which are technically the seeds of the Pistacia vera tree, are not a true botanical nut.  However, for culinary purposes they are classified as one.  (They are also classified as a tree nut allergen.  If you have a tree nut allergy, don’t eat pistachios).

While pistachios make an excellent snack all by themselves, it’s easy to incorporate them into recipes.  Use chopped pistachios as an accent for salads, a base for a flavorful pesto, or as a topping for pizza.  You can also utilize them to make a crunchy crust for salmon filets or stir them into granola, oatmeal, or yogurt.  And pistachios make a flavorful addition to hummus and dips.  If you have an ice cream maker, you can even whip up a batch of honey pistachio.

Offering up amazing nutritional and metabolic benefits, pistachios make a wonderful addition to your healthy diet.  These little seeds are emerging as nutritional superstars!

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