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8 Health Benefits of Pistachios, 3 Side Effects & Nutrition Facts

Pistachios are a very healthy, nutritious and tasty snack for in between meals. In this article, you can find out more about the "happy nut", what you should be aware of when buying and eating them, and what they can be used for.

The fact that pistachios are healthy and nutritious is nothing new: they’ve been a popular food for thousands of years and the journey since they were first discovered has been a long one.

What are pistachios?

What are pistachios?

Strictly speaking, pistachios are not nuts at all, but belong to the drupe family, whereby we only eat the seed and discard the shell that surrounds it. They grow on deciduous trees that belong to the sumac family, just like the mango or cashew, for example.

Pistachio trees can grow to be over 300 years old and reach a height of up to 12 meters. However, they are kept much smaller when cultivated on plantations.

The name pistachio is derived from the Latin "pistacia vera" which means "green almond".

The pistachio gets its nickname the "smiling nut" or "happy nut" as the shell opens sideways at the seam during drying.

Where do pistachios come from?

People used to cultivate pistachio trees and consume the fruits in the Middle East probably going back as far as the Neolithic period, more than 10,000 years ago. In the early days, they were a delicacy, reserved exclusively for the nobility.

Pistachios were used as a dye and were even considered a remedy for toothache and cirrhosis of the liver. Over the course of time, they made their way to other countries through trading routes and enjoyed great popularity due to their long shelf life and high nutritional value.

They reached Italy during the reign of the Roman emperor Tiberius, making it to the USA at long last in the 19th century.


Pistachio plantation

Nowadays, the world’s largest growing regions are located in Iran, California (USA) and Turkey. Pistachios are also grown in Europe on the Mediterranean coast, in Greece and Sicily, for example.

Harvesting takes place in September and October by shaking the trees and collecting the pistachios as they fall. Their taste is slightly sweet, nutty and very aromatic.

Pistachios: nutritional facts and calories

Below you will find an overview of the main nutritional values of pistachios, from the calories to the healthy vitamins they contain.

Nutritional values100 grams pistachios
Calories602 kcal
Protein18 g
Fat content52 g
Carbs12 g
Sodium5 mg
Potassium1020 mg
Calcium135 mg
Magnesium160 mg
Phosphate500 mg
Iron7.3 mg
Beta-carotene150 µg
Vitamin E5.2 mg
Vitamin C7 mg
Folic acid60 µg

Health Benefits of Pistachios

Pistachios: the health benefits

Pistachios contain a lot of nutrients, meaning they are extremely healthy, and can also help with a variety of physical ailments or even prevent disease. Read on to find out more about how pistachios can benefit your health.

Pistachios can prevent cardiovascular disease

Pistachios are high in unsaturated fatty acids, which are especially good for the heart and blood vessels. As such, they can help lower your cholesterol, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.

The World Health Organization also recommends consuming more potassium if you have high blood pressure, and pistachios have plenty of this.

Pistachios can help with diabetes

Pistachios can help with diabetes

Pistachios also have a positive effect on your body’s triglyceride levels. High triglyceride levels increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases and obesity, among other things.

Diabetes patients, in particular, have high levels of triglyceride and these can be noticeably reduced by consuming pistachios, as can excessive blood sugar levels.

Many diabetics also suffer from having certain gut bacteria, which can also be reduced by eating pistachios.

Pistachios can reduce the risk of cancer

Due to their high gamma-tocopherol content, pistachios have a positive effect on the prevention of certain types of cancer, including lung cancer, for example. Gamma-tocopherol is a component of vitamin E and protects against premature cell ageing, meaning that it also conducive to softer skin.

Due to their positive influence on certain gut bacteria, pistachios can reduce the risk of colon cancer as well as improve digestion.

Pistachios can help you lose weight

Pistachios can help you lose weight

Although you might not suspect it due to their high fat content, pistachios can be excellent at helping you lose weight. First and foremost, they contain a lot of healthy fats that burn existing fatty deposits in the body.

Secondly, your body does not completely absorb their fats, meaning that they do not make you gain any weight, and they even keep you full for a long period of time.

However, you should not consume pistachios as an addition to your usual diet as they are high in calories. Eat them as a substitute for chocolate or chips instead.

Thanks to their high protein content, pistachios can also help you build muscle.

Top tip: if you buy pistachios with the shells still on, this will stop you eating them too quickly, as you’ll have to unshell them before popping them in your mouth. This will make you eat more slowly and more consciously, and your body will have more time to realize when it feels full.

