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Pistachio nutrition facts

Wonderfully delicious pistachio nuts have long been revered as the symbol of wellness and robust health since ancient times. The kernels are enriched with many health-benefiting nutrients essential for optimum health.

Pistachio actually are kernels obtained from fruits belonging to the Anacardiaceae family, in the genus: Pistacia. The plant is a medium sized broad, bushy, dioecious, deciduous tree, believed to have originated in the mountain ranges of West-Asia and Turkey region. Several cultivars exist; however, the most popular variety grown for commercial purposes is kerman.

Delicious Pistachio nuts!

Pistachios grow well under hot, dry summer and cool winters. They are currently being cultivated at a larger scale in the USA, Iran, Syria, Turkey, and China. After plantation, it takes approximately eight to ten years until the plant produces its first major crop. Once established, it keeps bearing fruits for many years to come.

(Photo by bradspry)

Pista fruit, in fact, is a drupe (fruit with a large, central located single seed), and it is this seed kernel is what actually edible "pistachio nut". Each season, the tree bears heavy clusters of fruits which appear somewhat like that of a grape bunch. On its exterior, a mature fruit features hard, off-white color shell which splits apart exposing light green, oblong shape kernel inside. Pista kernel measures about 2 cm in length and 1 cm wide and weighs about 0.7-1 gm.

Health benefits of Pistachios

  • Pistachios are delicious tree nuts recognized for their wholesome nutrition properties. Together with walnuts, almonds, and cashew, they offer good sources of protein, fats, and minerals to inhabitants living around otherwise dry and arid regions of Central, West and South Asia.

  • Pistachios are rich source of energy; 100 g of kernels carry 557 calories. Additionally, they compose good amounts of mono-unsaturated fatty acids like oleic acid and antioxidants. Regular consumption of pistachios in the diet may help lowering total as well as bad LDL cholesterol and increase good HDL cholesterol levels within the blood. Research studies suggest that Mediterranean diet which is rich in dietary-fiber, mono-unsaturated fatty acids, and antioxidants can help reduce coronary artery disease and stroke risk by favoring healthy blood lipid profile.

  • Pista kernels are rich source of many anti-oxidant phyto-chemical substances such as carotenes, vitamin E, and polyphenolic antioxidant compounds. Research studies suggest that these compounds may help remove toxic free-radicals from the body, and thus, protect it from diseases, cancers, and infections.

  • Pistachios are excellent sources of vitamin-E; especially rich in gamma-tocopherol; compose about 23 g per100 g. vitamin E is a powerful lipid-soluble antioxidant essential for maintaining the integrity of cell membranes of mucosa and skin. In addition, vitamin E too works as scavengers of harmful Free oxygen radicals.

  • The nuts are packed with many important B-complex groups of vitamins such as riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B-6, and folates.

  • They are the storehouse of minerals like copper, manganese, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, and selenium. 100 g nuts provide 144% of daily-recommended levels of copper. Copper is an essential trace mineral that is required in neuro-transmission, metabolism, as well as red blood cell (RBC) prodution.

  • Pistachio oil extracted from kernels is one of the healthiest cooking oils. It has pleasent nutty aroma and possess excellent emollient properties. It helps keep skin well protected from dryness. Besides been used in cooking, it is also employed as “carrier or base oil” in traditional medicines in massage therapy, aromatherapy, in pharmaceutical, and in cosmetic industry.

Just a hand full of pistachios a day provides enough recommended levels of phenolic anti-oxidants, minerals, vitamins, and protein.

Selection and storage

Roasted pistachio nuts

Pistachios can be available in the markets year around. In the grocery stores, one may choose shelled, inshell(with-shell), roasted, salted, sweetened, etc put for sale. Try to buy unshelled (with intact outer coat), whole nuts instead of processed ones. They generally made available in airtight packs and in bulk bins.

Look for healthy, compact, uniform, off-white, inshell nuts that feel heavy in hand. They should be free from cracks other than the natural split, mold, spots, and of rancid smell.

Raw, unshelled pistachios can be placed under cool dry place for many months. However, shelled kernels should be placed in an airtight container and kept inside the refrigerator in order to prevent them turn rancid.

Culinary uses

Pistachio pavlova with kiwi slices
Pistachio pavlova with kiwi slices. Photo courtesy: Vegan feast catering.
  • The nuts are usually eaten as thay are, by splitting them open between fingers or using a nutcracker machine. They can also be enjoyed roasted, salted, or sweetened, just as in macadamia and peanuts.

  • Pistachios are nutty, yet pleasantly sweet in taste with a fruity aroma. Baklava, a sweet-pastry made of layers of paper-thin "phyllo or strudel dough" filled with chopped pistachio, almonds and cashew nuts and sweetened with syrup or honey, is a popular pastry preparation in Turkey, Iran, Armenia, and many Middle East states.

  • Roasted and crushed, its kernels can be sprinkled over salads, desserts, particularly sundaes and other ice cream based dessert preparations (for example, kulfi in Indian subcontinent), biscuits, sweets and cakes.

  • Split pistachios are a great addition to vegetable/fruit salads.

  • Popularly known as "pista," these nuts have been widely used in sweet dishes in Indian, Pakistani and other South-East Asian countries.

Safety profile

Pistachio nut allergy sometimes occur as an allergic manifestations because of chemical compound anacardic acid (urushiol. Cross-reactions may also occur with some other related tree nuts and fruits of Anacardiaceae family such as mango, cashew nuts... etc. Persons with known allergic reactions to these nuts may, therefore, require to observe caution while eating cashews and mango, and conversely.

The reaction symptoms may range from simple skin itching (hives) to severe form anaphylactic manifestations including breathing difficulty, pain abdomen, vomiting, and diarrhea. (Medical disclaimer).

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Further Resources:

1. USDA National Nutrient Database. 

2. Stanford School of Medicine Cancer information Page- Nutrition to Reduce Cancer Risk.

3. Agricultural Research Service- PDF.

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