Descriptions of pistachio nuts as nutrient-dense and heart-healthy sound like marketing catch-phrases, but they're found in the scientific literature, such as a review of research published in "Nutrition Reviews" in April 2012. Pistachios have just one downside: They're high in calories. Otherwise, they provide fiber and healthy fats that lower cholesterol, and are also a good source of protein and vitamin B-6.
Portions Versus Calories
One serving of pistachios equals 1 ounce -- about 1/4 cup or 49 kernels. Since this portion contains 161 calories, be sure to include it as part of your usual daily calories. If you add pistachios as a snack on top of your normal diet, the calories are high enough to contribute to weight gain. A 1-ounce serving contains 8 grams of total carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber and 6 grams of protein. You'll also get 5 to 8 percent of your recommended dietary allowance of magnesium, potassium, zinc and vitamin E.
Healthy Fat Profile
Even though pistachios are high in fat, most of the fat consists of healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. As long as you keep an eye on calories, unsaturated fats reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease by lowering total cholesterol and bad cholesterol. Monounsaturated fats also have the advantage of increasing your levels of good cholesterol, according to Colorado State University Extension. A 1-ounce serving of pistachios has 13 grams of total fat, which includes 7 grams of monounsaturated fats and 4 grams of polyunsaturated fats.
Excellent Source of B-6
Vitamin B-6 helps produce neurotransmitters and red blood cells. One of the neurotransmitters it produces, serotonin, regulates your moods and sleep cycles. Your body uses vitamin B-6 to convert the amino acid homocysteine into another protein-building amino acid. Because this conversion removes homocysteine from your blood, it may contribute to your cardiovascular health. When levels of homocysteine remain high, they damage the lining of your arteries and increase the risk of developing blood clots, according to FamilyDoctor.org. A 1-ounce serving of pistachios provides 0.3 milligram of vitamin B-6. You only need 1.3 milligrams daily, so you'll fill 25 percent of your recommended dietary allowance by eating one serving of pistachios.
Iron for Energy and Immune System
One ounce of pistachios contains slightly more than 1 milligram of iron, which provides 6 percent of women's and 14 percent of men's recommended dietary allowance. Iron is in the hemoglobin in your red blood cells, which delivers oxygen throughout your body. In the form of myoglobin, iron stores oxygen in your muscles so that you have a ready supply when your activity increases. It also helps produce energy and synthesizes antioxidants. Without enough iron, your immune system can't operate at optimum capacity, according to the Linus Pauling Institute.
- Nutrition Reviews: Pistachio Nuts: Composition and Potential Health Benefits
- Beaumont Health System: Nuts
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Nuts, Pistachio Nuts, Dry-Roasted, Without Salt Added
- Institute of Medicine: Dietary Reference Intakes: Estimated Average Requirements
- Colorado State University Extension: Dietary Fat and Cholesterol
- Linus Pauling Institute: Vitamin B6
- FamilyDoctor.org: Coronary Artery Disease - High Homocysteine Level: How It Affects Your Blood Vessels
- Medical News Today: What is Serotonin? What Does Serotonin Do?
- Linus Pauling Institute: Iron