Pistachios are quite an interesting little nut! The edible portions, their kernels, are bright green in color and encased in a hard clam-like shell that must be broken open to get them out. Hence, when we think of pistachios the “get crackin” commercials likely run through our minds. Surprisingly enough, pistachios are fairly new to the United States, being introduced in the 1970s, and increasing in popularity ever since. To give an idea of just how popular they are: the state of California produces 300 million pounds of the nuts a year, with Americans consuming on average 45,000 tons of them (Pistachio Health, 2013). Quite a surprising statistic given how expensive they are, sometimes costing over four times the amount of other varieties.
So why are they so popular? Well for starters they are delicious as a snack or added into a variety of dishes, but they also pack quite a powerful punch too! One serving of pistachios consists of about 49 kernels containing about 160 calories. While most nuts are promoted as a source of what we deem healthy fats, pistachios consist of 90% mono- and polyunsaturated fats. They are a good source of protein, dietary fiber, copper, manganese, thiamin, phosphorous, and vitamin B6. They also contain many antioxidants and phytonutrients making them incredibly heart healthy (Pistachio Health, 2013).
Not only do pistachios benefit heart health, but they can also play a part in managing weight through calorie reduction without calorie restriction, what Dr. James Painter calls the “Pistachio Principle”. Through studies he has found that people who consume in-shell pistachios are forced to eat slower as they must crack each pistachio causing them to ultimately eat less than those who ate the already shelled nuts. Additionally, he found that the pile of empty pistachio shells served as a visual cue reminding them how much they have consumed further influencing them to eat less (Pistachio Health, 2013). While his studies were specific to eating pistachios, his concepts could certainly be applied towards other foods and dietary habits in general.
Pistachio Health. (2013). Pistachio Health Institute. Retrieved from http://www.pistachiohealthinstitute.org/
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