Move Over, Almonds: Pistachios Are Pretty Damn Good for You, Too

Photo: Getty Images / Maskot
When it comes to nuts, almonds and cashews seem to be getting all of the attention. They're now transcended their whole nut form to take the shape of milks, butters, and in the case of almonds specifically, flour. But there's one healthy nut that has been left out of this golden age: pistachios.

“Pistachios are super healthy," says Laura Ligos, RD, CSSD, founder of The Sassy Dietitian in Albany, New York. "They contain high quality fats in the form of monounsaturated fatty acids, which support heart health and help your body absorb fat-soluble vitamins, like A, D, E, and K."

Now, no one's saying that you need to break up with your favorite cashew or almond snack. But allow me to make the case for pistachios, which are currently green with envy over the attention their other nut cousins are getting.

Are there any particular benefits of pistachios?

“One of the best things about pistachios is the volume you can have," says Ligos. One 1-ounce serving of pistachios translates to about 49 nuts. Comparably, there are 23 almonds or 14 walnut halves per serving.

Let’s break down the nutrition info for 49 pistachios:

  • Calories: 159
  • Protein: 6 grams
  • Fat: 13 grams (2 grams sat fat)
  • Carbs: 8 grams
  • Sodium: 0 milligrams
  • Sugar: 2 grams
  • Fiber: 3 grams

Beyond the barebones nutrition facts, here are some of the biggest benefits of pistachios:

1. They have a really high protein count: Compared to other nuts, the six grams of protein per serving is on the higher end, says Ligos. (Almonds are about equivalent per serving, protein-wise, but walnuts have only 4 grams per serving, and cashews have 5 grams per serving.

2. Pistachios pack B vits: Pistachios supply one of the highest amounts of vitamin B6 in the nut category (about 38 percent of your daily value). “B vitamins help produce ATP [the energy within cells]. People tend to reach for a B-complex vitamin supplement to improve their energy, when they could just reach for food,” says Ligos. Like, pistachios.

3. Pistachios are high in antioxidants: They contain vitamin E and plant compounds called carotenoids, both of which help neutralize cell-damaging free radicals.

4. The nut’s good for your gut: You know how important your gut health is for overall wellbeing (linked to better immunity, healthier weight, mood). A small study in 2014 in the British Journal of Nutrition found that eating pistachios helped increase the number of potentially beneficial gut bacteria, even better than almonds.

5. They’re full of fiber: Three grams of fiber per serving is a big deal; it’s 12 percent of a woman’s daily need for the nutrient. Research shows it’s the best sources of fiber out of nuts, too.

How to eat pistachios (besides by the handful)

In case you need suggestions, Ligos has some thoughts. She says they're great tossed on a grain salad (the wild rice-citrus-pistachio combo is a classic). You can also crush them in a food processor and use as "breadcrumbs" to crust a piece of fish or chicken, she says. Blend pistachios with water, dates, vanilla, and salt to make pistachio milk—your morning coffee will never be the same. And if you're really feeling decadent, whip up some vegan pistachio donuts.

Another idea: Take that handy food processor and use it to make energy bites. Combine dates, pistachios and other mix-ins—chocolate, dried cherries, coconut—(you’ll need your handy food processor again for this), roll into balls, and take to work for a mid-morning pick-me-up or pre-workout snack.

So the next time your nut game is in a rut, you should probably shell out for some pistachios. You'll thank me later.

Speaking of nuts, you'll soon be able to DIY your almond milk at Whole Foods. And if nut milk isn't your thing, might we recommend banana milk?

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