Pistachios: a hidden superfood?
Pistachios are a tiny nutritional powerhouse that can benefit your health in several ways. Although, many would argue that they should be avoided at all costs due to the higher amounts of fat and calories they contain. This statement could not be further from the truth. Rather, a major reason behind why Pistachios should be part of your diet is the fact that they are packed with numerous nutrients such as unsaturated fatty acids (e.g., MUFA and PUFA), protein, dietary fibre, magnesium, potassium, vitamin K, and phytochemicals such as phytosterols. All these components may act together to help promote cardiovascular health, glycaemic control and weight maintenance when consumed in moderation and, of course, in the context of an overall healthy and balanced diet.
Let’s take a closer look at how pistachios can benefit your overall health:
- Assist with weight loss
Pistachios are rich in both fibre and protein; these two nutrients increase the feeling of satiety, making you feel fuller for longer and, as a result, reducing your overall calorie intake. Fortunately, there is research to back pistachios’ weight loss properties; a 24-week study in individuals with excess weight showed that those who consumed 20% of their daily calories from pistachios lost 0.6 inches more of their waistline than those who did not consume any pistachios. So, if you are trying to lose some weight, consider including at least a small handful of pistachios into your diet!
- May improve cardiometabolic and gut health
Pistachios have been shown in numerous studies to reduce risks of heart conditions. Because pistachios have high antioxidant properties, they may reduce blood cholesterol levels and improve blood pressure, hence reducing your overall risk of heart disease. Pistachios tend to also have a low glycaemic index, which means if you are pre-diabetic or have blood glucose complications, pistachios can help promote healthy blood glucose levels. The benefits of pistachios do not stop there: due to their high fiber content, this may promote the healthy growth of good gut bacteria. Simply put, fibre gets fermented by the gut bacteria and these are converted into short chain fatty acids which have been shown to reduce the risk of digestive problems and gastrointestinal cancers. Overall, pistachios have several health protective factors, giving you another reason to include them in your diet.
- Delicious and simple to eat
Pistachios can be eaten in a variety of ways, you can make pistachio ice cream, add some over a fresh garden salad, or sprinkle some over your morning granola or porridge bowl. In other words, they can be consumed as delicious, convenient and healthy snacks.
As you can see, pistachios are an incredible source of several nutrients such as fibre, protein, and antioxidants. Their health benefits span from lowering blood sugar levels, improving gut health, and aiding weight loss. Also, did we mention that they’re delicious and fun to eat? So, the next time you’re at the supermarket, grab a bag of pistachios, you will thank yourself.
I have added in a simple pistachio ice cream recipe below, for you to try and more importantly enjoy!
- 100g pistachios
- 150ml milk
- 100g caster sugar
- 300ml heavy cream
- 300ml custard
- ½ tsp almond extract
Finely grind ¾ of the pistachios in a food processor. Then, pour them into a pan with the milk and sugar. Bring this mixture to a boil, stirring regularly to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat, leave to cool, then chill.
Chop the remaining pistachios. Whip the cream, then add in the custard, almond extract and then the nut milk until you obtain an even, smooth mixture. Churn in an ice cream machine. If you don’t own an ice cream machine, you can put the bowl in the freezer until the mixture is set and frozen 5cm in from the edges. Then remove from the freezer and whisk to break down the large ice crystals. Put the mixture back into the freezer and repeat the whisking process. You can then transfer to a rigid container and mix in the chopped pistachios and freeze completely until firm.
About half an hour before serving, you can transfer the ice cream to the fridge to soften and enjoy!
Gulati, S., Misra, A., Pandey, R. M., Bhatt, S. P., & Saluja, S. (2014). 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. Nutrition, 30(2), 192-197. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nut.2013.08.005
Ukhanova, M., Wang, X., Baer, D. J., Novotny, J. A., Fredborg, M., & Mai, V. (2014). Effects of almond and pistachio consumption on gut microbiota composition in a randomised cross-over human feeding study. Br J Nutr, 111(12), 2146-2152. https://doi.org/10.1017/s0007114514000385