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All about “Pistachio”

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Health profile

The pistachio can be eaten raw or roasted, salted or not. In some countries (eg Turkey) it is consumed as a paste made from oil, sugar and pistachios. The shell of the pistachio turns pink as it dries, a phenomenon taken up by the food industry which often dyes it a red rose. Like many nuts and oilseeds (often mistakenly called “nuts”), pistachios contain a significant amount of protein and provide a good supply of unsaturated fatty acids. It also contains a multitude of vitamins and minerals. Finally, thanks to its active compounds, it can contribute to good cardiovascular health.

Active principles and properties

For nuts (pistachios, almonds, etc.) and oilseeds (pecans, walnuts, etc.) in general

Several epidemiological and clinical studies associate regular consumption of nuts and oilseeds with various health benefits. These include reduced cholesterol 1 and the risk of cardiovascular disease 2 , type 2 diabetes 3 , gallstones 4 , gallbladder removal 5, and colon cancer in women 6 . The amount of nuts and oilseeds to consume for health benefits is, in most studies, about five one-ounce (30 g) servings per week .

For pistachio in particular

Blood lipids . A few studies in animals and humans have evaluated the effect of consuming pistachios on blood lipids. In a first study, people with high blood cholesterol levels replaced 20% of their daily calorie intake with pistachios 7 . After three weeks, this substitution improved the subjects’ lipid profile. Their total cholesterol level has decreased and their HDL (“good” cholesterol) level has increased 7. Similar results were seen in another study. This was performed in healthy subjects who consumed the equivalent of 65g to 75g of pistachios per day (about 20% of total calorie intake), replacing other foods 8 .

Results observed in rats point in the same direction 9 . Researchers have replaced 20% of the calorie intake in their diet with pistachios. Levels of “good” cholesterol increased and oxidation of LDL (“bad” cholesterol) in the blood decreased. It should be noted that the oxidation of LDL is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

Pistachio contains different compounds, such as unsaturated fatty acids, soluble fiber and phytosterols. They are all recognized as having a beneficial effect on blood lipids. However, current data does not allow to determine which of these compounds has the greatest effect on improving the lipid profile, following the consumption of pistachios.

  • Unsaturated fatty acids . Like most nuts and oilseeds, the majority of pistachio’s total fat (around 85%) is unsaturated fatty acids , primarily monounsaturated. In general, replacing saturated fatty acids in the diet with monounsaturated ones leads to a reduction in total cholesterol and “bad” cholesterol, without reducing “good” cholesterol 10 . Thus, the fatty acid composition of pistachios could partly explain the improvement in the lipid profile observed following its consumption 8 .
  • Phytosterols . Phytosterols are compounds present in plants and whose structure is similar to that of cholesterol. A meta-analysis of 41 clinical trials showed that a daily intake of 2 g of phytosterols reduced the level of “bad cholesterol” by 10%. This reduction could even reach 20% in the context of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol 11 .One study evaluated the phytosterol content of pistachios at 279 mg per 100 g serving, making them one of the nuts and oleaginous fruits richest in phytosterols 12 . For comparison, the same amount of almonds contains 200 mg; sesame seeds, champions in the field, contain 400 mg 12. The phytosterol content of plants being nevertheless relatively low, it is practically impossible to obtain an intake of 2 g per day only from food. For the moment, Health Canada does not allow the marketing of foods fortified with phytosterols.Although the effects of phytosterols found naturally in foods have not been directly evaluated, it is possible to assume that they are of interest for cardiovascular health.

Antioxidants . Antioxidants are compounds that protect cells in the body from damage caused by free radicals . The latter are believed to be involved in the development of cardiovascular diseases, certain cancers and other diseases linked to aging 13 . A study evaluated the antioxidant characteristics of ten nuts and oilseeds 14 . Among these, pistachio ranks third in terms of its antioxidant content. Other authors have also attributed to it a high antioxidant capacity 15 . Additionally, consuming 65g to 75g of pistachios daily for three weeks has been shown to increase antioxidant capacity in the blood of healthy subjects.8 .

Different compounds contained in pistachio could have an influence on its antioxidant capacity. First of all, pistachios contain phenolic compounds, mainly in the form of anthocyanins 16 , 17 . Anthocyanins are part of the flavonoid family and are recognized for their multiple health properties (anticancer, anti-inflammatory, etc.) 18 . A study has shown that roasting pistachios decreases their anthocyanin content and, consequently , their antioxidant capacity 16 . It is therefore more interesting to consume raw pistachios , not roasted .