The benefits of pistachios for your skin

The benefits of pistachios for your skin

The high content of vitamin E in pistachios also has a positive impact on your skin. What are known as phenolic compounds work as antioxidants to make pistachios a natural skincare product. They are capable of destroying free radicals, which can cause premature ageing.

In fact, pistachio oil is used in many skincare products as it is a potent antioxidant, and using pistachios in your skincare routine will make your skin glow, help to control acne and improve your skin elasticity.

The benefits of pistachios in pregnancy

The benefits of pistachios in pregnancy

During pregnancy and when breastfeeding, a woman’s body needs more folic acid, a B vitamin. Pistachios alone cannot cover this need completely, but they still contain a lot of folic acid.

In addition, the high protein content promotes the maintenance and formation of muscles. This is not only good for the pregnant woman, but also for the embryo.

Pistachio Benefits for Men

Vitamin E contained in pistachios helps improve erectile function and reduces estrogen production in the male body. Pistachios are popular among men as it promotes the quality of sperm during erection.

Pistachios contain a healthy amount of L-arginine, which our body uses to create nitric oxide. It helps in promoting blood flow when you are erect.

However, it is one of the few foods that are a rich source of aphrodisiac properties. Aphrodisiac properties lead to better sexual vitality, especially in men.

Pistachios Before Bed

Pistachios Before Bed

Pistachios have a relatively high content of melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that is produced in the brain and shapes your sleep pattern.

The level of melatonin in your body changes. It tends to be low in the morning and increases throughout the day. At night it remains elevated. Your body tells you when it is time to go to bed.

Unfortunately, your melatonin level can be quickly affected by stress or too little light during the day. If your melatonin level is too low, your brain and body can no longer tell when it’s time to go to sleep.

In fact, this is where pistachios can help. Eating a handful of pistachios before going to bed will boost your natural melatonin level and can make you feel less tossed and turned at night.

Conclusion: Are Pistachios Good for You?

Are Pistachios Good for You?

In conclusion, pistachios have many benefits for your health. They have a positive influence on your blood sugar level, can prevent cardiovascular diseases as they lower your cholesterol level, help you lose weight and promote a healthy cell structure and thus a healthy skin as they contain important minerals and vitamins.

Pistachios are beneficial for the health of pregnant women and the fetus, while for men they improve sperm quality and have an aphrodisiac effect.

Also, pistachios can straighten your melatonin level and thus improve your sleep.

So, to sum up: Yes, pistachios are good for you.
But before you eat pistachios non-stop now, you should first inform yourself about the possible side effects of eating a lot of pistachios. Therefore, read on.

Side Effects of Pistachios

Despite all the benefits and positive effects of pistachios, the little "green almonds" have a few disadvantages that you should be aware of.

Pistachios Contain Lots of Calories

Side Effects of Pistachios

True, pistachios are conducive to losing weight when they replace unhealthier snacks. However, they are also real calorie bombs.

100 grams of pistachios have around 600 kilocalories, which is why they hit the figure very quickly when consumed in large amounts. Therefore, you should definitely consume them in moderation.

A healthy portion of pistachios has about 165 kilocalories, which is about 49 pieces or 30 grams. Walnuts, almonds or even hazelnuts, however, have far more calories.

Pistachios Are Toxic If Stored Incorrectly

If pistachios are stored or harvested incorrectly, they can also quickly damage your health.

If you don’t keep the stone fruit dry enough – both when harvesting and storing them and in your own home – a mold forms, which in turn produces the toxic aflatoxin. This substance is suspected of being carcinogenic. Even small amounts can be harmful to health;

For this reason, you should also make sure when storing them at home that you store them in a cool and dry place, otherwise they will quickly turn brown and rancid. Shelled pistachios are best stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

If you store them correctly, they will keep for several months. If you want to extend the shelf life up to a year, you can also freeze them.

Can Dogs Eat Pistachios?

Can Dogs Eat Pistachios?

Theoretically, dogs are allowed to eat pistachios. The same applies to them as it does to humans: pistachios have a lot of nutritional value, a lot of calories and some risk of mold.

However, dogs are allergic and even more sensitive to the mold than we humans are. It is not fatal for them, but sensitive four-legged friends quickly get liver problems and gastrointestinal disorders.

So if your furry friend takes a bite of pistachios from time to time, it’s no problem. However, you should pay attention to the correct storage, as well as to the amount your dog eats. Also, you should not give him salted pistachios, because the salt in these quantities is very unhealthy for him.

Conclusion: Are Pistachios Bad for You?

Are Pistachios Bad for You?

Even though pistachios contain a lot of calories and can be harmful to your health if stored incorrectly, to sum up, they are not bad for you.

If you have internalized the proper storage of pistachios, you should only get benefits from eating this delicacy.

