Always tend to reach for walnuts or almonds as an afternoon snack? You might want to consider varying your routine by grabbing some pistachios instead the next time you’re at the grocery store.
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
Pistachios can pack a powerful punch for your health, says registered dietitian Laura Jeffers, Med, RD, LD. That’s because these little green gems are a great source of nutrition, and are brimming with vitamins and nutrients.
Why pistachios are a healthy choice
Making nuts such as pistachios a part of your everyday eating is associated with decreased risk of death from cancer, heart disease and respiratory disease, Jeffers says.
Pistachios and other nuts are a mainstay of the healthy Mediterranean diet. Studies link this diet to some of the highest life expectancy and lowest heart disease rates in the world. They’re also a nice source of protein (especially for vegans and vegetarians), with about 6 grams per ounce.
You don’t have to eat a lot of pistachios to reap the benefits. But beware! Their buttery, rich flavor makes them easy to over-indulge in.
What’s the right serving size? Aim for 1 to 1½ ounces a day. (That’s about a handful.) Or, if you’re more the counting sort, there’s roughly 49 pistachios in an ounce.
What’s the best way to avoid pigging out on them? Jeffers says one trick to avoid eating too many is to buy them in the shells instead of the pre-shelled variety. “They’ll take a little longer to eat because you’ll have to pry open the shells,” she says. “The shells also are a great visual reminder of how many you’ve eaten. This can help to keep you on track with portion size.”
And you don’t have to reserve pistachios for snacking either. One easy way to incorporate them into your diet each day? Jeffers suggest trying them as a garnish (Think of them as the perfect way to top off a healthy stir-fry, soup, salad or even hummus.) You can also find plenty of recipes using pistachios, from quick breads to pesto.
A closer look at pistachio’s health benefits
Need more persuasion about pistachios? Here are three reasons why pistachios can boost your health:
- They have nutrients like vitamin B6, which promotes blood flow by helping to carry oxygen through the bloodstream to cells. Vitamin B6 also promotes immune and nervous system health.
- They have plant-based compounds that act as antioxidants, including vitamin E, polyphenols and the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin. Two of these antioxidants, not found in other nuts, have been linked to a decrease in the risk of developing macular degeneration.
- They support healthy cholesterol levels. Pistachios have 13 grams of fat per serving, the majority of which (11.5 grams) comes from heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Studies have shown that adding pistachios to a healthy diet may help to lower levels of oxidized-LDL (bad) cholesterol. This is because of the nut’s high level of monounsaturated fat, which has been shown to reduce the levels of LDL cholesterol.