Table of Contents
Pistachio Nuts are one of the most popular snacks in the world. Thanks to their nutritional value, great taste, and convenience, nearly one million tons of pistachios are consumed on a yearly basis around the world – an astonishing figure by the standards of any nut or seed. What exactly is it about pistachio nuts that make them so popular? What is the secret behind ‘pistachio magic?’ Read on.
What are Pistachio Nuts? Where do Pistachio Nuts Come From?
Pistachio nuts come from a beautiful, bright tree originally found in Central Asia and the Middle East. The fruit grows in clusters and are drupes, meaning they have thin skin and one hard nut in the center. Other drupe examples are olives and plums, but unlike those, we eat the nut rather than the fleshy part.
Archaeologists have discovered that human beings were eating pistachios all the way back in 6750 BC. Pistachios have played an interesting role in human history, featured in Pliny the Elder’s The Natural History in which he talks about their uses as a natural remedy for various ailments. Currently, the foremost exporters of pistachio nuts are Iran, United States of America, Turkey and China in descending order.
What is the Nutritional Value of Pistachio Nuts?
One reason pistachio nuts have remained a part of our diet for so long is their high nutritional value. They contain substantial amounts of protein, dietary fiber and healthy un-saturated fatty acids like oleic acid (or omega-9), palmitoleic acid and gadoleic acids. The nuts are rich in vitamins like Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E and B complex vitamins including thiamin, riboflavin, pyridoxine, folates, pantothenic acid and niacin. Pistachio nuts are also full of important minerals like calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, selenium, zinc, and manganese. They’ve got electrolytes like sodium and potassium as well. When you’re buying pre-shelled pistachios, make sure they still have the brown outer layer attached to them – it’s full of nutrients, and its presence is a sign that the nuts haven’t suffered from processing.
What are the Health Benefits of Pistachio Nuts?
A recent study done at Pennsylvania State University has proven that pistachios are effective at reducing bad cholesterol (LDL) levels, which in turn helps prevent risk of heart disease. Their high iron content and the presence of vitamin B6 help the body produce hemoglobin. Low hemoglobin levels result in fatigue, weakness, and shortness of breath, so it’s important to get enough iron and keep them up.
Fiber helps with digestion, and the healthy fats/proteins can help you feel full and stay energized which helps promote weight loss. It can seem counter intuitive, but the high calorie content and healthy fats/proteins can also help with healthy weight gain. They basically regulate your weight depending on what your body needs and how much of them you eat. Pistachios are also capable of improving your skin. The antioxidant vitamins in pistachios can fight signs of aging, and pistachio oil acts as a nourishing, natural moisturizer.
How Do You Eat Pistachio Nuts?
Pistachios are one of the most versatile nuts to eat and cook with. They complement both sweet and savory dishes – you can really be creative with the recipes you add them to. Try adding pistachios to plain yogurt or Greek yogurt and drizzle some honey on top for a well-rounded, energizing breakfast.
You can also add them to your favorite cookie or biscotti recipe—I really like this one with dried cherries. Pistachioritas (which are pistachios roasted with chile, lime and tequila) make a delicious, tangy snack or party food. Try out this flavor-packed version. For a savory dinner option, try this lamb stir fry with pomegranates and pistachios. Another place I like to throw in some pistachios is in rice or quinoa dishes. Yum. And of course, there’s the ever classic Pistachio ice cream. Bon Appetit!
What is Pistachio Butter and How do you Make it?
Pistachio butter has a creamy, smooth texture and is a nice alternative to regular butter. It features more protein and unsaturated vs saturated fats. Making your own pistachio butter is simple. There are all sorts of recipes and variations out there, some using raw pistachios and no oil or water, but this is my favorite:
Take 2 cups raw, pre-shelled pistachios and roast them for about 5 minutes at 350 degrees F. You’ll know that they’re ready when you just start to smell them cooking and they are slightly browned. Pour the roasted pistachios into a food processor and get them started for a few minutes before adding the rest of your ingredients. Add 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, 1 tablespoon honey, ¼ cup water and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Continue to process for about 10-15 more minutes (this is the tedious part—but it’ll be worth it!), or until you’ve reached your desired texture.
The nuts can collect on the side of the food processor bowl so every few minutes take a spatula and push that back down in with the rest of the mixture. I’d recommend adjusting the amount of oil or water depending on how smooth you like your nut butters. Start the pureeing process with these amounts or less, and add in small increments. A fun way to change things up is to add cinnamon, vanilla or honey for a sweeter butter. This healthy, delicious butter can be spread on toast, added to smoothies and desserts, and eaten straight outta the container with a spoon.
Are Pistachio Nuts Paleo?
Paleo, or the “caveman diet,” ascribes to the idea that our bodies are best equipped to process foods that were around in the days of our prehistoric ancestors. Pistachio nuts can be eaten as part of the paleo diet program. Concrete archaeological records can trace back pistachios as part of the human diet to as far back as 6750 BC!
The prehistoric diet of early homo sapiens remains a mystery, but there is evidence to support the idea that they ate pistachios as well. Nuts, starchy roots, and some fruits and veggies are the only sources of carbohydrates for paleo dieters, so it’s important to eat enough of them for a balanced diet.
Eating more pistachio nuts can help improve your heart health, energize you, and do wonders for your digestive system and cardiovascular system. However, they are a great example of the necessity of moderation. These nuts can do so much for you and your body, but you will ultimately hurt your body if you consider it a substitute for other healthy foods in your diet. Healthy fatty acids are crucial for body function, but too much of them will slow you down.
I will leave you with the wise advice of a YouTube video. Those tightly shut pistachios need not be wasted, and you don’t have to break your teeth in the process of opening them. Grab half of a shell from your discarded pile and stick it into whatever small opening there is and twist. These amazing nuts are like beers with built in bottle openers!