The worst thing about pistachios is that they are so exspensive.

In order to learn about what to be aware of when buying pistachios, read on.

Pistachios Purchase Tips

So that you can buy and eat pistachios with peace of mind, despite the previously mentioned risks, here are a few tips.

Avoid Risks

Avoid Risks

Mold on pistachios is not always immediately visible to the naked eye, so your best bet is to look for other characteristics.

They have their name as "green almonds" for a reason. Make sure they are nice and green before you eat them. As a rule of thumb, you can remember: The greener the pistachio, the better the quality.

Only when unpeeled pistachios are cracked at the seam, i.e. slightly open, are they really ripe. So if you see pistachios in the supermarket that are still closed, you should refrain from buying them;

Pistachios are usually odorless. If they smell slightly musty, you should refrain from eating them. If they taste funny, you should definitely spit them out, even then there is a risk that aflatoxins have formed.

Don’t save on the wrong end. The controls for proper storage are not particularly inexpensive, which is why people like to save them so that the pistachios can be sold for less in stores. That’s why you should be careful not to necessarily go for the ones with the lowest price.

The Correct Quantity and Variety

If you want to buy unshelled pistachios, you should make sure that the shell is about half of the total weight. So if you want 200 grams of pistachios to eat, the package should say at least 400 grams.

Pistachios come in many different varieties. If you want to eat them as a snack or use them for baking or as a topping, you should make sure that you buy them in the right shape. For example, ground or grated pistachios are usually used to decorate pastries, while whole pistachios are even added to some cakes;

If you want to use them for sweet dishes, you should also make sure that you do not buy them in salted form.

Why Are Pistachios So Expensive?

Delicious, healthy – but unfortunately also expensive. They are among the most expensive "nuts" in the world,  but the price has its reasons. A pistachio tree must grow for seven years before it can bear fruit.

They are also dioecious, which means that there are both female and male pistachio trees. Female pistachio trees can only bear fruit if their flowers are pollinated by a male tree via the wind. In addition, pistachios bear fruit efficiently only once every two years. Every high-yielding year is followed by a lean one.

Harvesting is also very time-consuming and expensive due to the aforementioned risk of mold. The fruits have to be harvested within three weeks – and often by hand.

Pistachios Alternatives

Pistachios Alternatives

Finding an alternative to pistachios turns out to be rather difficult. They are quite unique in taste and therefore difficult to substitute.

In some recipes, you can use almonds or other nuts instead of pistachios – but you will always taste quite clear that no pistachios were used.

Less well-known is the pimpernut, also called rattle nut, which is native to our region. It has a similar taste to pistachios and can be used as a substitute. However, it is often even more expensive and harder to get than the pistachio.

Tasty Uses of Pistachios

From sweet to savory, from cakes to ice cream to pesto, you can actually eat pistachios with almost anything. Here at home, pistachios are mainly eaten roasted and salted as a snack between meals. However, there are many more uses.

Pistachios in International Desserts

Pistachios in International Desserts

Especially in their countries of origin in the Middle East, pistachios can be found in many sweet dishes. Baklava, Halva, or Maamul are just examples of a variety of sweet baked goods that can also be found here in the United States.

Besides the pistachio, they also contain a lot of sugar, syrup, honey and rose water.

Also in Italy, especially in Sicily, where the pistachio itself is grown, there are some desserts that contain the green "nut". Here, for example, there are the almond pastries Pasta di Mandola and Cantuccini, where pistachios can not be missing as a finishing touch. Also, liqueurs, such as Amaretti, are refined with pistachios.

Pistachio Milk

Another interesting way to use pistachios is pistachio milk. Already for some time, more and more people want to replace cow’s milk with vegetable alternatives. After almond and oat milk, pistachio milk has been trending for a while now.

It is one of the most popular cow’s milk alternatives because it is easier to froth than other plant-based milk and also has the slightly nutty, creamy flavor of pistachios. What’s more, the pistachio trees require very little water.

So if you want to save the environment and save water, pistachio milk is a very good alternative for you. There are even a lot of recipes on how you can make milk by yourself.

Further Use of Pistachios

Whether it’s cakes, pies, cookies or chocolate, sweet dishes often feature ground or grated pistachios. They not only bring a nutty-sweet aroma to the delicious sweets, but they also stand out nicely due to their green color.

In ice cream parlors, you’ll often find the pistachio variety as ice cream. You can also add ground pistachios to your muesli or yogurt in the morning;

But the "green almond" can also be used for savory dishes. For example, you can find them in certain types of sausages like mortadella or some pies. Pistachios can also be made into pesto or salad dressing.

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