Health Benefits of Pistachios...

Wonderfully delicious pistachio nuts have been revered as the symbol of wellness and robust health since ancient times. The nuts are enriched with many health-benefiting nutrients that are essential for optimum health.Pistachio nuts are dry fruits of species of trees belonging in the Anacardiaceae family, of the genus:Pistacia. The plant is a medium sized broad, bushy, dioecious, deciduous tree, believed to be originating in the mountain ranges of West-Asian region. Several cultivars exist; however, the most popular variety grown for the commercial purpose is the kerman.

Pistachios grow well under hot, dry climates with cool winters. They are currently being cultivated in large scale in the orchards in the USA, Iran, Syria, Turkey, and China. After plantation, it takes approximately eight to ten years until it produces its first major crop. Once established, it keeps bearing fruits for centuries.

The fruit, in fact, is a drupe (a fruit with a large, central located single seed), and the seed kernel is actually the edible portion. Each season, the tree bears heavy clusters of fruits, which appear somewhat like that of a grape bunch. Exteriorly, the mature fruit features off white colored, hard, shell with splits apart exposing yellow-light green colored oblong kernel, which measures about 1 inch in length and 1/2 inch in diameter.

Health benefits of Pistachios

Here arehealth benefits of pistachios that may make you want to include them in your diet on a regular basis.

Heart Health

Pistachios have been shown to reduce LDL ("bad") cholesterol and increase the good HDL cholesterol after only a short period of regular consumption. High in antioxidants such as vitamins A and E, they fight inflammation, protecting blood vessels and reducing risk of heart disease. Even a moderate intake of pistachios has been shown to increase levels of lutein, an antioxidant well known for protecting against oxidized LDL, reducing heart disease.

Eye Health

Pistachios contains two unique carotenoids not often found in other nuts. The carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin act as protective antioxidants. Antioxidants are substances that protect tissues from free radical damage in the body. Lutein and zeaxanthin have been associated with eye health and reduction of the risk for developing age-related macular degenerationm which is the leading cause of visual impairments and acquired blindness in the United States.

Weight Loss

While the consumption of nuts is encouraged due to the health benefits, it is still important to watch portion sizes. Though nutritious, they are also high in calorie which can ruin weight loss efforts. Studies have determined that no weight change was detected when pistachios were consumed in moderation. They are a lower calorie nut. A serving of pistachios is about 49 nuts, providing 170 calories. In addition, pistachios are most often found still in the shell. It takes a bit of work to get into them which slows eating time allowing the brain to more effectively signal the gut when a person is full. In addition, this slower eating can lead to more mindful eating and enjoyment of the food.

Diabetes Help

Eating pistachios may help to prevent Type 2 diabetes. 60 percent of the recommended daily value of the mineral phosphorous is contained in just one cup of pistachios. As well as breaking down proteins into amino acids, phosphorous aids glucose tolerance.

Healthy Blood

Pistachios are an incredibly rich source of vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 is essential to make hemoglobin, the protein responsible for carrying oxygen through the blood stream to cells, and is also shown to increase the amount of oxygen carried.

More Beneficial Nutrients

In addition to their contribution to heart and eye health, pistachios are also an excellent source of copper, manganese and Vitamin B6, as well as a good source of a variety of other B vitamins. Copper is important as a component of enzymes and helps in the formation of connective tissue. Manganese plays a role in tissue development, growth, reproduction and the metabolism of fat and carbohydrates. Vitamin B6 is important in the development of antibodies within the immune system and it also assists with healthy nerve function and the production of red blood cells. Pistachios also contain fiber which is beneficial for gastrointestinal health.

Immune System

A healthy immune system requires adequate intake of vitamin B6, which pistachios abound in. A surfeit of vitamin B6 can retard brain activity as well as decrease the effectiveness of the immune system for fighting infections. Vitamin B6 found in pistachios also helps the body make healthy red blood cells, and helps maintain the health of lymphoid glands, such as the thymus, spleen and lymph nodes, ensuring the production of white blood cells that defend the body from infections.

Skin Health

Pistachios are a great source of vitamin E, a powerful fat-soluble antioxidant, essential for maintaining the integrity of cell membranes and often recommended for healthy and beautiful skin. Vitamin E does an excellent job protecting the skin from UV damage, providing daily defense against premature aging and skin cancer.

Nervous System

The vitamin B6 so abundant in pistachios has wide-ranging effects on the nervous system. Messaging molecules called amines require amino acids to develop, which in turn rely on vitamin B6 for their creation. Furthermore, B6 plays a crucial role in the formation of myelin, the insulating sheath around nerve fibers that allows optimal messaging between nerves. Furthermore, vitamin B6 contributes to the synthesis of serotonin, melatonin, epinephrine and gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA, an amino acid that calms the transmission of nerve impulses throughout the nervous system.

Best Choices

Choose pistachios that are still in the shell and avoid heavily salted varieties. Excess sodium does raise blood pressure in some people. Select pistachios with a light green color with a beige shell. Colored varieties, such as those in shades of red, come out during the holidays. They are nice for decoration, but have been dyed. The original green color is a fresher, more natural choice. You can store pistachios in an airtight container for up to three months in the fridge or freeze them for six months so don't be afraid to buy them in bulk if you find a good deal.

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