Additionally, pistachios contain resveratrol 17,19 . This antioxidant compound is beneficial in the prevention of cardiovascular disease 20 . It also has the ability to turn into an anticancer compound called piceatannol 21 . Pistachio contains an amount of resveratrol comparable to that of peanut 19 , but which remains lower than that of red wine, known for its very high content in resveratrol 22 . Finally, pistachio is a source of vitamin E, mainly present in the form of gamma-tocopherol 17 , 23. In general, tocopherols are powerful antioxidants that have protective effects against cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension and cognitive decline 24 .

Other properties

Is pistachio antioxidant? Very Strong  : Pistachio has a TAC index of 2475 μmol per 31 g (60 ml) serving.
Is pistachio acidifying? Data not available
Does pistachio have a high glycemic load? Data not available

Most important nutrients

See the meaning of the nutrient source classification symbols

 Copper . Pistachio is an excellent source of copper. As a component of several enzymes , copper is necessary for the formation of hemoglobin and collagen (a protein used for the structure and repair of tissues) in the body. Several copper-containing enzymes also help the body’s defense against free radicals .

 Vitamin B6 . Pistachio is an excellent source of vitamin B6. Vitamin B6, also called pyridoxine , is part of coenzymes involved in the metabolism of proteins and fatty acids as well as in the manufacture of neurotransmitters . It also helps in the production of red blood cells and allows them to carry more oxygen. Pyridoxine is also necessary for the transformation of glycogen into glucose and it helps the proper functioning of the immune system. Finally, this vitamin plays a role in the formation of certain components of nerve cells.

 Phosphorus . Pistachio is a good source of phosphorus (see our Phosphorus nutrient list ). Phosphorus is the body’s second most abundant mineral after calcium. It plays a vital role in building and maintaining healthy bones and teeth. In addition, it participates among other things in the growth and regeneration of tissues and helps maintain normal blood pH . Finally, phosphorus is one of the constituents of cell membranes.

Dietary fiber
Pistachio is a source of dietary fiber. These are found only in plant products and include a set of substances that are not digested by the body. In addition to preventing constipation and lowering the risk of colon cancer, a diet high in fiber may help prevent cardiovascular disease, control type 2 diabetes, and control appetite 25 . Remember that it is recommended to consume 25 g of fiber per day for women aged 19 to 50, and 38 g per day for men of the same age group 26 . 60 ml portions (31 g) of raw nuts or dry roasted provide respectively 2.7 g and 3.2 g of dietary fiber 27 .

Iron . Pistachio is a good source of iron for men and a source for women ( women ‘s iron requirements are higher than men’ s). Each body cell contains iron. This mineral is essential for the transport of oxygen and the formation of red blood cells in the blood. It also plays a role in the production of new cells, hormones and neurotransmitters. It should be noted that the iron contained in foods of plant origin (such as pistachios) is less well absorbed by the body than the iron contained in foods of animal origin. The absorption of iron from plants is however favored by the consumption of certain nutrients, such as vitamin C.

 Manganese . Pistachio is a good source of manganese. Manganese acts as a cofactor of several enzymes that facilitate a dozen different metabolic processes. It also participates in the prevention of damage caused by free radicals .

 Vitamin B1 . Pistachio is a good source of vitamin B1. Also called thiamine , vitamin B1 is part of a coenzyme necessary for the production of energy mainly from the carbohydrates that we ingest. It also participates in the transmission of nerve impulses and promotes normal growth.

 Vitamin K . Raw pistachio is a good source of vitamin K. Vitamin K is necessary for the production of proteins which participate in blood clotting (both stimulating and inhibiting blood clotting). It also plays a role in the formation of bones. In addition to being found in the diet, vitamin K is also made by bacteria found in the intestine. Vitamin K deficiencies are therefore very rare.

 Magnesium . Pistachio is a source of magnesium. Magnesium is involved in bone development, protein building, enzymatic actions, muscle contraction, dental health and the functioning of the immune system. It also plays a role in the metabolism of energy and in the transmission of nerve impulses.

 Potassium . Pistachio is a source of potassium. Potassium is used to balance the pH of the blood and to stimulate the production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach, thus aiding digestion. In addition, it facilitates the contraction of muscles, including the heart, and participates in the transmission of nerve impulses.

 Zinc . Pistachio is a source of zinc. Zinc participates in particular in immune reactions, in the production of genetic material, in the perception of taste, in the healing of wounds and in the development of the fetus. It also interacts with sex and thyroid hormones. In the pancreas, it participates in the manufacture, storage and release of insulin.

