If you've stopped eating nuts because they're too high in fat and calories, you may need to reconsider. Sure, the fat in nuts like pistachios makes up most of the calories, but the fat in pistachios isn't bad for you. In fact, the types of fats in pistachios may lower your risk of heart disease — the leading cause of death in men and women in the United States — and help you manage your weight.
Yes, pistachios are good for you despite getting 75 percent of their calories from fat. These sweet nuts are rich in heart-healthy fats, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.
Pistachio Calories and Nutrition
Compared to other nuts, pistachios are lower in calories and chock-full of good nutrition. A 1-ounce serving, which is equal to about 49 kernels, of pistachio nuts contains:
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- 160 calories
- 13 grams of total fat
- 8 grams of carbohydrates
- 3 grams of fiber
- 6 grams of protein
- 28 percent of the daily value (DV) for vitamin B6
- 21 percent DV for thiamin
- 41 percent DV for copper
- 15 percent DV for manganese
- 11 percent DV for phosphorus
Pistachios are one of the best sources of vitamin B6, which is an essential nutrient that plays an important role in over 100 enzymatic reactions in your body, as well as the metabolism of protein, fat and carbohydrates. Vitamin B6 also helps maintain blood sugar levels and supports immune function.
Although not a significant source, pistachio nuts can also help you meet your daily needs for iron, potassium, folate and vitamins A and E.
Are you a little curious about why pistachios are green? It's the lutein content. This pigment is best known for its role in eye health, but it may also enhance your memory and learning power.
Fat in Pistachios
Nearly 75 percent of the calories in a serving of pistachio nuts comes from its fat content. But before you put your bag of pistachios back into the cabinet, you need to know more about the types of fats found in these super-healthy nuts. Although 1 ounce of pistachios has 13 grams of total fat, most of that comes from heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
The breakdown of fats in pistachios is:
- Monounsaturated fats: 7 grams
- Polyunsaturated fats: 4 grams
- Saturated fats: 1.5 grams
According to the American Heart Association, most of the fats in your diet should come from monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. The monounsaturated fats in the pistachio nut help keep your cholesterol levels low and support the health and development of the cells in your body.
While most of the fat in pistachios is monounsaturated, the nuts are also a source of polyunsaturated fats, including the essential omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for brain and heart health. A 1-ounce serving of the sweet nut meets 5 percent of the DV for omega-3s. Not a significant source, but it can certainly help you get a little closer to your daily needs.
Pistachios and Weight Loss
With so many calories and so much fat in a little serving, you may think there's no positive connection between pistachios and weight loss. But researchers are finding that pistachio nuts make a healthy addition to any weight-loss plan, especially when you eat them in the shell.
A 12-week study published in 2010 in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that, in a group of participants following a reduced-calorie weight-loss diet, snacking on a 220-calorie serving of pistachios helped lower body mass index better than snacking on a 240-calorie serving of pretzels. The pistachio-eating group also experienced a significant improvement in blood triglyceride levels.
Snacking on pistachios in the shell may also make you more mindful of what you're eating so you eat less. A 2011 study published in Appetite found that participants ate fewer overall calories — almost 50 fewer calories — when eating pistachios in the shell versus shelled pistachios, but still reported that they felt satisfied on the amount consumed.
Pistachios are also a good source of protein and fiber, nutrients that help control appetite. So you may feel more satisfied when snacking on a bowl of pistachios than a bowl of pretzels.
The fat in pistachios may also support weight loss. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats have a greater thermic effect, which means they burn more calories, than saturated fat. Plus, there's evidence that your body may not absorb all the fat in the nut, so you may actually get fewer calories than you think.
The key to managing pistachios and weight loss is to be aware of your overall calorie consumption. In order to lose weight, you must eat fewer calories than your body burns.
Pistachios may support weight loss by keeping you full longer and making it easier for you to stick with your reduced-calorie diet, but be careful not to eat too many. Due to the fat content, pistachios are considered an energy-dense food. Consuming more calories than your body needs, no matter where they come from, leads to weight gain.
Read more: What is the Correct Serving Size for Nuts?
Pistachios Versus Other Nuts
Whether you eat pistachios or other types of nuts, you really can't go wrong if your goal is to improve your health. A 2013 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that people who consumed more nuts were at a lower risk of death from all causes.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's ChooseMyPlate recommends that you make nuts a regular part of your healthy diet and use them in place of other sources of protein, such as chicken or beef. But ChooseMyPlate also suggests that you limit your serving of nuts to 1 to 1.5 ounces.
When it comes to choosing the healthiest nuts, it may come down to your taste buds and preference. You may find that, because of the serving size (49 kernels) and the work required to eat them (shelling), pistachio nuts make the best choice for you, especially if you're trying to find ways to control your weight.
A nutrition comparison of the healthiest nuts per ounce is:
- Almonds: 163 calories, 14 grams of total fat, 6 grams of carbs, 3.5 grams of fiber, 6 grams of protein
- Walnuts: 185 calories, 19 grams of total fat, 4 grams of carbs, 1.9 gram of fiber, 4 grams of protein
- Cashews: 160 calories, 12 grams of total fat, 9 grams of carbs, 1 gram of fiber, 5 grams of protein
- Pecans: 200 calories, 22 grams of total fat, 4 grams of carbs, 3 grams of fiber, 3 grams of protein
For the record, most of the fat in these nuts comes from the heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Walnuts are an especially good source of polyunsaturated fats and omega-3 fats and may be one of the healthiest nuts to include in your diet.
Read more: 9 Healthy Nuts That May Help You Live Longer
- American Pistachio Growers: Nutrition Power
- MyFoodData: Pistachio Nuts
- NIH Office of Dietary Supplements: Vitamin B6
- Abbott Nutrition: Lutein: The Super Nutrient That May Boost Your Brain
- Nutrition Today: Pistachios for Health
- USDA ChooseMyPlate: Tips: Vary Your Protein Routine
- California Almonds: Nutrient Comparison Chart for Tree Nuts
- The New England Journal of Medicine: Association of Nut Consumption With Total and Cause-Specific Mortality
- Nutrition Reviews: Pistachio Nuts: Composition and Potential Health Benefits
- Appetite: The Effect of Pistachio Shells as a Visual Cue in Reducing Caloric Consumption
- Journal of the American College of Nutrition: Pistachio Nuts Reduce Triglycerides and Body Weight by Comparison to Refined Carbohydrate Snack in Obese Subjects on a 12-Week Weight Loss Program
- American Heart Association: Monounsaturated Fat
- American Heart Association: Polyunsaturated Fat
- NIH Office of Dietary Supplements: Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Heart Disease Facts & Statistics
- American Academy of Family Physicians: What It Takes to Lose Weight