Last Updated on August 8, 2019 by Michael Joseph
Pistachio nuts (Pistacia vera) are the edible seeds of the pistachio tree.
Otherwise known as pistachios, they are one of the most popular nut varieties in the world, and they are loaded with nutritional value.
This article examines the health benefits, potential side effects, and the full nutrition profile of these delicious nuts.
Before we look at the health benefits of pistachio nuts, let’s first examine their nutrition profile.
The following tables provide the full nutritional values for raw pistachio nuts per 100 grams and per typical serving (1).
A standard serving size is one ounce (28 grams), which is around 50 pistachio kernels per day.
|Calories/Nutrient||Per Serving||Per 100 g|
|Calories||157 kcal||557 kcal|
|Carbohydrate||7.9 g||28.0 g|
|Fiber||2.9 g||10.3 g|
|Sugars||2.2 g||7.6 g|
|Fat||12.6 g||44.4 g|
|Saturated Fat||1.5 g||5.4 g|
|Monounsaturated Fat||6.6 g||23.3 g|
|Polyunsaturated Fat||3.8 g||13.5 g|
|Omega-3||71.8 mg||254 mg|
|Omega-6||3729 mg||13200 mg|
|Protein||5.8 g||20.6 g|
|Vitamin||Per Serving||Per 100 g|
|Vitamin B6||24 % RDI||85 % RDI|
|Vitamin B1||16 % RDI||58 % RDI|
|Folate||4 % RDI||13 % RDI|
|Vitamin A||3 % RDI||11 % RDI|
|Vitamin E||3 % RDI||11 % RDI|
|Vitamin B2||3 % RDI||9 % RDI|
|Vitamin B3||2 % RDI||7 % RDI|
|Vitamin C||2 % RDI||8 % RDI|
|Vitamin B5||1 % RDI||5 % RDI|
As shown above, pistachio nuts are a significant source of B vitamins, particularly B1 and B6.
|Mineral||Per Serving||Per 100 g|
|Copper||18 % RDI||65 % RDI|
|Manganese||17 % RDI||60 % RDI|
|Phosphorus||14 % RDI||49 % RDI|
|Magnesium||8 % RDI||30 % RDI|
|Potassium||8 % RDI||29 % RDI|
|Iron||6 % RDI||23 % RDI|
|Zinc||4 % RDI||15 % RDI|
|Calcium||3 % RDI||11 % RDI|
|Selenium||3 % RDI||10 % RDI|
Pistachios provide an excellent supply of minerals, especially copper and manganese.
Health Benefits of Pistachio Nuts
The health benefits of pistachios come both from their nutrition profile and the effect they can have on the body.
1) Higher In Protein Than Most Other Nuts
Similar to all nuts, pistachios are primarily a source of fat calorie-for-calorie.
However, the nuts are also an excellent source of protein, and they provide almost 21 grams per 100 grams.
This protein content is similar to almonds, and only peanuts, which are technically a legume, offer more protein.
As a plant source of protein, pistachios are also a good option for individuals following a vegetarian or vegan diet.
2) May Lower Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is a widespread medical concern in today’s world, and this condition affects 1 in 3 adults in the United States (4).
Alongside other lifestyle interventions such as exercise and sleep, our diet can also lower blood pressure. On this note, some evidence suggests that pistachio nuts may have a blood pressure-lowering effect.
In a randomized controlled trial featuring 28 adults with dyslipidemia, diets containing either 10% or 20% of energy from pistachio nuts both reduced systolic blood pressure. The menu featuring the higher dose of pistachio nuts also lowered resting heart rate by three beats per minute (BPM) (7).
A further randomized controlled trial, featuring 30 adults with type 2 diabetes, showed similar results. In this study, a diet featuring 20% of energy from pistachios “significantly reduced” systolic blood pressure (8).
However, in the real world, these potential effects on blood pressure will depend on what the pistachio nuts are replacing in the person’s diet. For example; cutting out potato chips for pistachios should see a positive effect on blood pressure, but replacing other healthy foods (such as oily fish) may not.
3) Rich Source of Vitamins
As shown in the nutrition data, pistachio nuts are a rich source of vitamins.
The most concentrated of these vitamins are vitamins B1 and B6, both of which play an essential role in energy metabolism.
4) Potential Weight Loss Benefits?
There are some claims that this beneficial effect is via positively influencing levels of satiety hormones.
On this note, a randomized trial showed that adding pistachio nuts to a refined carbohydrate (white bread) meal led to hormonal changes indicative of better satiety levels (13).
However, since white bread is a poor food choice, this particular study is less than impressive for identifying any unique benefits of pistachios. Adding any fat/protein combination to such a meal would have a similar effect.
