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Pistachios: Uses, Benefits, Side Effects By Dr. Rajeev Singh

By Dr Rajeev Singh +2 more

Introduction: 

“An individual can consider himself happy when his food is also his medicine.” Pistachios are tiny little nutritional goldmines; the healthiest and best delight one can have instantly. They are the edible seeds of the Pistacia vera tree, which belongs to the family Anacardiaceae or the cashew family. Pistachios originated in the Middle East and Central Asia. In India, the production of pistachios is highest in Jammu and Kashmir, followed by Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Punjab. This is because pistachio trees thrive in regions with long summers and winter seasons. Depending on the size and shape of these nuts, different varieties are available in the market, like Iranian round pistachio, Iranian jumbo pistachio, Iranian long pistachio, etc.  

Pistachios are ranked among the top 10 expensive nuts globally and are of economic importance. These green-hued, sweet nuts are one of the oldest nuts, which have also been mentioned in the Old Testament of the Bible as a prized food source with a rich history. Let us discover some evidence-based benefits of pistachios and some considerations to add this superfood to your dietary routine.1,2 

pistachios benefits

Did you know?

  • Pistachios are a good source of protein with a high digestible indispensable amino acid score. [source: PubMed]
  • Pistachios are rich in antioxidants, including anthocyanins, chlorophylls, and xanthophylls. [source: PubMed]
  • Pistachios contain high levels of vitamin K, which plays a role in aging and age-associated diseases. [source: PubMed]
  • Pistachios are a good source of carotenoids, such as lutein and zeaxanthin, which are beneficial for eye health. [source: PubMed]

Nutritional Value of pistachios: 

Pistachios are highly nutritious due to the presence of vitamins, minerals, proteins, phenolic compounds and carotenoids like zeaxanthin and lutein. The nutritional components that are found in pistachios are as follows.  

Nutritional components Value per 100 g 
Energy 2340 kJ 
Vitamin A 514 IU 
Fat 45.3 g 
Carbohydrates  27.2 g 
Protein 20.2 g 
Fibre 10.6 g 
Sugar 7.66 g 
Potassium 1020 mg 
Magnesium 121 mg 
Calcium 105 mg 
Folate 51 mg 
Vitamin C 5.6 mg 
Iron 3.92 mg 
Vitamin E 2.86 mg 
Zinc 2.2 mg 
Vitamin B3 1.3 mg 
Manganese 1.2 mg 
Vitamin B5 0.52 mg 

Table 1: Nutritional value of pistachios3 

Properties of Pistachios: 

Pistachios show numerous scientifically proven properties; some of which are mentioned below: 

  • It may have antioxidant properties. 
  • It may have antimicrobial properties. 
  • It may have antiviral properties. 
  • It may have anti-inflammatory properties. 
  • It may have anti-diabetic properties. 
  • It may act as a natural cognition-enhancing agent.3 

Eating a handful of pistachios as a snack can offer various health benefits. It is not only tasty, but also packed with nutrients to keep you active through the day.

Dr. Siddharth Gupta, B.A.M.S, M.D (Ayu)

Potential Uses of pistachios for Overall Health: 

Some of the potential benefits of pistachios are described as follows: 

1. Potential uses of pistachios in Type II diabetes 

Nuts may help in managing hyperglycaemia due to the presence of mono-and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Parham et.al conducted a study in 2014 to assess the effect of pistachio nuts supplementation on Type II diabetes. 12-weeks of pistachio consumption by the subjects showed a beneficial effect on glycemic control in diabetes. This indicates that pistachios may have a positive impact on diabetes. However, more studies are needed to support these claims.4 

2. Potential uses of pistachios in lipid profile  

Literature Studies have reported that the consumption of nuts can have a favourable effect on lipid profile. Michael et al. conducted a study in 2007 to assess the effect of pistachio nut consumption on serum lipid levels. This study showed that the consumption of pistachio nuts helped reduce total cholesterol and increase high-density lipoprotein or good cholesterol. This indicates that the consumption of pistachio nuts may have a beneficial impact on lipid profile. However, we need more studies to support these claims.5 

