12 Evidence-Based Health Benefits Of Pistachio Nuts

Reviewed By Registered Dietitian Monica Auslander Moreno, MS, RDN
by Sindhu Koganti

Pistachios (Pistacia vera) are rich in fiber, protein, vitamins, healthy fats, and antioxidants. They are nutrient-dense nuts with low fat content. Some research states that these nuts may aid weight loss, enhance gut flora, and regulate blood glucose levels.

In this post, we have elaborated on the ways pistachios can benefit you. We have also discussed their nutritional profile and the potential side effects they can cause.

How Are Pistachios Good For You?

A 28-gram serving of pistachios contains good amounts of fiber, protein, potassium, zinc, phosphorus, vitamin B6, and manganese (1). They have a rich and nutty taste.

Pistachios contain the highest amount of antioxidants among nuts. All of these benefit human health in various ways. We will explore them in the following section.

What Are The Benefits Of Pistachios?

1. May Aid Weight Loss

Pistachios contain fiber. Studies show that fiber intake may promote satiety and, in turn, help with weight loss (2). Another nutrient with similar qualities is protein, which can reduce hunger pangs (3).

Pistachios are dried fruits. Studies have demonstrated that consuming them can keep inches off your waist over time (4). The nuts also have beneficial effects on triglycerides. They can be consumed as a healthy snack to lose weight, without having to worry about their fat content (5).

According to a study, the lipid content in pistachios are not fully absorbed by the body. This reduces the body’s fat content (6).

In another study, people who ate in-shell pistachios consumed less calories than those who ate shelled pistachios (7).

2. May Enhance Gut Health

The fiber in pistachios aids digestion and prevents constipation (8).

The gut bacteria ferment this fiber and produce short-chain fatty acids, which have several benefits. They prevent colon cancer and improve digestive health overall. Butyrate is one such beneficial short-chain fatty acid, and its consumption increases the number of good bacteria in the gut (9).

3. May Improve Heart Health

Research has shown that pistachios may help prevent heart ailments by increasing the levels of heart-healthy fats. They can also lower bad cholesterol and reduce the risk of coronary heart disease (10).

Pistachios lower the levels of lipoproteins, which are a risk factor for heart disease (11). Diets containing these nuts were also found to lower blood pressure levels (12). The nuts contain arginine, an amino acid. Arginine was also found to lower blood pressure (13).

4. May Aid Diabetes Treatment

Glucose levels were found to be lower with pistachio consumption (14). The nuts also increase the levels of peptide 1, a hormone that regulates glucose levels in those with diabetes (15).

An Iranian study also states that the dietary intake of pistachio nuts can have positive effects on glycemic control, blood pressure, inflammation, and obesity in individuals with diabetes (14).

Did You Know?

Pistachio is known as the Smiling Nut in Iran and the Happy Nut in China.

5. May Be Beneficial During Pregnancy And Breastfeeding

Pistachios offer a healthy dose of several nutrients that are important during pregnancy. Studies show that diets including these nuts can be of help during this period (16).

Pistachios may also benefit breastfeeding mothers due to their nutritional profile. They are also easy to be included in the diet. Busy nursing mothers can simply snack on pistachios as they are.

6. May Combat Inflammation

The bioactives present in pistachios may help fight inflammation. These anti-inflammatory properties can be put to therapeutic use (17). Pistachios are also rich in monounsaturated fats. Some believe these may also help combat inflammation,  though more research is warranted in this aspect (18).

7. May Improve Vision Health

Pistachios are a rich source of lutein and zeaxanthin (19). Lutein and zeaxanthin are found in the human retina. Consuming enough of these antioxidants prevents vision issues like age-related macular degeneration and cataracts (20).

Pistachios are also rich in zinc (1). A deficiency of the mineral has been linked to poor night vision (21).

The healthy fatty acids in pistachios may also contribute to eye health. However, we need more research to substantiate this.

8. May Boost Cognitive Function

Pistachios, like most nuts, are good sources of vitamin E (1). In rat studies, the nutrient was found to decrease the risk of peripheral neurotoxicity (22).

Ripe pistachio shells were found to alleviate anxiety in rats (23). The nuts may also enhance cognitive performance, learning, information retention, and rapid eye movement during sleep. However, sufficient data is lacking in this regard.

Some anecdotal evidence suggests that pistachio nut oil may also fight brain inflammation and preserve the essential fatty acids in the brain.

Pistachios may also have a role to play in protecting brain function from the potential disruptions caused by anticancer drugs (24).

Did You Know?

Pistachios are the original prehistoric snacks. In fact, they are one of the only two nuts mentioned in the Bible.

10. May Enhance Sexual Health

Anecdotal evidence suggests that pistachios may boost fertility. However, we need more research in this regard.

Studies show that pistachios can act as an aphrodisiac. Eating a handful of the nuts every day for three weeks was found to improve sex drive in men. The arginine, phytosterol, and antioxidants in the nuts have shown to help treat erectile dysfunction (25).

