RDs Are Nuts About Pistachios—Here Are 5 Reasons They're So Good for You

These little green beauties shell out some seriously healthy nutrients.

Pistachio health nutrition benefits: Flying in air fresh raw whole and cracked pistachios
Photo: Vasyl Chybor/Getty Images

People have been eating pistachios for a long time—there are actually references to this slightly sweet nut in the Old Testament of the Bible (Genesis 43:11, to be exact), and they've been imported into the U.S. since the 1880s.

Pistachios, which are actually the edible seeds of the pistachio tree, were once a status symbol and delicacy for the bourgeois, but now they're widely cultivated and available to pretty much anyone who wants a nutritious snack. (950 farms in New Mexico, California, and Arizona produce the crop!) It's no wonder we've thought of countless ways to consume them, from roasting and tossing them over salads to mixing them into gelato and baked goods.

Pistachios truly have a place in any meal or snack—it just depends on how much you love them and how creative you can get. Sprinkle crushed pistachios over Greek yogurt; grind up a healthy pistachio-based topping for fish; or pop them in the oven seasoned with spices and citrus.

And there's more reason to pick up pistachios at the grocery store beyond their tastiness: Pistachios are extremely healthy and full of benefits, and according to Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, a plant-based registered dietitian and owner of Plant-Based Eats in Stamford, Conn., they may be just what you need to ensure you hit your daily nutrient goals.

The Top Health Benefits of Pistachios

Pistachios are a complete protein.

Gorin says pistachios are one of the highest-protein snacking nuts. "Pistachios are a wonderful source of plant-based protein—and they're actually a complete protein source, offering 6 grams of protein per 1/4 cup serving," she says. "This means they help fuel your body with all nine essential amino acids."

Typically, plant protein sources may not have all of the essential amino acids, which means you have to mix and match sources to get everything, but pistachios are one of the few that provide everything you need.

Pistachios are one of the highest-fiber nuts.

A diet rich in fiber can lower your cholesterol and blood pressure and reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular diseases. Pistachios have more fiber than other nuts, making them an excellent choice for snacking. Per 1/4 cup serving of pistachios, you get 3 grams of fiber," Gorin says.

Pistachios contain healthy fat.

Many people are dismayed by the fat content in nuts, including pistachios, mistakenly discounting how healthy they are. Gorin reassures that their fat content (in moderation) doesn't decrease the benefits; the polyunsaturated fats found in pistachios not only increase feelings of satiety, but also help lower your cholesterol. "Pistachios provide fiber and better-for-you unsaturated fats. The trio of protein, fiber, and fat helps keep you fuller for longer—and provides sustained energy," she says.

Pistachios provide lots of vitamin B6.

Pistachios are rich in nutrients overall, but their B6 content is significant. A balanced diet high in vitamin B6 helps prevent conditions like anemia and lowers your risk of heart disease. It's also essential for building muscles since it helps your body process amino acids. One handful of pistachios gives you 30 percent of your recommended daily value of this important nutrient.

Pistachios also contain smaller amounts of other vitamins in the B complex, including thiamin (B1) and folate (B9).

Pistachios offer several antioxidants.

Pistachio lovers get an antioxidant boost, too. Compounds in pistachios like lutein, beta-carotene, and gamma-tocopherol help to reverse the effects of cellular damage.

Pistachio Recipes

For a healthy snack, you can buy any variety of packaged pistachios, either in the shell or shelled, at the grocery store and enjoy them straight from the bag. Gorin loves eating flavored pistachios, like Wonderful Pistachios' No Shells Sea Salt & Vinegar, because they make better-for-you snacking more interesting. "When I'm craving salt-and-vinegar potato chips, these do the trick—and I also get my protein, healthy fat, and fiber," she says.

If you're looking for creative ways to incorporate pistachios into your cooking and baking, check out these flavorful recipes for inspiration.

Paprika Lime Pistachios
Max Kelly

Paprika Lime Pistachios

Tangy lime juice mixes with paprika (you can use hot or sweet) and just enough oil and salt. Don't skimp on the baking time—it's key to make sure the pistachios are crispy, not chewy.

Pistachio Tart
With its buttery crust and decadent brown sugar filling, this tart deserves a permanent place on your dessert table. A layer of toasted pistachios lends flavor and crunch. Get the recipe. Hector Manuel Sanchez

Pistachio Tart

A show-stopping treat that's more buttery and toasty than too-sweet, this pistachio tart offers some healthy perks along with its vanilla-laced aroma and brown sugar filling.

Superfood Bars
Kick start your morning with these no-bake bars, which star a variety of good-for-you nuts and seeds (buy them in bulk to save money at the grocery store). Each hearty square is the perfect blend of chewy and crunchy, and every bite is packed with nutty flavor. Pistachios add a pop of gorgeous green color, yes, but they’re also packed with nutrients and are a good source of calcium. Quinoa lends crunch and protein, while dried goji berries are rich in antioxidants. Be sure to store the bars, which will keep for one week at room temperature and two weeks in the fridge, between layers of parchment paper to keep them from sticking. Get the recipe:Nutty Superfood Breakfast Bites. Grace Elkus

Nutty Superfood Breakfast Bites

These are everything an energy bar should be: packed to the brim with nuts, seeds, and dried fruit for a filling and guiltless grab-and-go bite. Get the recipe.

Green Risotto With Pistachio Pesto Recipe
Victor Protasio

Green Risotto With Pistachio Pesto

If this glorious green risotto doesn't make you think "Spring," we're not sure what will. Verdant spinach, herbs, and pistachios lighten up a velvety bowl of cheesy arborio rice. Get the recipe.

Chicken Tagine With Apricots and Pistachios
Jen Causey

Chicken Tagine With Apricots and Pistachios

This North African–inspired dish is full of tender chicken, juicy cherry tomatoes, apricots, and a sprinkling of roasted pistachios for a salty crunch.

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