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Pistachio Nuts

This article is part of a larger article titled "100+ Healthiest Foods On Planet Earth."  Read it here.

Pistachio Nuts Nutritional Information (per 100g)

Water: 3.9 g
Calories: 562 kcal
Protein: 20.3 g
Carbohydrate: 27.5 g
Dietary fiber: 10.3 g
Sugars: 7.7 g
Fat: 45.4 g
Saturated fat: 5.6 g
Monounsaturated fat: 23.8 g
Polyunsaturated fat: 13.7 g
Vitamin C: 5.6 mg
Vitamin B1: 0.9 mg
Vitamin B2: 0.2 mg
Vitamin B3: 1.3 mg
Vitamin B6: 1.7 mg
Vitamin B9: 51 μg
Vitamin A: 21 μg
Vitamin E: 2.3 mg
Calcium: 105 mg
Iron: 3.9 mg
Magnesium: 121 mg
Phosphorus: 490 mg
Potassium: 1025 mg
Sodium: 1 mg
Zinc: 2.2 mg

The pistachio nut (botanically a seed, and a close relative of the cashew) is a food widely consumed as a salted snack. But the pistachio is both more versatile and a lot healthier without the salt! A component of a number of traditional desserts, such as Neapolitan ice cream, Turkish delight and baklava; the pistachio is also a great health food. Perhaps one of the healthiest nuts there is, the pistachio combines an excellent nutritional profile with a host of benefits for cholesterol, weight loss and eye health, among other things. Let’s put it this way: for those of us who are health-conscious, pistachios are wasted on ice cream and bar snacks.

Nutritionally, pistachios are a well-balanced, though high calorie food, with a high amount of healthy fats, protein and essential nutrients. 100g of pistachios contain 562 calories, but for those calories you get a high amount of healthy fats: 24g of monounsaturated and 14g of polyunsaturated fat for every 6g of saturated fat. In addition, for just over a quarter of your Daily Value (DV) of calories, you get 40% DV of protein, meaning pistachios are a very well-balanced food in terms of macronutrients.

Beyond this, the pistachio nut has an impressive amount of essential micronutrients. 100g not only contains impressive amounts of protein and healthy fats, it also contains 85% DV of B6, 40% DV of fibre, 30% DV of magnesium, 29% DV of potassium and 21% DV of iron. These essential vitamins and minerals are great for everything from digestive to heart health, and avoiding deficiencies will ward off everything from tiredness and poor athletic performance to impaired cognition, so pistachios are really a winner here!

Perhaps the most intriguing benefits of pistachios, however, are its seemingly beneficial effects on risk factors for cardiovascular disease: specifically high cholesterol and obesity. As we see with many nuts and seeds, it seems odd to be talking about high fat, high calorie foods making us thinner.

However, pistachios have proven benefits for lowering cholesterol: as this review notes, of the 5 studies (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) done on pistachios and cholesterol, 4 out of the 5 showed a significant reduction in total cholesterol (all showed some reduction), 2 out of 5 showed a significant reduction in LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol (all showed some reduction), and all 5 showed a significant reduction in the LDL (bad) to HDL (good) cholesterol ratio.

Further, pistachios have some proven weight loss benefits. One study, in which obese people on a 12 week weight loss program were given either pretzels or pistachios (with both being the same amount of calories), found that, while both groups lost weight, those eating the pistachios lost more weight and had a much reduced BMI than those eating the pretzels, proving pistachios great for weight loss. With high cholesterol and obesity being major risk factors for cardiovascular disease, pistachios may really look after you in the long term.

Finally, pistachios have one last benefit: very high levels of lutein and zeaxanthin, carotenoids which have some remarkable benefits for long-term eye health. Pistachios contain the highest amount of lutein and zeaxanthin per 100g of any nut. This is important because lutein and zeaxanthin are thought to protect against two of the most common eye disorders, cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.