How healthy are these green snacking nuts, anyway? We'll tell you.

Brierley Horton, M.S., R.D.
December 06, 2019

Here's a fun fact: did you know pistachios are related to mangoes and the spice sumac? Perhaps that explains why they pair so deliciously with savory dishes, spiced meals and sweets.

Their culinary diversity aside, in the category of nuts, pistachios deserve some major health accolades. First, they're the lowest-calorie nut. In a 1-ounce, or 1/2-cup serving, you get 49 pistachios, which is much more than their almond and walnut cousins.

Pistachios also stand out—quite literally—with their green hue. At first you may think NBD, but their coloring comes from two key compounds—lutein and zeaxanthin—which are great for eye health, acting like sunglasses to help protect your eyes today and also helping to keep age-related macular degeneration at bay in the future.

While we're comparing, research shows pistachios also win for being the nut with the most potassium (a nutrient that most Americans don't get enough of), as well as a type of vitamin E (which, along with the nuts' other antioxidants, may help offer some protection against cancer).

Nutrition Facts: What's in a serving of pistachios?

In a 1-ounce serving (about 30 grams), which is about 1/2 cup with shells, or 49 pistachios, there are:

  • Calories: 160
  • Protein: 6 g
  • Fat: 14 g
  • Saturated fat: 1.5 g
  • Unsaturated fat: 11 g
  • Carbohydrate: 8 g
  • Sugars: 2 g
  • Fiber: 3 g
  • Sodium: 0 mg

You also get healthy doses of copper, manganese, vitamin B6, thiamin, phosphorus and magnesium in a serving of pistachios.

The Health Benefits of Pistachios

There is ample research on pistachios—eating them regularly is good for your heart and may help lower your risk of cardiovascular disease in the future. Making them a regular part of your diet could also help prevent future weight gain. Here, we pulled together a list of truly notable benefits.

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Improve Your Cholesterol

There's quite a handful of research around the cholesterol-lowering power of adding pistachios to your diet: studies show that pistachios can help improve total cholesterol, "bad" LDL cholesterol and also your ratios of total to "good" HDL cholesterol, as well as LDL to HDL ratios. But also, did you know that there are types of LDL that are particularly damaging? There are—and there's even research that suggests eating pistachios can help with those types, too. Here's the catch, though: most of the studies called for adding pistachios to a lower-fat diet, or a moderate-fat diet. In other words, you can't just add pistachios to your usual Western diet and expect to see great benefits.

Keeps Blood Vessels Supple

There are some studies that suggest pistachios could help lower your blood pressure, but there isn't enough research to say eating them will truly improve your blood pressure. That said, keeping your blood vessels supple and the lining of your blood vessels healthy can help you maintain a healthy blood pressure—and also is important for your overall heart health. And there is research that shows eating pistachios (as part of an otherwise fairly healthy diet and a lifestyle that includes exercise) helps maintain healthy blood vessels. Try these research-backed tips to help lower your blood pressure.

Help with Type 2 Diabetes

There's a double diabetes benefit to eating pistachios. Eating pistachios can help with glucose and insulin control in people with prediabetes, per one study published in Diabetes Care. But also, other larger studies suggest that regularly eating pistachios (and other nuts) can help lower your risk of type 2 diabetes. Experts think this is thanks to their fiber, healthy fat and antioxidants.

Good for Your Gut

A serving of pistachios delivers 3 grams of fiber, which is about 11% of your daily fiber goal. That alone is good for your gastrointestinal health! But also, newer research shows that pistachios promote a healthy makeup of the good bugs in your gut (aka your microbiome) too. And that's because pistachios contain prebiotics, which is the "food" that feeds the probiotics in your gut.

Help the Planet

Not only are they good for your health, but pistachios are good for the planet. They are a source of plant-based protein—and when you eat pistachios in place of an animal protein source (think: beef, chicken, etc.), you are contributing to a more sustainable food system worldwide.

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