Why Are Pistachios Green? And Other Fun Facts

We answer all your most pressing pistachio questions.

A lot of us are nuts for pistachios. It might be their distinctive flavor or the oddly satisfying task of cracking their shells. Or we might just associate them with a delicious ice cream flavor. Whatever the reason, we like this fun nut, and we want to know all the wonderful and interesting mysteries pistachios hold. That's why we sought out the answers to three big questions about pistachios.

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Why are pistachios green?

Pistachios both shelled and unshelled
James A. Guilliam/Getty Images

Ever wondered why the inside of a pistachio looks more like an avocado than an almond? According to the American Pistachio Growers, you can credit a little thing called carotenoids. If you're thinking that word looks like "beta-carotene," the fat-soluble pigment that gives carrots their zippy orange colors, you're on the right track. Like beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin are carotenoids—naturally occurring plant pigments that act as antioxidants. Combined with chlorophyll, these carotenoids give the nut its yellow and green hues. Additionally, the red and purples on the outside of pistachios come from the presence of the antioxidants resveratrol and anthocyanins. (By the way? All those antioxidants are associated with battling chronic diseases like cancer. Fun and good for you!)

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Are pistachios fattening?

The short answer: Not really! Though they do contain 45 grams of fat in a 100-gram serving, nearly 90 percent of it is mono- and polyunsaturated fats. "I think many people associate any type of dietary fact with a fear of 'getting fat,'" says Liz Shaw, a registered dietitian who consults for Wonderful Pistachios. "I'm constantly helping clients to move past the total fat numbers and focus on fueling their bodies with unsaturated, heart-healthy fats." Pistachios are actually known as "the skinny nut," since they have the lowest amount of calories per 1 ounce serving of any tree nut. You can eat 49 nuts as a healthy snack—the standard serving size—and at three calories a nut, still only consume 147 calories.

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Are pistachios gluten free?

Yes, pistachios are nuts and not a grain, so they do not contain gluten. However, if one is allergic or sensitive to gluten, check the packaging. Some pistachios might be mixed with seasonings or other ingredients that do contain gluten.

RELATED: All Nuts Are Good for You, But These 8 Are the Healthiest

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