Health Nut

by | Sep 14, 2008

Some of you have probably noticed that I love pistachio nuts. I cook with them all the time and sing their praises whenever given the chance. For me this is kind of like cheering for the underdog. Pistachios tend to be overlooked because so many articles tout the benefits of walnuts and almonds that we almost forget there are other nuts out there.

I am happy to report that the latest issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has a research paper dedicated to uncovering the benefits of pistachios. In the study, participants were fed a heart-healthy diet and were given either no pistachios, one serving of pistachios per day, or two servings of pistachios per day for four weeks. Importantly, the total number of calories was kept the same in all diets, assuring that body mass index did not change over the course of the study. This is very important when measuring cholesterol levels because weight loss alone can affect blood lipids and is often a confounder in controlled-feeding studies.

Despite the fact that participants were already eating heart-healthy diets, pistachio consumption significantly lowered LDL (“bad”) cholesterol in a dose-dependent matter (9% and 12% for one and two servings, respectively). This means that the more pistachios people ate the more benefit they received. Moreover, total cholesterol went down without a concomitant decrease in HDL (“good”) cholesterol. This is encouraging because lowering HDL is an unwanted side effect of many LDL lowering interventions.

Other cardiovascular disease risk factors improved as well, including a decrease in apo B (possibly the best predictor of CVD risk).

Pistachios also contain more phytosterols, potassium, vitamin B-6, beta-carotene, lutein and protein than most other nuts.

Some of my favorite pistachio recipes are already posted on this site. What do you like to do with pistachios?

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6 Responses to “Health Nut”

  1. Jed Wolpaw says:

    I accidentally bought a bag of the raw, as opposed to dry roasted, pistachios. Do I need to soak them in 10 molar HCl for 24 hours to cleanse them or are they okay to eat?

  2. Darya Pino says:

    jed:10M HCl? Somehow I doubt you have that in your pantry. I predict you will survive without the acid soak.

  3. Anonymous says:

    First, check out this cool website-http://www.nuthealth.org/nutrition/nutrient1oz.htmlSo my question is, what is the mechanism for these health benefits? Is it the lipid profile? Would these benefits be seen in really any nut(walnuts,almonds…) that has a satisfactory lipid profile? In the end, my guess is that your advise is thats its best to eat a healthy variety of nuts rather than focus on any single nut…….

  4. Darya Pino says:

    anon:Thank you for the link! I commend you for asking about the mechanism of action. In fact, in this study the scientists found the LDL lowering effect of pistachios is 7 times greater than would be predicted by the lipid profile alone (for those of you who don’t know, mono- and polyunsaturated fats have been proven to improve cholesterol measures in humans, so you may expect a benefit from adding any nuts to your diet). To address this they tested the effect of pistachios on lipid metabolism enzymes (cholesteryl ester transfer protein and stearoyl-CoA desaturase). Both were improved by pistachios, and the authors suggest that this may explain the additional benefit of pistachios that they observed.And yes, the point I wanted to make is that even though studies have not been done on every single fruit, vegetable or nut, there is a good chance that they all provide some special benefit and your best bet is to eat a wide variety of healthy foods.

  5. Chinasaur says:

    So how does this compare to an almond or walnut? Also, what are the predicted health benefits if my pistachio consumption is dominated by ice cream and macaroons?

  6. Darya Pino says:

    chinasaur:There is no doubt that nut consumption improves blood lipid levels, particularly LDL cholesterol. Walnuts are praised for their omega-3 fatty acid composition, whereas almonds are beloved for their vitamin E content. If taking wagers, it is best to include both in your diet.Pistachios seem to have an advantage beyond that of their lipid profile alone, but this is only beginning to be uncovered.There is certainly a case, however, that many of these effects could be negated by ice cream consumption. (Last time I checked there were no pistachios in macaroons). This is something I totally support, so long as you follow my advice the rest of the time :)All I’m saying is, go nuts!!

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