3. Potential uses of pistachios in obesity-related neurodegenerative diseases 

The prevalence of neurodegenerative diseases, including several forms of dementia, is increasing. Among the causes of these diseases, obesity is a well-known risk factor. Literature reviews support the use of pistachios for the management of obesity-related dysfunctions like neurodegenerative diseases. Domenico et al. conducted a study in 2020 to assess the effect of pistachio nuts on the brain in obese mice. This study showed that regular intake of pistachio nuts might help manage obesity-related neurodegenerative diseases. This indicates that the consumption of pistachio nuts may have a favourable impact on neurodegenerative diseases. However, we need more studies to support these claims in humans.6 

4. Potential uses of pistachios for blood pressure 

Consumption of nuts may help reduce blood pressure. Omid et al. conducted a meta-analysis in 2021 to assess the effect of pistachio nut on blood pressure. Results showed that pistachio nuts consumption might help reduce systolic blood pressure. This indicates that the consumption of pistachio nuts can positively impact blood pressure, but we need more studies to support these claims.7 

5. Potential uses of pistachios in colon cancer  

Pistachios are packed with vitamins, minerals, tocopherols, polyphenols and dietary fibre, which may help reduce the risk of colon cancer. Michael et al. conducted a study in 2017 to assess the anti-cancer potential of pistachio nuts. This study showed that pistachio nuts had a favourable effect on colon cancer. This indicates that the consumption of pistachio nuts may help reduce the risk of colon cancer. However, scientific evidence for this finding is limited and we need more studies to support these claims.8 

6. Other potential uses of pistachios:1 

  • Pistachios contain the amino acid L-arginine which gets converted into nitric oxide and may help in vasodilatation, thus promoting healthy blood vessels. 
  • Being a good source of fiber and protein, they may help in weight loss by increasing satiety. 
  • The presence of dietary fiber may help promote healthy gut bacteria. 
  • The presence of lutein and zeaxanthin in pistachios may help in improving vision. 
  • Being a good source of vitamin B6, they may help in boosting immunity. 
  • The presence of mono-unsaturated fatty acids may help in reducing inflammation and thus, may have the potential to manage arthritis. 

Though there are studies that show the benefits of Pistachios in various conditions, these are insufficient and there is a need for further studies to establish the true extent of the benefits of Pistachios on human health. 

As per a study, eating 3-4 pistachios everyday showed significant improvement in blood flow through the penis. This goes to show that eating pistachios may help with erectile dysfunction.

Dr. Rajeev Singh, BAMS

How to Use Pistachios? 

  • You can incorporate pistachios into your dietary routine as raw or roasted nuts. 
  • Pistachios are also used to prepare pistachio ice creams, a garnish in puddings, sweets, cookies or making pistachio milk.1 

You must consult a qualified doctor before taking any herbal supplements. Do not discontinue or replace an ongoing treatment of modern medicine with an ayurvedic/herbal preparation without consulting a qualified doctor.   

Side Effects of Pistachios: 

A few side effects related to the consumption of pistachios include: 

  • Pistachios may trigger an allergic reaction (nut allergy) in sensitive individuals. This nut allergy is characterised by fever, hives, asthma and rashes.10 
  • Consumption of pistachios in excess can increase the risk of gout due to the presence of purine.10  
  • Roasted pistachios contain acrylamide which can have a noxious effect on the nervous system.9 
  • When eaten in excess, pistachios can impair the digestion process and cause constipation.10 
  • Being rich in potassium, magnesium and phosphorus, they can impair kidney function.10 

However, if you experience any adverse reactions to pistachios, it is advised to discontinue its intake and immediately contact a doctor or your Ayurvedic physician who has prescribed it. They will be able to guide you appropriately for your symptoms. 

Precautions to take with Pistachios: 

Eating pistachios is okay if taken in moderate amounts. However, general precautions must be followed in the mentioned conditions:10 

  • It is best to eat pistachios raw and unsalted, rather than roasted or processed. 
  • People with impaired kidney function, should be cautious when consuming pistachios as it can have a deteriorating effect on the kidneys. 

Also Read: Anjeer (Dried Fig): Uses, Benefits & Side Effects

Interactions with Other Drugs: 

There is no significant interaction of pistachios with other drugs. However, you must always seek the advice of your Ayurvedic physician about the possible interaction of pistachios with other drugs and follow the prescription thoroughly, as they will know your health condition and other medications you are taking. 

