Pistachios are one of the world’s oldest nuts — having been grown in the Middle East for thousands of years.
They are, without a doubt, one of the most versatile nuts around.
People use them in salads, baked goods, trail mixes, desserts or as a snack by themselves.
Since they’ve been cultivated for so long, they must be good for us, right?
You’d think so.
However, in recent times, we can easily observe a lot of unhealthy people regularly eating them as snacks.
In bars, for example, you’ll often find them readily available next to all the chips and alcohol.
When you’re out shopping, you may find them in the aisle next to the chips and popcorn.
This has many people wondering:
Are pistachios good for you?
The Short Answer
Let’s not beat around the bush here.
The quick answer to the question is:
Like pretty much all nuts, pistachios provide our bodies with valuable macro- and micro nutrients.
Thiamin, vitamin K, vitamin E, vitamin B6, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper — the list goes on.
Pistachio nuts are a nutrient-dense food that fits perfectly with a healthy lifestyle.
We’ll cover the details of pistachio nutrition and health benefits later on in this post.
Will Pistachios Make You Fat?
Besides their great nutrition, pistachios are also quite dense in calories (like most nuts).
1 ounce (28 g) of the nuts contain 160 calories.
This means that, if you chomp on whole bags of them every single day, you may end up gaining a little bit of weight.
Still, you’d have to be pretty much obsessed with eating them, considering how filling they are.
We’ve already touched upon this in our post about almonds.
Contrary to popular belief, consuming moderate amounts of nuts on a regular basis is not associated with weight gain.
Why Some People Get Confused
Alright, so pistachios aren’t really a fattening food, and it contains a whole bunch of beneficial nutrients.
So why do some people think they’re unhealthy?
Point 1 – The Fat And Calorie Content
The first point of confusion is the fat content, like we just mentioned.
People see the high calorie count from the fat, and immediately get thoughts of weight gain.
However, this fear likely comes from previous experience with processed foods.
Processed foods (like potato chips) tend to have a lot of calories like pistachios, but with little-to-no satiating factors.
Eating 300 calories of pistachio nuts is simply not comparable to 300 calories of more commonplace snacks like chips.
The protein, fiber and healthy fats of the nuts will fill you up much faster — significantly reducing your chance of overeating.
Point 2 – The Condiments
The second source of confusion comes from what may or may not be put on pistachios.
As you may have noticed, a good deal of manufacturers dip their nuts in lots of oil and salt.
This is done in order to boost their “snackability” and appeal to a broader market.
Unfortunately, this can offset some of the health-bringing benefits of pistachios.
While we need some salt in our diets, it’s way too easy to go overboard with food that’s purposefully salted.
Also, the added oils boost the fat content even more, but without an increased feeling of fullness.
Depending on how much oil is added, this can potentially ruin the natural balance of calories and fullness that the nuts give.
In turn, this could make it much easier to overeat and gain weight — leading to a perception that pistachios are a fattening food.
If you want to eat pistachios as a health food, stick with the unoiled, unsalted kind.
As you’ll see by reading through the following list, they can give you plenty of powerful health benefits.
6 Health Benefits Of Pistachios
1. High In Protein
While most nuts are high in fat, they’re usually a good source of protein as well.
Pistachios are no exception.
Per 100 grams, you’ll get a respectable 21.3 grams of protein.
If you’re looking to build muscle, getting enough protein is important.
Pistachios should probably not be your main source.
However, they can certainly help you reach your overall macronutrient needs.
The high protein content of the nuts also helps with satiation.
As we touched upon earlier, combined with the fiber and fat content, this makes binging very unlikely.
2. Promotes Healthy Skin
Pistachio nuts can contribute to healthier skin in a number of different ways.
First off, they’re very high in antioxidants.
Many of these have been shown to be easily absorbable by the human body.
Antioxidants help defend against free radicals.
These are unstable atoms that can damage our cells and cause disease and accelerated aging.
One of the first places you’ll see signs of aging is usually your skin.
Thankfully, eating foods high in antioxidants can help offset much of this damage.
In turn, this lets your skin to stay healthy and attractive for longer.
The monounsaturated fat in pistachios also contribute to a healthier exterior.
3. Lower Blood Sugar
Like most other whole plant foods, pistachio nuts do not spike your blood sugar, even though they contain quite a bit of carbs.
In fact, research suggests the opposite.
A study from 2014 showed that eating 2 ounces (56 grams) of pistachios twice a day had a beneficial effect on blood sugar levels.
More specifically, healthy people who ate a high-carb diet experienced a 20-30% reduced blood sugar response after meals.
Another study found that pistachios could help people with type 2 diabetes better manage their condition.
After eating a handful (25 grams) of the nuts twice every day for 3 months, the participants saw a 9% reduction in their fasting blood glucose levels.
4. Helps Maintain Normal Brain Function
Pistachio nuts are a good source of thiamin (aka vitamin B1).
100 grams of the nuts will provide you with 0.8 mg — 56% of the daily recommended amount.
Since the mid-1900s, thiamin deficiencies have been linked to impaired cognition and dementia.
This is because the vitamin is a co-factor for several important enzymes that are needed for your brain to use glucose effectively.
Let’s just say I’m sold on getting enough thiamin!
Besides thiamin, pistachios are also one of the best food sources of vitamin b6.
In 100 grams, you’ll get a whopping 1.3 mg — which covers around 64% of the RDV.
B6 is vital for proper brain development and function.
It helps your body produce the hormones melatonin and serotonin, which regulates your sleep cycle and mood respectively.
5. Strengthens Your Teeth And Bones
Less known about pistachios (and most other nuts) is the fact that they’re an amazing source of phosphorus.
Per 100 grams, you’ll get 485 mg of the essential mineral — about half of the RDV.
Phosphorus works together with calcium to create and maintain strong bones and teeth.
Getting enough of the mineral is especially important for the elderly, since it can help defend against fractures.
Sadly, many people overlook phosphorus when it comes to bone health.
Instead, they decide to take huge doses of calcium supplements.
If overdone, this can actually have the opposite effect, as the two minerals need to be balanced in order to maintain proper bone health.
The safest way to achieve this balance is to eat a variety of nutritious whole foods containing both minerals.
While pistachios are higher in phosphorus, they also contain 110 mg of calcium per 100 grams (11% of RDV).
6. Can Reduce Insulin Resistance
More and more people are developing type 2 diabetes these days.
The leading cause is insulin resistance.
Basically, your liver and muscle cells fail to absorb sugar from your bloodstream — spiking your blood glucose to unhealthy levels.
Unfortunately, most people don’t get enough from the food they eat.
In 2005-2006, it was discovered that 48% of the US population got less than the recommended amount.
Thankfully, this can easily be fixed by eating the right things, such as pistachios.
100 grams of the nuts will provide you with 120 mg of the essential mineral (about 30% of RDV).
And that’s that!
As you can see, pistachios are good for you.
Just don’t drench them in oil and salt, and you’ll be fine.
With their delicious, delicate taste and slew of health benefits, there’s no reason to exclude them from your life.
Whether you eat them with your salads, baked goods or on their own, you can do so with a clear conscience.