RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Though they’re perfect for snacking straight out of the bag, pistachio nuts add crunch and exotic flavor to all sorts of dishes (and let’s not forget pistachio ice cream). So the next time you grab some at the supermarket, pick up some extra to try out in a few pistachio recipes. You can buy pistachios in shells or unshelled, but nuts in shells will stay fresher longer. In an airtight container in the fridge, they'll keep for up to a year. If desired, you can remove the brownish skin by blanching pistachios in boiling water for about two minutes. Drain and rub off the skins while they’re still warm.
The flavorful little nuts are a good source of vitamin B6, thiamine, and potassium, and are high in vision-enhancing lutein, an antioxidant more typically found in dark leafy vegetables.
The nuts are also a great source of monounsaturated fat. In Mediterranean countries, a high intake of this fat (from sources like olive oil and nuts) seems to lower the risk of heart disease and possibly breast and colon cancers. Unfortunately, we Americans get about a third of our monounsaturated fat from meat, which also contains undesirable saturated fat, so the “Mediterranean effect” is lost on us. So look to pistachios for a more heart-healthy source of monounsaturated fat; they contain nearly as much as almonds.
Cholesterol-busting pistachios also have very high levels of LDL-lowering plant sterols, according to researchers at Virginia Tech University. In a Penn State University study, adults who consumed 20 percent of their calories from pistachios (about a ½-cup serving if you’re on a 1,800-calorie diet) lowered their LDL cholesterol by 12 percent (LDL is the "bad" type of cholesterol that raises your risk of cardiovascular disese). Another study, published earlier this month in the Journal of Nutrition (and funded by the Western Pistachio Association), found that people who ate a serving or two of pistachios every day for four weeks had lower levels of a form of LDL cholesterol than people who ate no pistachios. Finally, pistachios are chockfull of disease-fighting antioxidants. You’ve likely heard a lot about green tea’s antioxidant benefits? Well, pistachios actually rank higher than green tea on an antioxidant scorecard created by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Published on: June 1, 2010
Updated on: June 1, 2010