Frequently Asked Questions: 

1) What is the scientific name of pistachios? 

The scientific name of pistachios is Pistacia vera, which belongs to the family Anacardiaceae or the cashew family.1 

2) Can pistachios help in weight loss? 

Being a good source of fiber and protein, they may help in weight loss. However, more studies need to be done on humans to support these claims. Therefore, it is advised to consult a doctor for issues related to weight.1 

3)  Can pistachios help in managing diabetes?  

Yes, pistachios may help manage diabetes as they have the potential to improve glycemic control. However, more studies need to be done in humans to support these claims. Therefore, it is advised to consult a doctor for better outcomes.3 

4) Can pistachios help in improving vision? 

Pistachios are rich in antioxidants like lutein and zeaxanthin, which may help in improving vision. However, studies supporting these claims are limited and thus, it is advised to consult a doctor for a better assessment. 

5) What are the side effects of pistachios consumption? 

Consumption of pistachios in excess can increase the risk of gout, impair the digestive process and kidney function. In allergy-prone individuals, pistachios can cause nut allergy.8 

References: 

  1. Parmar, R. (2022) 9 incredible health benefits of pistachios, PharmEasy Blog. Available at: https://pharmeasy.in/blog/9-incredible-health-benefits-of-pistachios/ (Accessed: November 30, 2022).  
  1. Organic pistachio farming – production in India, Agri Farming. Available at: https://www.agrifarming.in/organic-pistachio-farming-production-in-india. (Accessed: December 3, 2022).  
  1. Mandalari, Giuseppina et al. “Pistachio Nuts (Pistacia vera L.): Production, Nutrients, Bioactives and Novel Health Effects.” Plants (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 11,1 18. 22 Dec. 2021, doi:10.3390/plants11010018. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8747606/#:~:text=Pistachios%20are%20a%20good%20source,phenolic%20acids%2C%20flavonoids%20and%20anthocyanins. 
  1. Parham, Mahmoud et al. “Effects of pistachio nut supplementation on blood glucose in patients with type 2 diabetes: a randomized crossover trial.” The review of diabetic studies: RDS vol. 11,2 (2014): 190-6. doi:10.1900/RDS.2014.11.190. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25396407/ 
  1.  Sheridan, Michael J et al. “Pistachio nut consumption and serum lipid levels.” Journal of the American College of Nutrition vol. 26,2 (2007): 141-8. doi:10.1080/07315724.2007.10719595. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17536125/ 
  1. Nuzzo, Domenico et al. “Regular Intake of Pistachio Mitigates the Deleterious Effects of a High Fat-Diet in the Brain of Obese Mice.” Antioxidants (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 9,4 317. 15 Apr. 2020, doi:10.3390/antiox9040317. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7222408/ 
  1. Asbaghi, Omid et al. “Effects of pistachios on anthropometric indices, inflammatory markers, endothelial function and blood pressure in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials.” The British journal of nutrition vol. 126,5 (2021): 718-729. doi:10.1017/S0007114520004523. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33198823/ 
  1. Glei, Michael et al. “Chemopreventive Potential of Raw and Roasted Pistachios Regarding Colon Carcinogenesis.” Nutrientsvol. 9,12 1368. 18 Dec. 2017, doi:10.3390/nu9121368. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29258268. 
  1. Asadi, Sonia et al. “Effects of different roasting methods on formation of acrylamide in pistachio.” Food science & nutrition vol. 8,6 2875-2881. 12 May. 2020, doi:10.1002/fsn3.1588. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7300066/ 
  1. Munuhe, N. (2022) Pistachios facts, calories, health benefits and side effects, BetterMe Blog. Available at: https://betterme.world/articles/pistachios-calories-benefits-side-effects/ (Accessed: November 30, 2022).  

Disclaimer: The information provided here is for educational/awareness purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional and should not be relied upon to diagnose or treat any medical condition. The reader should consult a registered medical practitioner to determine the appropriateness of the information and before consuming any medication. PharmEasy does not provide any guarantee or warranty (express or implied) regarding the accuracy, adequacy, completeness, legality, reliability or usefulness of the information; and disclaims any liability arising thereof.

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