11. May Increase Estrogen Levels

Pistachios have the highest amount of phytoestrogens amongst nuts (26). They may increase estrogen levels and contribute to a regulated menstrual cycle and secondary sex characteristics.

12. May Slow Down Premature Aging

Pistachios contain vitamin E. The vitamin prevents chronic UV photoaging of the skin (27).  The nuts also contain copper. The nutrient aids the production of elastin, which prevents the formation of wrinkles and treats sagging skin (28).

In a study, mice treated with vitamin E showed fewer signs of UV-induced skin damage (29).

These are the health benefits of pistachios. While we saw some of the nutrients the nuts contain, there are other important compounds that are responsible for the benefits. In the following section, we will look at the nutritional profile of pistachios.

What Is The Nutritional Profile Of Pistachios?

PRINCIPLENUTRIENT VALUEPERCENTAGE OF RDA
Energy557 Kcal29%
Carbohydrates27.97 g21.5%
Protein20.60 g37%
Total Fat44.44 g148%
Cholesterol0 mg0%
Dietary Fiber10.3g27%
VITAMINS
Folates51 µg13%
Niacin1.3 mg8%
Pantothenic acid0.520 mg10%
Pyridoxine1.7 mg131%
Riboflavin0.160 mg12%
Thiamin0.870 mg72.5%
Vitamin A553 IU18%
Vitamin C5 mg8%
Vitamin E-?22.60 mg150%
ELECTROLYTES
Sodium1 mg0%
Potassium1025 mg22%
MINERALS
Calcium107 mg11%
Copper1.3 mg144%
Iron4.15 mg52%
Magnesium121 mg30%
Manganese1.2 mg52%
Phosphorus376 mg54%
Selenium7 µg13%
Zinc2.20 mg20%
PHYTO-NUTRIENTS
Carotene-ß332 µg
Crypto-xanthin-ß0 µg
Lutein-zeaxanthin1160 µg

*Values sourced from USDA, nuts, pistachio nuts, raw

Though pistachios can be healthy and are replete with essential nutrients, it is important not to consume too many of them.

What Happens When You Eat Too Many Pistachios?

Excess consumption of pistachios may lead to abdominal pain, constipation, and diarrhea. This could be due to its fibre content. Some also believe the nuts may lead to kidney stones in susceptible individuals. However, these effects are backed only by anecdotal evidence.

If you are taking roasted pistachios in excess, you may experience high blood pressure levels. This is because some forms of roasted pistachios are high in sodium.

Conclusion

There is a reason pistachios have been consumed for over 9000 years. They are powerhouses of essential nutrients, vitamins, and fats. They promote heart health and may aid diabetes treatment. Including them in your diet is fairly easy.

Though the adverse effects of pistachios are not sufficiently backed up by research, it is important to take precautions. If you experience any ill effects following pistachio intake, stop consumption and visit your doctor.

Expert’s Answers for Readers Questions

How to eat pistachios?

You can crack open the shell and eat the nut. Or you can also first suck the salty exterior of the shell before opening it up.

How long do pistachios last?

Pistachios can last for about 3 months if stored in the refrigerator. Place the nuts in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Why are pistachios expensive?

The pistachio trees have two requirements to grow – cool winters, and long hot summers with low humidity. These limit the areas they can be grown in, making the nuts quite expensive.

How to tell if pistachios are bad?

Usually, pistachios that have gone bad taste extremely sour.

How many pistachios should I have per day?

You can have 1.5 ounces to 3 ounces per day, which translates to about a handful of the nuts.

Are pistachio shells poisonous?

Pistachio shells are not poisonous. But they can be too hard to eat. Consuming them as they are may cause digestive issues.

Are roasted pistachio nuts good for you?

Yes, roasted pistachio nuts are good for you. Roasted nuts have less fat content when compared to other nuts (19).

Is it safe to eat raw pistachios?

Yes, eating raw pistachios is safe. One ounce of raw pistachios contains 159 calories, 6 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber, and 8 grams of carbohydrates (1).

Do pistachios help you lose belly fat?

There is no research to support this. Pistachios contain fiber, which may promote a feeling of fullness. This particular attribute, in addition to regular exercise and healthy lifestyle habits, may help with weight loss and belly fat.

Can pistachios boost immunity?

Research is limited in this aspect. Pistachios contain zinc, which may boost immunity. However, the extent to which the nuts can boost the immune system is not known.

29 sources

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Sindhu Koganti

Sindhu Koganti is a Biotechnology graduate and has been in the writing field for over 4 years now. She specializes in writing on Health and Wellness. She has hands-on experience in writing articles and press releases on Life Sciences and Healthcare, Food and Beverages, and Chemicals and Materials. When she’s not writing, she loves watching movies and listening to music. She also enjoys traveling.
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