Pistachios

By Katrin Koelle
Updated on 03. Jul. 2020

Pistachios might not be one of the most popular nuts in the U.S., but their buttery texture and versatile flavor is definitely worth a second look for home chefs.

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Pistachios...

  • ...strengthen bones. The combination of 130 milligrams of calcium and 500 milligrams of phosphorus contained in pistachios are the optimal building materials for strong, firm bones and healthy teeth.
  • ...can help lower blood fat levels. Pistachios are perfect for anyone with high cholesterol levels, as their omega-3 fatty acids have been proven to lower blood fat levels.
  • ...might help dieters lose weight. Although pistachios are high in fact, recent research has shown that pistachios can help dieters lose weight. In a U.S. study, scientists had one group of overweight participants eat 60 grams of savoury biscuits every day, and the other group eat 45 grams of pistachios each day. Despite pistachios having higher fat and calorie counts, those on the pistachio diet not only lost weight faster, but also achieved a lower BMI.
  • ...are packed with omega-3 fatty acids. Pistachios contain a substantial 1 gram of omega-3 fatty acids per 100 gram serving. This is particularly beneficial for vegetarians, who might be lacking in these fatty acids, as they normally occur in fish products.
  • ...are good for the blood. A 100 gram serving of pistachios contains around 7 milligrams of iron, more than some types of meat. Iron is an essential mineral for keeping blood healthy.
  • ...might help prevent certain types of cancer. According to recent research, substances found in pistachios can reduce the risk of developing certain types cancer by about 15 percent.
  • ...mold relatively quickly. Pistachios are susceptible to toxic molds (aflatoxins) that are not visible to the naked eye. Buying pistachios that are in their shell and a bright green color can help lessen the chances of purchasing spoiled pistachios. If your pistachios have a musty flavor, don’t eat them.

What You Should Know About Pistachios

Like cashews, pistachios don't techinically belong to the nut family, but are stone fruits. Pistachios grow in bunches of ten to 25 pieces on deciduous trees, which are often several hundred years old. The green nuts of the pistachio tree can be roundish or oval, depending on the variety, and are enclosed by a thin but very hard shell. Harvest time for pistachios falls around September, when their brownish seed skin turns red and the front of the shell opens slightly so that the green nut can be seen. Ripe pistachios must be harvested within about three weeks, otherwise they will be attacked by germs too quickly.

Origins

The home of the pistachio tree is Afghanistan and Persia or today's Iran. In the Iranian province of Khorasam, pistachios have been consumed since the 2nd century B.C. 

Season

The traditional harvest time for pistachios is early autumn. However peeled, roasted and possibly salted pistachios are available in the supermarket all year round.

Flavor

The soft, light green-colored pistachio haa a slightly sweet yet intensly nutty flavor. 

Our Favorite Pistachio Recipes

Find all our pistachio recipes here.

How Healthy Are Pistachios ?

Pistachios contain many valuable heart-healthy unsaturated fatty acids which can help prevent cardiovascular diseases and lower cholesterol levels. They're also packed with fiber, vitamin B and especially iron.

Pistachios are also packed with antioxidants. A serving of 100 grams contains even more polyphenol antioxidants than a cup of green tea. These substances ensure better protection of our body cells against free radicals and can slow down the aging process. Pistachios' high content of the vitamin gamma-tocopherol also protects against cell aging and might help reduce the risk of cancer. Studies have shown that the consumption of almost 70 grams of pistachios per day significantly increased the gamma-tocopherol level in the blood. Pistachios are also a great source of carotene, a plant substance which supports healthy vision.

Scientists at the University of California Los Angeles have found out that pistachios might even help dieters lose weight. For more than three months, scientists gave 52 overweight subjects either 45 grams of pistachios or 60 grams of savory snacks. The surprising result: those who were given the pistachios achieved a lower BMI value much faster than those eating more of the other snacks. The blood level of triglycerides (dietary fats that are deposited in body fat tissue) was also lower in those who had been consuming pistachios. 

PISTACHIO NUTRITIONAL INFO (100 g)  
Calories 615 
Protein 15 g
Fat 55 g
Carbohydrates 10 g
Fiber 10 g

Shopping and Cooking Tips

Purchasing

Pistachios are available with and without their shell, either roasted and salted or completely raw. Whichever prepration you prefer is a matter of taste, however make sure you are purchasing the more expensive variety if you can.  Food scientists have found that cheaper pistachios carry more risk of exposure to fungi and their damaging toxins.

Storage

Peeled pistachios should be kept airtight in the refrigerator, where they will keep for up to four weeks. Unpeeled pistachios can be stored in a cool and dry place for several months. If you like, you can also freeze pistachios, where they will keep for about a year.

What To Make With Pistachios

Pistachios go perfectly with ice cream, cakes, fruit salads, soups, desserts, vegetarian dishes and of course Middle Eastern dishes. With their appetizing green color they are also popular as a pretty garnish on both sweet and savory dihes. You can also easily make spiced pistachios as an easy, affordable homemade gift during the holidays.

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