That said, pistachio nuts are high in both protein and fiber, both of which are consistently associated with higher levels of satiety (14).
Once again, these satiating/weight loss benefits likely depend on the overall context of the diet, and what the pistachio nuts are replacing.
5) High In Fiber
Following cashew nuts, pistachios offer the highest amount of carbohydrate among nuts.
Per 100 grams, pistachios contain 27 grams of carbs, which works out at around eight grams per serving.
However, this carbohydrate content includes ten grams of fiber per 100 grams (or three grams per serving). Carbohydrate quality is important, and foods with a higher ratio of fiber to simple carbs have a smaller impact on blood glucose levels (15).
Additionally, compared to refined carbohydrates, fibrous carbs are associated with greater feelings of fullness, appetite suppression, and improved levels of satiety (16).
Generally speaking, many people think of whole grains when they hear the word fiber.
|Food (100g)||Carbohydrate||Fiber||Fiber Density|
|Brown rice||77.2 g||3.5 g||4.5 %|
|Pistachio nuts||28 g||10.3 g||36.8 %|
|Rolled oats||69 g||10.1 g||14.6 %|
|Whole wheat bread||41.3 g||6.8 g||16.5 %|
6) Pistachios Contain Fewer Calories Than Most Nuts
Pistachios are the third lowest in calorie nut after cashews and chestnuts, and they provide only 156 calories per standard serve.
In contrast, a serving of more calorie-dense options such as macadamia nuts and pecans provides 201 calories and 193 calories respectively.
While these differences of approximately 40 calories do not sound very much, over a year, this would come to around 15,000 calories.
7) Packed With Essential Minerals
One of the things that make pistachios so good for you is that they supply varying amounts of every essential mineral.
As shown in the nutrient tables, these nuts offer exceptionally high concentrations of copper and manganese.
Copper is an essential mineral that has a wide range of functions in the body, from red blood cell formation to supporting the skeletal and immune systems (21).
Manganese is a crucial cofactor for numerous enzymes, and it also plays a role in bone development, wound healing, and energy metabolism (22).
8) Antioxidants and Polyphenols
Another potential health benefit of pistachios is their antioxidant content.
Firstly, these nuts provide a moderate amount of vitamin E and selenium, both of which play an antioxidant role within the body (23).
Furthermore, the green color of pistachio kernels is due to their abundance of the antioxidant lutein.
Additionally, research shows that pistachio nuts contain potentially beneficial polyphenols such as flavonoids and stilbenes (26).
9) May Improve Markers of Cardiovascular Health
Eating pistachio nuts on a regular basis appears to have a positive impact on markers of cardiovascular health.
For instance, recent studies show;
- In randomized controlled trials, adding a daily serving of pistachios reduced the LDL/HDL ratio, and reduced non-HDL cholesterol. A higher ratio of HDL to LDL is thought to reduce cardiovascular risk (27, 28).
- A randomized controlled trial featuring 48 patients with type 2 diabetes showed a positive impact from daily pistachio intake. This study found that two snacks of 25 grams pistachio nuts every day for 12 weeks reduced fasting blood glucose, systolic blood pressure, and CRP, which is a marker of inflammation (29).
- Another randomized trial in 60 patients with dyslipidemia demonstrated that three months of daily 40-gram portions of pistachios improved vascular stiffness and endothelial function (30).
Potential Side Effects
Along with the health benefits that pistachios may bring, it is important to be aware of some potential side effects.
1) Nut allergies
The potential for allergic reactions is there for every type of nut rather than just pistachios.
However, these allergies can be very serious.
In some cases, nut allergies can cause anaphylaxis, which is a potentially fatal severe allergic reaction.
Unfortunately, pistachio allergies are relatively common, and the nuts contain various potential allergens (31).
2) Very Calorie-Dense
With over 550 calories per 100 grams, pistachio nuts are very energy-dense.
A regular serving size of the nuts is fine, but regularly over-consuming the nuts can quickly lead to weight stalls or weight gain.
3) Gastrointestinal Issues (Fructan Intolerance)
Pistachio nuts are a source of fructans, which can cause gastrointestinal distress for some individuals.
In people with fructan intolerance, consuming the nuts may lead to symptoms such as bloating, belching, distension, and general abdominal pain (32).
Pistachio nuts are full of essential vitamins and minerals, they are high in protein, and they’re an excellent source of healthy fats.
Further to this, the nuts may offer additional health benefits by potentially improving blood sugar, lowering blood pressure, and improving markers of cardiovascular health.
Lastly, pistachios taste delicious, and they are one of the best options for a healthy snack.
For more on nuts, see this review of hazelnuts.
Or see this guide to the benefits of walnuts.