Chances are you know pistachio from its ice cream. The oilseed, which is not very popular, has a slightly sweet flavor and a greenish hue. The food is part of the same family as walnuts, almonds and chestnuts and contains several important nutrients for the body.
“Pistachio is a dried fruit and its distinctive color is due to the presence of some antioxidants, such as lutein and anthocyanin. Among the nuts, it has large amounts of potassium, vitamin E, K, in addition to being a good source of calcium, iron, zinc and magnesium”, highlights Marcella Garcez, nutritionist and director of Abran (Brazilian Association of Nutrology).
It is worth mentioning that pistachios can be consumed whole, fresh, roasted, salted and processed. In addition to being present in some recipes, accompanying savory dishes and also desserts.
Here are some benefits of consuming pistachios more often in everyday life:
1. Helps with satiety
Pistachio nutrients such as protein, healthy fats and fiber help with satiety. They are absorbed more slowly, so they are less hungry.
“Due to the concentration of fiber, pistachios contribute to weight control, by increasing satiety. The food causes the carbohydrate of other nutrients to be absorbed slowly and thus reduces the glycemic peak, inhibiting the hunger center” , says Edvaldo Guimarães Júnior, a nutrition specialist at the HSPE (Hospital for the State Public Servants).
A 2020 study showed that men and women who consumed a daily serving of pistachios reduced their BMI (body mass index) and also their waist circumference.
2. Improves bowel function
Due to the presence of fiber —in 30 g of food there are 3.18 g of the nutrient—, pistachios help in the functioning of the intestinal tract, facilitating the elimination of feces of toxins from the body. In addition, it increases the levels of beneficial bacteria in the gut.
But it is important to consume plenty of water to facilitate intestinal motility.
3. Controls blood glucose
Including pistachios in main meals is one way to contribute to the glycemic index. That’s because the oilseed contains proteins, healthy fats and fibers, helping to control blood glucose. Such a factor is important for people who have diabetes or are predisposed to the disease.
“Pistachio consumption helps control blood glucose, as it plays a role in reducing insulin resistance. It also allows glucose to be released more slowly into the bloodstream”, says Myrla Christiane de Oliveira, nutritionist and master in human nutrition at Fanut/UFAL (Faculty of Nutrition, Federal University of Alagoas).
4. Protects the body from free radicals
Among the main antioxidants present in pistachios that protect the body from damage caused by free radicals are: vitamin E, beta-carotene and lutein carotenoids, in addition to anthocyanins.
It is known that antioxidants are important nutrients to prevent diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and even premature aging.
5. It is a source of protein
Pistachio, like other oilseeds, has a large amount of protein: in 30 g of the food we find about 6 g of the macronutrient. Among the benefits of protein are: more satiety, aid in muscle mass gain, increased immunity and improved synthesis of some hormones.
“In 100 g of pistachios, there are about 20 g of protein. In chicken, for example, we have about 27 g of protein in every 100 g of the food. This makes pistachios a good source of protein, but it is important to diversify sources due to bioavailability”, explains Guimarães Júnior. Bioavailability is the identification of the proportion that causes the nutrient to be absorbed and metabolized, and then becomes available for action in our body.
6. Controls cholesterol and high blood pressure
Regular consumption contributes to lowering blood pressure and “bad” cholesterol (LDL). This is due to the antioxidant effect, the amount of fiber and the good fats present in the food.
“In addition to containing vitamins such as A and E, which help prevent inflammatory diseases, it reduces the oxidation of LDL cholesterol and its deposition in the vessels, which impacts on reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases. In addition to being rich in potassium, which helps to reduce retained liquids, favoring blood pressure control”, says Garcez.
7. Contributes to eye health
As a source of antioxidants such as lutein and zeaxanthin, pistachio consumption is important for eye health. These substances reduce an individual’s risk of developing chronic eye diseases such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. Both conditions, if left untreated, cause blindness.
8. Increases longevity
Oilseeds, like pistachios, can increase life expectancy. According to studies, these foods fight and prevent diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer. Therefore, regular consumption would prevent these health problems and increase longevity.
9. Protect the heart
By reducing blood pressure and “bad” cholesterol in the body, regular consumption of pistachios is beneficial for the heart. Both conditions are considered risk factors for cardiovascular problems. Therefore, oilseeds, in general, contribute to the prevention of diseases that affect the organ, such as heart attacks.
10. Reduces the risk of colon cancer
Pistachios reduce the risk of some types of cancer, such as colon cancer. This is due to its high fiber content and for improving bowel function. In addition to having antioxidants in its composition.
However, it is worth noting that no food prevents cancer in isolation. It is necessary to maintain healthy eating habits and include physical activity in the routine, for example.
11. It is a source of energy
It is a good option to consume pistachios before training. The oilseed releases energy slowly, which helps to have more energy during physical activity. In addition, as a source of protein, it contributes to muscle recovery after exercise.
How to consume?
There is no daily recommendation for pistachio consumption. However, the ideal is to consume approximately 30 g per day. The food is considered high in calories: there are about 562 calories per 100 g.
Prefer consumption during intermediate snacks or breakfast, together with fruit or yogurt, for example.
Risks and Contraindications
Most of the time, consumption of pistachios is safe. But the food can cause allergies in some people. According to the experts consulted, the contraindications are more related to the ingredients that are associated with pistachios. It is important to pay attention to pistachios roasted with a lot of salt or sugar, for example.
It may be interesting to prepare the toasted and lightly salted version at home. After soaking in water, simply place the pistachios on the baking sheet until dry and crispy. Then you can add a small amount of salt.