By Green Diva Gina
Editor’s Note: Pistachios were cultivated in the Middle East in the area between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, originally known as the Fertile Crescent. Having grown up in an Egyptian household, I remember the pistachio was always the nut of choice, given to guests and included in recipes like baklava.
The Green Divas offer a healthful perspective behind this pretty-colored nut.
All About Pistachios
While the pistachio’s origin goes back to Western Asia, more people associate it with Mediterranean cooking because it has been an important part of that region’s recipes for thousands of years. It is one of the two nuts mentioned in the Bible, almonds being the other. And, as for the English-speaking world, the pistachio has long been cultivated commercially in Australia, New Mexico and California, where it was introduced in 1854 as a garden tree.
What’s so fascinating about this tree is it takes about 10 to 12 years to produce its first crop. The seed of the pistachio is edible, and the pistachio nuts can be cultivated yearlong since the tree is not seasonal. Suffice it to say, humans are willing to wait the decade it takes for a pistachio to mature, but even more interesting than humanity’s love affair with the tree are the many health benefits it offers.
Pistachios Health Benefits:
1. Heart Health
Pistachios have been proved to reduce “bad,” or “LDL,” cholesterol and increase “good,” or “HL,” cholesterol after only a very brief period of chowing down on them. They are high in antioxidants, like vitamin A and vitamin E. And they also fight inflammation, protect blood vessels and ultimately decrease the risk of heart disease. Even having a very small snack of these nuts has been linked to increase lutein levels. Lutein is an antioxidant that benefits the eyes and heart.
2. Diabetes Prevention
Consuming pistachios may aid in the prevention of type 2 diabetes. This is because 60 percent of the recommended daily value of the mineral phosphorus is contained in just one cup of pistachios. Not only does phosphorus break down proteins into amino acids; it aids glucose tolerance.
3. Keeps the Blood Healthy
Pistachios are a very rich in vitamin B-6. Vitamin B-6 is essential to making hemoglobin, the protein responsible for bringing oxygen through the blood stream to cells, and is also shown to increase the amount of oxygen carried throughout the body.
4. Keeps the Nervous System Healthy
The vitamin B-6 so prevalent in pistachios has many effects on the nervous system. Messaging molecules called amines require amino acids to develop, and amino-acid production requires vitamin B-6.
Furthermore, B6 plays a critical role in the creation of myelin, the insulating sheath around nerve ﬁbers that allows optimal messaging between nerves. And vitamin B-6 contributes to the synthesis of serotonin, melatonin, epinephrine and gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA, an amino acid that calms the transmission of nerve impulses throughout the nervous system.
So, basically, if you want a nervous system that’s in tip-top shape, eat pistachios.
5. It’s All in the Eyes
Pistachios contain two carotenoids not found in most nuts: lutein and zeaxanthin. These guys function as protective antioxidants by defending tissues from the damage free radicals cause. They have been associated with a decrease in the risk for developing age-related macular degeneration, which is the leading cause in the U.S. of visual impairments and acquired blindness.
6. Immune System
Vitamin B-6 is essential for a healthy immune system, and again, pistachios have a lot of it. A surfeit of vitamin B-6 can slow brain activity as well as decrease the effectiveness of the immune system, warding-off infections. The vitamin B-6 found in pistachios also helps the body make healthy red blood cells, and helps maintain the health of lymphoid glands, such as the thymus, spleen and lymph nodes, ensuring the production of white blood cells that protect the body from infections.
7. Eat Pistachios for Glowing Skin
Pistachios are an amazing source of vitamin E, a powerful fat-soluble antioxidant imperative for maintaining the integrity of cell membranes and often recommended for healthy and beautiful skin. Vitamin E does an excellent job protecting the skin from UV damage, providing daily defense against premature aging and skin cancer. Get lovely skin from the inside out by eating pistachios.
8. Eat Pistachios for Extra Protein
Pistachios contain a higher amount of protein in comparison with other nuts like almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans and walnuts; the amount of protein found in pistachios is 6 grams per 1 ounce.
Meanwhile, the fat content in pistachios is also the lowest compared to other nuts. Statistics collected by Thomas and Gebhardt show that the fat content in pistachios is 13 grams per 1 ounce. Why not add them to a salad or your next baked-good? They are a great breakfast alternative for a bit of added protein.
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