You can find the shelled green nuts everywhere, from airport kiosks to health food stores. But are pistachios as healthy as they’re cracked up to be? Here’s what the experts say.
What are the nutrition facts of pistachios?
Pistachios are packed with vitamins, minerals and nutrients, including beta carotene, phosphorus, vitamin B6, thiamine, potassium, magnesium and fiber. Compared to other nuts, they are also high in carotenoids, a type of antioxidant that helps reduce the risk of chronic disease and improves heart health, says registered dietitian Kristin Kirkpatrick.
You can also eat a lot of them in just one serving, which is one ounce, or 49 pistachios. “Compared to other nuts, this is a lot of nuts per one-ounce serving,” says registered dietitian Melissa Majumdar, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “One ounce of walnuts is only 14 walnut halves.”
Both raw and roasted pistachios contain a lot of fat: about 13 grams, which is 17% of the recommended daily total. But most of it is monounsaturated fat, a heart-healthy type that can help lower levels of bad cholesterol. Pistachios are also a good source of protein; a serving contains about 6 grams.
What are the health benefits of pistachios?
You really can’t go wrong with nuts. “All nuts are healthy because they are a great source of plant-based protein, fiber, and healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat,” says Kirkpatrick. “Studies on these components alone would suggest that nuts and seeds of all varieties can improve health.”
But pistachios, more than other nuts, may also help reduce blood pressure, says Majumdar. That’s due to their monounsaturated fatty acids, their phytosterols (plant compounds in the nut that can help lower cholesterol) and their high fiber, she says. “They also contain lutein, beta-carotene, and tocopherols, which can reduce systemic inflammation.” Other research finds that pistachios may act as a prebiotic, or food for your gut bacteria.
What’s the healthiest way to eat pistachios?
As with all crunchy, salty snacks, pistachios can be hard to resist. Eating them from the shell can help you keep portions in check. “Having to take off the shell takes time and effort and slows down the eating process, which can help with mindfulness and weight,” says Kirkpatrick. Companies including Wonderful Pistachios also sell single-serving packets. Compared to other on-the-go snacks like candy or chips, portable pistachios provide a balance of protein, healthy fat and some fiber for a more nutritious snack.
Beyond simply snacking on them, pistachios can be a fun and colorful way to add flavor to food, says Majumdar. “Try them in pesto, to bread fish or to add a pop to salad and some balance to a trail mix.”
And since unsaturated fats—like those found in pistachios—can go rancid over time if left at room temperature, its best to store them in the refrigerator or freezer.