Photo of Pistachio nuts spilled from a burlap bag and a spoonful of pistachios on a wooden board

by Paul Fassa
Health Impact News

Pistachios are tree nuts that have been around for thousands of years. The first book of the Bible, the book of Genesis, mentions pistachios.

One male tree is able to create two dozen female nut-bearing trees from its pollen. It takes five years for those trees to bear fruit. But those nut-bearing trees can continue producing pistachios for almost two centuries.

Yet, domestic pistachio orchards came into vogue in America only recently, during the 1970s. Until even more recently, California almonds had center-stage for high nutritional value snacking. But it seems pistachios are gaining in nutritional stature within the tree nut industry, especially as the darker side of the almond industry becomes more well-known.

What may be surprising to most pistachio snackers is the split shells that allow easy access to most pistachio kernels occur during the latter part of the planting and harvesting cycle when the shells suddenly bloom and burst open. Those cracked shells are not from any processing or roasting events.

It’s easy to have a bowl or two around to grab a few every time you feel like snacking instead of indulging in processed junk food. They’re a lot more natural and nutritional than all the packaged snack offerings that placate most.

Nutritional Benefits of Pistachios

Raw organic pistachios are optimum whether hulled or intact with hulls.  

Pistachio trees thrive best in moderately cooler climates. They are not tropical.  

A cup of pistachios with hulls intact usually packs around 20 grams of carbs with 56 grams of healthy natural fats including saturated, polyunsaturated, and mono-unsaturated fats with no trace of trans-fatty acids. These natural fats contained within the nut lead to satiety more rapidly than processed snack foods which are generally made with highly oxidated oils and fats which are toxic.

Minerals that are not so prevalent in most crop foods are high in pistachios. Those minerals include:

  • Copper – which offers vital metabolic enzymes and supports connective tissue formation.
  • Manganese – helps build strong bones, overall growth, and carbohydrate and fat metabolism.
  • Potassium – important for maintaining electrolytes, sodium and pH balancing, and heart health. 
  • Magnesium – the master mineral involved in over 300 metabolic functions, heart health, and strong bones.
  • Phosphorous – to maintain pH balancing, form proteins, and help build muscle.

Pistachios are also high in B vitamins, including natural folate for B9 instead of synthetic folic acid, which are vital for a strong central nervous system and a healthy brain. Pistachios also offer a considerable amount of vitamin E. 

They rank higher in antioxidant capacity than many foods, especially with lutein and zeaxanthin, considered vital for eye health. Pistachios have a high ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) rating of 7,983 that ranks them 52nd among 100 highly antioxidant foods considered important for overall health and protection against cancer. (Source)

Pistachio Studies Show Proof of Prebiotic Value, Control of Pre-Diabetic Conditions, and Longer Healthier Lives

Pistachios are as high in fiber per volume as oatmeal without the starch. This offers a prebiotic that has proven to enhance probiotic generation in the gut. A 2012 study, Pistachio consumption may promote a beneficial gut environment, demonstrated this. 

It was presented as an abstract at the 2012 American Society for Nutrition, strongly suggesting eating pistachios may positively impact the bacterial profile of the digestive tract. (Source)

A more recent 2014 study using 60 prediabetic patients in India titled Effects of pistachio nuts on body composition, metabolic, inflammatory and oxidative stress parameters in Asian Indians with metabolic syndrome: A 24-wk, randomized control trial concluded: 

A single food intervention with pistachios leads to beneficial effects on the cardiometabolic profile of Asian Indians with metabolic syndrome [aka prediabetes]. (Source)

The researchers examined the association between nut consumption and subsequent total and cause-specific mortality among 76,464 women in the Nurses’ Health Study (1980-2010) and 42,498 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (1986-2010), excluding those with histories of cancer, heart disease, and stroke. Nut consumption was assessed at baseline and updated every two to four years.

The research paper’s results and conclusions:

Nut consumption was inversely associated with total mortality among both women and men, after adjustment for other known or suspected risk factors. Significant inverse associations were also observed between nut consumption and deaths due to cancer, heart disease, and respiratory disease. (Source)

These were three examples of favorable studies for pistachios. There are more studies that illustrate similar metabolic and probiotic improvements, which cascade into more positive health benefits without any more effort than it takes to break loose kernels pistachios and enjoy them with leisurely snacking.

They are often available in bulk at health food stores. There the drying and cooling effects of air conditioning keep them fresh. But if exposed to humid warm air, the kernels go stale and soft. Ironically, the same is true of pistachio trees. 

Originally indigenous in the Mid-East and China, they are hardy in cold and warm temperatures in areas of low humidity, such as Northern California and higher altitude locations in Arizona and New Mexico. 

Some recommend refrigerating them in airtight containers at home to keep them fresh if your place is not sufficiently air-conditioned.

Sources include:

One of The World’s Greatest Snacks — A Healthy Treat for a Lean Body

More About Pistachios

Pistachio Health Institute’s Materials

Pistachio nutrition facts

Are pistachio nuts good for you?