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Superfood: Pistachios

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When the midday munchies come on strong, pass on the potato chips or candy bar and reach for a handful of pistachios instead. This week’s Greatist superfood is sure to satisfy hunger and— when eaten in moderation— can be more effective in managing weight compared to carb-heavy snacks [1].

Go Nuts For Pistachios — Why They’re Super

Part of the human diet since the late Paleolithic Era (yup, cavemen likely enjoyed these little treats), pistachios grow on trees in hard shells, which crack open to reveal the tasty nuts inside [2]. Aside from their earthy flavor and crunchy texture, pistachios are a naturally cholesterol-free snack that’s high in fiber and protein. Plus, a one-ounce serving of these nuts has almost as much potassium as a small banana.

And pistachios might do even more than fill us up. Research suggests pistachios can significantly reduce levels of LDL cholesterol (the “bad” type) while boosting antioxidant levels [3]. In addition to keeping cholesterol levels in check (and thereby lowering the risk for cardiovascular disease), pistachios might also be effective in weight management [4] [5]. But those watching their waistline should steer clear of the pre-shelled variety. Another study found that people consume up to 41% more calories from pistachios when they don’t have to crack the shell and work for it [2]. Guess that’s what kept the cavemen in shape!

Get Cracking — Your Action Plan

Sure, you can pig out on pistachio-flavored ice cream, but that isn’t the only (or nearly best) way to reap the health benefits of this superfood. Instead, sprinkle some on a salad, make a pistachio and basil pesto, or just nosh on a few right out of the shell. But be careful about chomping handful upon handful— after all, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. For a quick, healthy snack, stick to a one-ounce serving, or about 45 nuts. And remember, stay natural to avoid excess cholesterol and added sodium.

Superfood Recipe: Pistachio Pudding

By Tulika Balagopal

What You'll Need:

1 cup pistachios, shelled
3 cups milk (any fat content works)
3 eggs
1 cup brown sugar
1
/4 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon nutmeg
Unsweetened shredded coconut and strawberries for garnish

What to Do:

  1. In a blender, combine the pistachios and milk until smooth.
  2. Pour the milk and pistachio mixture into a large pot and whisk in the eggs.
  3. Heat this mixture over the stove on medium and stir in the sugar until dissolved.
  4. Allow the mixture to come to a boil. Then take the pot off of the stove, transfer to a bowl, and let cool.
  5. After the pudding has cooled to about room temperature, place in the fridge to chill before serving.
  6. Serve in individual dishes and top with coconut and strawberries.

Works Cited

  1. Pistachio nuts reduce triglycerides and body weight by comparison to refined carbohydrate snack in obese subjects on a 12-week weight loss program. Li, Z., Song, R., Nguyen, C., et al. Center for Human Nutrition, Los Angeles, CA. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 2010 Jun: 29(3): 198-203.
  2. In-shell pistachio nuts reduce caloric intake compared to shelled nuts. Honselman, C.S., Painter, J.E., Kennedy-Hagan, K.J., et al. Family and Consumer Sciences, Eastern Illinois University, Charleston, IL. Appetite. 2011 Oct;57(2):414-7. Epub 2011, May 27.
  3. Effect if pistachio diet on lipid parameters, endothelial function, inflammation, and oxidative status: a prospective study. Sari, I., Baltaci, Y., Bagci, C., et al. Cardiology Deparment, Gaziantep University, School of Medicine, Gaziantep, Turkey. Nutrition.
  4. Pistachio nuts reduce triglycerides and body weight by comparison to refined carbohydrate snack in obese subjects on a 12-week weight loss program. Li, Z., Song, R., Nguyen, C., et al. Center for Human Nutrition, Los Angeles, CA. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 2010 Jun: 29(3): 198-203.
  5. Effects of pistachios on cardiovascular disease risk factors and potential mechanisms of action: a dose-response study. Gebauer, S.K., West, S.G., Kay, C.D., et al. Integrative Biosciences and Biobehavioral Health, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2008 Sep;88(3):651-9.
  6. In-shell pistachio nuts reduce caloric intake compared to shelled nuts. Honselman, C.S., Painter, J.E., Kennedy-Hagan, K.J., et al. Family and Consumer Sciences, Eastern Illinois University, Charleston, IL. Appetite. 2011 Oct;57(2):414-7. Epub 2011, May 27.