A search for pistachios on Pinterest brings up results ranging from appetizers to main courses, and even desserts and smoothies. Pistachios are popping up on restaurant menus, in salad kits and in the snack bags of professional athletes. Whether you’re already a fan of pistachios or you’re looking for a new healthy snack, there’s no better time to embrace the little green nut than on February 26th: National Pistachio Day.
Pistachios are an ancient nut and have grown in the Middle East for thousands of years. During the 1880’s, imported pistachios were popular in the United States, and a common form of distribution was via vending machines installed in underground train stations, bars and restaurants. In the early 1900’s, California’s Central Valley was recognized as an ideal growing location for pistachios and the first crops were planted around 1930. Years of experimenting took place and the first commercial crop in 1976 produced 1.5 million pounds of pistachios. Today, California, Arizona and New Mexico represent 100 percent of the US commercial pistachio production, and a majority of the pistachios produced are exported to countries around the world.
In the United States, we celebrate National Pistachio Day and the nut that is not only versatile as a recipe or snack ingredient, but also packs a wide range of health benefits, including benefits to your waistline. One serving of pistachios has just 160 calories but is packed with six grams of filling protein. What’s more, a serving of pistachios is equal to 49 nuts, which is more than any other tree nut. And since most pistachios come in a shell, the act of shelling the pistachio can actually slow down the eating process, which can lead to fewer calories taken in overall.
The predominant fat in pistachios is heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, and studies show that pistachios can be part of a heart-healthy diet and promote healthy blood lipid profiles. Emerging research also suggests that pistachios may help with blood-sugar management, even when eaten with a high-carbohydrate meal. Additionally, a recent study found that eating pistachios raises the level of antioxidants in the body, which may lead to lower levels of oxidized LDL cholesterol.
Fun facts about pistachios include:
– One serving of pistachios has as much potassium as an orange.
– You can get as much dietary fiber from one serving of pistachios as from ½ cup cooked broccoli.
– Pistachios contain more than 10% of the Daily Value of dietary fiber and essential vitamins and minerals like B6, thiamin, copper and phosphorus.
– Pistachios are considered part of the protein group, according to the USDA MyPlate.
“In addition to the health benefits associated with pistachios, we’ve seen many people turning to pistachios because they make for such a convenient snack, especially those looking for a pre- or post- workout snack,” says Judy Hirigoyen, director of global marketing at American Pistachio Growers. “Pistachios are easy to keep on hand, and they combine the protein, heart-healthy fat and electrolytes – such as potassium – that the body depends on.”
Pistachios can be included as a snack ingredient, such as in a make-your-own trail mix. Or try our recipe for Nutty-figgy Pistachio Sports Snacks.