Go Nuts for Pistachios on National Nut Day

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A whopping 2.7 million tons of tree nuts were produced last year, and more Americans are embracing nuts as a recipe ingredient, a meal component and a snack. And for good reason-not only are nuts delicious and convenient, but the consumption of nuts has been associated with a variety of health benefits, including heart health (Sabate et al 2010) and weight management (Vadivel et al 2012). October 22 is National Nut Day, and there's no better time to start incorporating more nuts into your diet. But of all the nuts to choose from, one in particular is emerging as the snack superstar-the pistachio.

"Pistachios are one of my all-time favorite snacks for athletes because they provide the perfect combination of protein needed for muscle development and heart-healthy fats needed for energy," says Becci Twombley, RD, CSSD, Director of Sports Nutrition at the University of Southern California. "But I also recommend pistachios to any client looking for a filling snack option. Most people don't realize that pistachios pack more protein, calorie-for-calorie, than most common snacks they are already eating. Additionally, pistachios also have among the lowest levels of calories and fat per serving of any popular tree nut. One 1-ounce serving has 160 calories and 12.7 grams of fat."

Pistachios are a good source of lean protein (6 grams per serving) and pack 3 grams of filling fiber per serving, which makes them a smart snack option. And when it comes to serving size, pistachios provide more bang-for-the-calorie buck as a clear frontrunner in the nut category. A serving of pistachios is equal to 49 nuts-more than any other tree nut-and contains just 160 calories.

Recent research shows that pistachios can also help promote a variety of health benefits, including heart health (Gebauer et al. 2008), weight management (Li et al. 2010; Honselman et al.  2011; Kennedy-Hagan et al 2011) and blood sugar stabilization (Kendall et al 2011). Numerous studies suggest that eating pistachios daily may reduce the risk of heart disease in a variety of ways, including lowering cholesterol (Gebauer et al 2008) and blood pressure (West et al. 2010). Recent studies also suggest that those who eat nuts, such as pistachios, weigh less and are at a decreased risk for obesity compared to those who do not eat nuts (O'Neil et al 2011). Additionally, researchers have found that pistachios can help lower blood sugar response when eaten along with a carbohydrate meal (Kendall et al. 2011).

"We are excited about the wealth of research supporting the health benefits of pistachios," says Judy Hirigoyen, Director of Global Marketing for the American Pistachio Growers. "People used to shy away from nuts, but as evidence continues to emerge that pistachios may help to prevent some types of chronic diseases while also keeping waistlines trim, it's becoming more common to embrace the versatility of nuts in meals and snacks."

Pistachios provide a range of additional nutritional benefits, including:

>>More dietary fiber can be obtained from 2 ounces of pistachio kernels, which have 6 more grams of fiber than 2 ounces of cooked broccoli, which has 1.9 grams of fiber.

>>Pistachios are a cholesterol-free snack with only 1.5 grams of saturated fat and 11.5 grams of heart-healthy fats.

>>One serving of pistachios has as much potassium (300 mg, 8 percent) as an orange (250 mg, 7 percent).

>>Just a single serving of pistachios provides the same amount of protein as a one-ounce serving of soy beans and can serve as a plant-based alternative to meat, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.

>>Not only are pistachios a tasty and convenient snack option, but the recipe options for pistachios are endless. For a fresh take on stuffing this holiday season, try this recipe for Braised Pistachio and Apple Stuffing. Or liven up a Saturday night dinner with Sea Bass with Thai Curry and Pistachios. Pistachios are also delicious paired with chocolate or used in a variety of dessert recipes to satisfy any sweet tooth. For more recipe ideas, visit AmericanPistachios.org.