Pistachios are the seeds of the pistachio tree. They’re usually green and slightly sweet. They’re called nuts, but botanically pistachios are seeds. People have been eating them for thousands of years.
The kernels can have different colors, ranging from yellow to shades of green. They’re usually about an inch long and half an inch in diameter. But if you want to taste one, you’ll have to crack open its hard shell first.
The pistachio tree originated in western Asia, and archaeologists believe pistachios became a food as early as 7,000 B.C. They came to the United States in the mid-19th century and commercial production began in the 1970s.
California, Arizona, and New Mexico make up all of America’s commercial pistachio production. You can buy pistachios shelled or unshelled, roasted, or salted. They’re available in most grocery stores, and you can buy them in bulk from pistachio growers.
Pistachio Health Benefits
Among the possible health benefits of pistachios:
High levels of unsaturated fatty acids and potassium. Both have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory traits.
They can lower your chances for cardiovascular disease.
Pistachios are bursting with the fiber, minerals, and unsaturated fat that can help keep your blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol in check.
Their fiber and protein can make you feel fuller for longer. This fiber can also have a positive effect on your gut by aiding "good" bacteria.
They can help you manage your weight since they’re a nutritious and satisfying snack. This may help you eat less overall and lose weight. Buying pistachios in their shells slows down your eating.
Some studies suggest that eating pistachios lowers the amount of fat and sugar (glycemic index) in your blood, as well as improves the flexibility and tone of your blood vessels.
Risk of Pistachios
Although raw pistachios don’t have much sodium (1 cup has about 1 milligram), that’s not true for roasted pistachios, which are often salted. A cup of dry roasted pistachios with salt has 526 milligrams of sodium. Too much sodium can lead to things like high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.
If you have fructan intolerance -- a bad reaction to a type of carbohydrate -- pistachios might bother your belly. If so, you may have:
Pain in your abdomen
A 1-ounce serving of pistachios, which is about 49 kernels, has about 159 calories and:
5.72 grams of protein
7.7 grams of carbs
12.85 grams of fat
3 grams of fiber
Pistachios are cholesterol-free and a great source of vitamins and minerals, including:
They also pack quite a punch of potassium. In fact, a 2-ounce serving has more potassium than a large banana and as much fiber as a cup of cooked broccoli.
How to Prepare and Eat Pistachios
Pistachios can sometimes be tricky to eat since they have a tough shell. If there’s a crack in the shell, you can use the shell of another pistachio to pry it open. If there isn’t a crack, you can place the nuts on a cutting board, cover them with a towel, and hit them just hard enough so the shells open.
Pistachios will stay fresh (shelled or in shell) for up to a year in a refrigerator or for up to 3 years in the freezer.
You can enjoy them raw, on their own, and in things like:
Ice cream or gelato
Baklava (a sweet pastry)