Pistachio Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Pistachios annotated

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman 

Pistachios are a nutrient-packed nut that can be enjoyed as a healthy snack or as part of a delicious recipe. Pistachios are available both in the shell (in-shell) or with their shell already removed (shelled) in roasted, salted, flavored or raw form. You may be wondering if the high fat content in pistachios makes them an unhealthy snack. On the contrary, the health-promoting fats in this green nut lower their glycemic index and boost their nutritional power.

Pistachio Nutrition Facts

The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for 1/2 cup of unsalted pistachios without shells (64g).

  • Calories: 366
  • Fat: 29g
  • Sodium: 8mg
  • Carbohydrates: 18g
  • Fiber: 7g
  • Sugars: 5g
  • Protein: 13.5g
  • Potassium: 645mg

Carbs

A 1/2-cup serving of pistachios provides 18 grams of carbohydrates and 7 grams of fiber. Like most other nuts, pistachios have a low glycemic index. The healthy fat and fiber from pistachios have been shown to help lower the spike in blood sugars after eating other high-carbohydrate foods like white rice, bread, and potatoes.

Fats

Until recently, pistachios and other nuts had a bad reputation because of their high fat content. But as the body of nutrition science has grown, we’ve learned as a whole that the type of dietary fat is more important than the amount of fat.

A 1/2-cup serving of pistachios has 29 grams of fat, of which about 3.5 grams are saturated, 8.5 grams are polyunsaturated, and 16 grams are monounsaturated fats. Compared to most other tree nuts, pistachios are one of the lowest in fat.

The good-for-you fats, in addition to other compounds found in pistachios, have earned nuts an FDA Qualified Health Claim stating: “Tree nuts, including pistachios, can be part of a heart-healthy diet. Scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may lower the risk of heart disease.”

Protein

A 1-ounce serving of pistachios provides almost 6 grams of protein, placing it as part of the protein group, according to the USDA MyPlate. Pistachios are a great plant-based protein option for anyone, but especially for those eating a vegetarian or vegan diet.

Vitamins and Minerals

The little green nut is loaded with vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. In fact, you can “see” the nutrients through the various colors in pistachio. The green and yellow color of the actual nut comes from two carotenoids: lutein and zeaxanthin. The thin purple skin surrounding the nut is loaded with anthocyanins, the same type of antioxidants found in grapes and cranberries.

Pistachios are also a good source of vitamin B6, phosphorus, and thiamin, and an excellent source of copper. A single serving of pistachios offers more potassium (310 milligrams) than half of a large banana (240 milligrams). Pistachios also have the highest phytosterol content (61 grams per 1-ounce serving) among nuts.

Health Benefits

Adding nuts to your meal plan is a delicious and nutritious way to fuel your body. Nut consumption has been associated with certain health benefits.

Promotes Heart Health

Consumption of nuts has been associated with reduced risk for cardiovascular disease. A small study funded by the American Pistachio Growers showed that a moderate-fat diet containing pistachios reduced blood pressure and vascular resistance during acute stress when compared with a typical Western diet.

Pistachios' high phytosterol content also makes them a heart-healthy snack. Phytosterols come from plants, but because they have a similar structure to cholesterol, they compete with cholesterol to limit its absorption.

Supports Healthy Weight Management

Nuts are rich in polyphenols, which have been associated with a reduction in obesity. The weight-control benefits of a Mediterranean diet, which is rich in nuts, olives, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, are well established.

Furthermore, snacking on shelled pistachios takes longer than ready-to-eat foods like potato chips or other processed snacks. By cracking open each shell before eating the nut, your body is given a chance to register feelings of fullness before overeating.

Helps Manage Gestational Diabetes

Another study funded by the American Pistachio Growers was completed on 30 pregnant women diagnosed with gestational diabetes or those having trouble managing blood sugar levels. Women in the study either ate one serving of pistachios (234 calories) or one serving of whole wheat bread (240 calories) after an overnight fast.

