Staring at the shadows dancing across the ceiling at 1 a.m. again? If only there were something — natural yet effective — to help you get to sleep and stay in the Land of Nod. Enter pistachios (maybe). Does their melatonin content help you snooze?
Do pistachios contain melatonin?
Like all seeds and nuts, pistachios provide a bunch of melatonin.
However, the 2019 study suggesting just how much they provide has a few flaws and potential biases. And it only looked at one type of pistachios — American pistachios.
So while they do provide melatonin, are they a miracle cure for sleep problems? Probably not, TBH, as supplements provide a whole heap more melatonin that dietary sources, anyway.
Still, pistachios are tasty and nutritious.
The Internet buzz is that pistachios just might be that magic little sleeping “pill” from Mama Earth’s pantry/medicine cabinet. And they come in funky little jackets to boot.
Let’s crack this one open and pop out all the info you need on these seeds.
Not gonna keep ya in suspense — pistachios have melatonin. And plenty of it.
But before we go nuts with all kinds of data — kernels of wisdom, if you will — how about a brief primer on melatonin? It’s key that you understand what it is and why it’s so darned hyped.
Melatonin for the newb
Melatonin is much more than a trendy and casually tossed around buzzword.
First thing to know is that melatonin is a hormone. It’s naturally produced by and in your brain. But, you can also get melatonin from foods or synthetic supplements.
Melatonin helps your body regulate its internal cycles and functions — like sleeping. (Perhaps you’ve heard the term circadian rhythms? Yah, that’s what we’re talking about here.) There are any number of things that can disrupt how your body produces melatonin, like:
- poor sleep hygiene (Really, banish that blue-lit cellphone from your bedside!)
- travel across time zones
- the list goes on…
When you have a melatonin deficiency or your body clock is outta whack, you can develop a whole bunch of issues. Sleep troubles are somewhere near the top of the pile. Many people supplement their melatonin to resolve their slumber challenges.
Pistachios and melatonin: a promising study
OK, back to pistachios and melatonin.
According to a 2019 study American pistachios have mega quantities of melatonin — a whopping 660 nanograms per gram (ng/g) of the stuff.
It was already documented that nuts and seeds provide the most melatonin of all plant sources. The LSU/APG research underscores that pistachios just happen to be an even more melatonin-y member of that food group.
Before you unfurl your bedroll and start scarfing down pistachios, though, there are some potential caveats to mention about this study.
- It was sponsored by an industry trade group. There could be some bias? “Wow, American pistachios are the best!” say the people growing American pistachios.
- It only looked at American pistachios. The U.S. only grows a handful of the 45 main pistachio varieties. All American pistachios are grown in California, Arizona, and New Mexico. A 2017 benchmark study of dietary melatonin analyzed other types (possibly grown in other places with different environments) and found that those pistachios have melatonin levels of about 230 ng/g.
- The study abstract highlights results based on UHPLC analysis. A different kind of analysis, spectrofluorometry, had different results that showed much lower melatonin levels in pistachios. (But pistachios are still melatonin leaders among its kin.)
One thing to note here is that food sources of melatonin may work differently or have a different degree of effectiveness than melatonin supplements.
One animal study suggested that melatonin from food impacted the test subjects much less than melatonin from supplements.
That said, melatonin can be a total workhorse in your bod.
Benefits of melatonin
Melatonin does a body good! In fact, it can help with much more than sending your jet lag on a one-way trip to elsewhere or wrangling that insomnia into submission.
A 2017 review suggested many possible therapeutic applications or qualities of melatonin:
- pro-aging support
- diabetes management
- weight management
- antitumor and anticancer
- cardiovascular protection
- helping form more new blood cells
- immune system support
- pre-surgery anxiety reduction
- supporting circadian rhythms
A different review suggested that melatonin can also support bone and tooth healing.
There’s even research on whether or not melatonin can help prevent or treat COVID-19 (although it’s too early to say whether it actually helps, and it’s no replacement for the vaccine, folks).
In none of these suggested uses are melatonin supplements a replacement for conventional treatment. They may simply help you feel better while you pursue other remedies.
Nothing in life is without risk, right? Same goes for mighty melatonin.
There isn’t a lot of research into the long-term effects of high doses or extended-duration use of melatonin. But for people who take an appropriate amount of melatonin for a short time, it’s probably safe.
Side effects and possible downsides of melatonin (and/or other ingredients in your supplements) are usually mild. In adults, they may include:
- dizzy spells
In children, they might also cause bedwetting and agitation.
By that, we mean excessive doses and/or prolonged use of the supplements. They may also interact with other medications. People who take meds for epilepsy or blood-thinning medications should avoid melatonin supplements.
As with other supplementation, you should start “low and slow.” Consume just a small amount and see how it affects you. Adjust the amount or kind of melatonin from there.
You should only take melatonin supplements in small doses and for short periods of time.
The FDA regulates dietary supplements as food, not medications, so it’s important to choose high quality products from reputable brands (so you can trust the potency level and ingredients on the label).
Always stay within the melatonin product’s guidelines for use.
Absolutely! When consumed in moderate amounts as part of a well-rounded and balanced overall diet, pistachios are seeds of wellness. Isn’t it great when something that’s supper yummy is also a boon to your health?
Got pistachios in your cupboard and want to give them a crack as a sleep aid?
Try eating an ounce of unsalted kernels about 30 to 60 minutes before hitting the sack. (Avoid eating too much or it could have the opposite effect.)
Pistachios may be small, but they pack in a lot of tasty goodness besides all that melatonin. A 1-ounce serving (49 kernels) can be a healthful addition to your cooking and snacking repertoire.
Check out these nutritional stats:
|Vitamin B1||0.247||milligrams (mg)|
Other useful compounds in pistachios
Even if you aren’t looking to pistachios’ melatonin to ease your sleep woes, you may be pleased to know they have other beneficial properties.
- a source of healthy fats
- high in fiber
- a complete protein
Benefits of pistachios
Iranians call pistachios “smiling nuts” and the Chinese call them “happy nuts.” Yes, this is supposedly due to the grinning-mouth look of the cracked shells. But, they could be fitting terms of endearment for more than their looks.
Pistachios have a wealth of potential wellness perks. Science says these little green goodies may well provide benefits for:
Are pistachios high in melatonin? Yes. They’re one of the most melatonin-dense plant foods.
Melatonin has loads of potential benefit to your sleep and overall health. But, be mindful — melatonin from your diet and from synthetic supplements may not react the same in your body.
Plus, melatonin has a few possible side effects. So, if you’re going to use melatonin, be sure to get your melatonin from trustworthy sources.
Pistachios are also awesome for your wellbeing. They’re full of nutrients and flavor. So don’t be stingy — toss some pistachios into your trail mix bars, chop and add them to savory dishes, and elevate your ho-hum avocado toast.
Get creative or hit the endless recipe box known as the World Wide Web for inspiration.