Are pistachios fattening or good for weight loss?
Like is the case with most nuts, pistachios are not only delicious, they are also a rich source of vitamins, minerals, fiber and protein. They are a great food to add to your diet for overall health.
At the same time however, pistachios contain a lot of fat. The majority of this is monounsaturated fat, which is the healthy kind, but it is fat nonetheless. Because of this, you may be wondering whether you should be eating pistachios when trying to lose weight.
The short answer is yes. Pistachios can and should be a part of your diet, so long as they are eaten in moderation.
What causes weight gain?
There are a number of factors that determine whether you will gain or lose weight. However, at its most simplest form, weight management comes down to a short equation: calories in – calories out.
The first number in the equation represents the amount of energy you consume, via the food that you eat. All foods have calories (which are units of energy), but in differing amounts. Foods that are mainly made up of water (like fruits and vegetables) are low in calories, whereas those mainly made up of fat (like nuts and seeds) are high in calories.
The second number in the equation represents the amount of energy your body expends naturally throughout the day, and when you exercise. The more active an individual is, the more calories he or she will burn.
If the result of the equation is a negative number, it means that fewer calories are being consumed than expended. This in turn will lead to weight loss over time because fat stores in the body will be used as a source of energy. On the other hand, a positive number means that the number of calories being consumed exceeds those being burnt. These excess calories are stored as fat all around the body, leading to weight gain.
The number of calories that a person should aim to consume will be dependent on a variety of factors, including the age, gender, height, weight, activity levels and overall goals of the individual. As a result, it is quite difficult to calculate a value with pinpoint accuracy.
However, there are a number of scientific algorithms that can provide fairly accurate estimations. One of these is the Mifflin St. Jeor Calculator formula, which is built into the tool below.
This calculator will never show a number below 1000 calories per day. Please speak to a qualified health professional before attempting to eat less than that.
For example, a 35 year old lady who weighs 180 lbs (82 kg), is 5 feet 6 inches tall and exercises 4 times a week should aim to consume around 2400 calories to maintain her weight and 1900 calories to lose weight.
An ounce (28 g) of pistachios has 161 calories, which on a 1900 calorie diet would only equate to roughly 8% of total calories. So the key lesson here is moderation. You can continue to enjoy pistachios, even when trying to lose weight, so long as you don’t overindulge.
Can pistachios be beneficial for weight loss?
This study investigated how pistachios affected body weight in Chinese subjects. 90 participants with metabolic syndrome took part and consumed either a daily serving of 42 g of pistachios, 70 g of pistachios or no pistachios, over a 12 week period. The study found that the consumption of pistachios did not lead to weight gain or an increase in waist-to-hip ratio.
One reason for this may be because besides fat, pistachios have significant amounts of protein and fiber. Both of these can be beneficial for weight loss because they help to fill you up and satisfy your appetite. This study found that increasing protein intake from 15% to 30% of total calories lead to a daily decrease of 400+ calories being consumed. And another study found that making a simple change and eating more fiber can help with weight loss.
Studies such as this and this carried out on almonds (which, weight for weight have a very similar nutritional profile to pistachios) have also showed that eating nuts in moderation can help with weight loss efforts.
Can pistachios cause weight gain?
As mentioned above, weight management comes down to a balance between calorie consumption and expenditure. Technically, any food if eaten in large enough quantities will cause weight gain. However, some foods are far more calorie dense than others, so they need to be eaten with care. Pistachios are one of these foods.
Because of their delicious taste, these nuts are highly addictive, so it is very easy to overindulge. It is therefore important to be mindful when eating pistachios. One way to do this would be to pour a certain amount (e.g. 70 pistachio kernels) into a bowl and then put the container away. This way, you can keep track of exactly how many you have eaten. Eating straight out of the container is not a good idea because you are likely to eat more than you should.
Also, opt for pistachios that do not have added salt. Excessive sodium consumption can lead to water retention, which will show up when you step on the scale.