The women who ate the pistachios had a significantly lower rise in blood sugar compared to the whole wheat bread group. A similar beneficial response was seen with regard to insulin levels. The study suggests pistachios may be an effective alternative to low-fat, high-carbohydrate foods for women with gestational diabetes or gestational impaired glucose tolerance. The effect on blood sugar is not surprising, since pistachios are much lower in carbohydrates than whole wheat bread (12 grams vs. 42 grams for the serving sizes used in the study).

Reduces Risk of Cancer

Pistachios have been studied for their potential role in colon cancer prevention. A study of over 800 colon cancer patients, followed for several years, concluded that "diets with a higher consumption of nuts may be associated with a significantly reduced incidence of cancer recurrence and death in patients with stage III colon cancer."

Roasting pistachios does not diminish their health benefits in this regard. Raw or roasted varieties are both considered protective against colon cancer.

Protects Eye Health

Pistachios get their green coloring from lutein and zeaxanthin which research suggests may help to prevent age-related macular degeneration. These antioxidants protect eyes from cellular damage, keeping eyesight sharp as the years go on.

May Enhance Muscle Recovery

Compared to other tree nuts, pistachios have a higher essential amino acid ratio and the highest percentage of branched-chain amino acids. Branched-chain amino acids are believed by some to improve muscle recovery after exercise.

However, it is generally branched chain amino acid supplements that are studied rather than foods that supply BCAAs and results have varied. According to the National Institutes of Health, there is not enough evidence to support the use of BCAA supplements to improve performance, build muscle, or help tired and sore muscles to recover after exercise. But they add that eating foods containing protein automatically increases your intake of BCAAs.

Allergies

A tree nut allergy, which includes walnut, almonds, hazelnuts, pine nuts, cashews, pistachios, macadamias, pecans, Brazil nuts, and more, is one of the most common food allergies among children and adults.

Despite their name, peanuts are not actually a tree nut but rather a legume, so having a peanut allergy alone does not mean that you will also have an allergy to pistachios. That said, if you’re allergic to one tree nut, it’s likely that you’re allergic to others. An allergic reaction to tree nuts like pistachios can result in an anaphylactic shock and even a small amount can cause a reaction.

Varieties

Pistachios come in several varieties. You can buy them in the shell or shelled. Salted and flavored pistachios are usually roasted first to increase shelf-life and preserve their crunchy texture. To see if pistachios have added salt, check the sodium content on the Nutrition Facts Label. For maximum nutrition, go for raw, unsalted pistachios. Roasted nuts are still nutritious, but some of the key vitamins are degraded in high heat. To save money on pistachios, buy in bulk.

Storage and Food Safety

Pistachios, whether in-shell or already shelled, should be stored in an airtight container. They can be kept this way in the refrigerator for a year or in the freezer for two years. Storing pistachios at room temperature causes the nuts to go rancid more quickly due to their high fat content. Only keep pistachios at room temp for a few months, and for even less time in warmer temps. Keeping raw pistachios in the refrigerator is a good way to keep them fresh for longer.

How to Prepare

One of the simplest ways to enjoy pistachios is as a snack on their own. Because they don’t need to be refrigerated, they’re the perfect snack for on-the-go. Here are some other ideas on how to enjoy pistachios:

  • Throw chopped pistachios on your yogurt or morning oatmeal.
  • Use them as a crunchy topping for your salads in place of croutons.
  • Add pistachios to a cheese or charcuterie board in place of walnuts or almonds.
  • Pair pistachios with a piece of fruit for your afternoon snack. The fiber, fat, and protein will keep you satisfied.

Pistachios also make a great ingredient in recipes offering a satisfying crunch. Swapping out breadcrumbs and using pistachios as a crust for baked fish or chicken is a healthy and gluten-free option that is easy to pull off in the kitchen. Pistachios also have a place at the table when it comes to creating crunchy desserts.

Recipes

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Article Sources
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