 Selenium . Dry roasted pistachios are a source of selenium. This mineral works with one of the main antioxidant enzymes , thus preventing the formation of free radicals in the body. It also helps convert thyroid hormones to their active form.

 Vitamin E . Pistachio is a source of vitamin E. A major antioxidant, vitamin E protects the membrane that surrounds the cells of the body, especially red blood cells and white blood cells (cells of the immune system).

What is a “portion” of pistachio worth?
Weight / volume Raw pistachios, 31 g / 60 ml Dry roasted pistachios, 31 g / 60 ml
Calories 174 178
Protein 6.4 g 6.7 g
Carbohydrates 8.7 g 8.6 g
Lipids 13.9 g 14.3 g
-saturated 1.7 g 1.7 g
-monounsaturated 7.3 g 7.6 g
-polyunsaturated 4.2 g 4.3 g
-Omega 3* 0.1 g 0.1 g
Cholesterol 0.0 mg 0.0 mg
Dietary fiber 2.7 g 3.2 g

Source  : Health Canada. Canadian Nutrient File , 2007.
* EPA, DHA, and alpha-linolenic acid

Precautions

Beware of sodium!
In food markets, you can find pistachios, salted or not. Salted dry roasted pistachios contain 40 times more sodium than dry roasted pistachios without added salt 27 . It is always more beneficial for your health to consume nuts and oilseeds in their natural form, especially for people with high blood pressure and heart or kidney failure.

Allergy to “nuts” (nuts and oilseeds)
In the list of the main allergens of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) 28 , we find “nuts”, which designate a group of nuts and oilseeds. . A study has shown that hazelnuts, cashews, Brazil nuts, almonds and pistachios form a group with strongly associated allergies 29 . A person allergic to one of these foods is therefore likely to be allergic to the other four.

In addition, people with allergies to peanuts are usually recommended to refrain from consuming nuts and oilseeds, including pistachios. They also have a high allergenic potential and are often handled and distributed by companies specializing in peanuts. Symptoms of allergy to nuts and oilseeds can be severe and range up to anaphylactic shock .

Urinary
stones Some people may be advised to eat a diet restricted in oxalates to prevent recurrence of kidney stones or urinary tract stones (also called urolithiasis). Oxalates are compounds that are naturally found in many foods, including pistachios. It is therefore preferable that these people avoid consuming them, as well as other types of nuts and oilseeds.

Pistachio over time

”  Pistachio  ” appeared in the XIII th  century as “pistace”. It comes from the Latin pistacium which borrowed it from the Greek pistakios which, for its part, had borrowed it from the Persian pistah , whose meaning is “nut”.
Pistachio, Open
The shell of the pistachio opens naturally when the fruit is ripe, which is a good way for growers to know when it’s time to harvest. Depending on the variety, 50% to 80% of pistachios open this way, the rest being opened mechanically. This characteristic means that over 75% of commercial pistachios are sold unshelled, a particularly high percentage when compared to that of other oleaginous fruits.

There would be 11 species of Pistacia , the most exploited being Pistacia vera , which would be native to Central Asia, more particularly the desert parts of this region. The tree needs a long hot summer to ripen its fruit and an annual period of cold to induce flowering. These conditions are specific to deserts. The wild pistachio still grows in northeastern Iran, northern Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. It would have been cultivated for the first time in Assyria 4000 years ago, but it seems that its fruit was consumed in the Middle East around 9000 years ago. The Romans would have introduced it to Europe in the first century of our era. The tree is now cultivated in 18 countries, the main ones being Iran, the United States (mainly California), Syria, Turkey, China, Greece, Afghanistan, Italy, the ‘Uzbekistan and Tunisia.

Culinary uses

To access other recipes, you can go to the CuisineAZ.com cooking recipes site, which offers the following recipes, among others: pistachio paste, pistachio ganache, pistachio powder

Choose well

The flesh should be a nice fresh green, an indication that the pistachios have not been roasted at too high temperatures, which detracts from their flavor. Pistachios are classified according to their size and quality. They are sold raw, cooked plain or salted, peeled or not.

Culinary preparations

  • As an appetizer , serve them with a good cheese and some fresh grapes. Or spread soft cheese on rusks and garnish with pistachios.
The tasty pistachio oil
It is excellent. It is used with fine dishes, but sparingly (because of its price).
  • In salads , for example with lamb’s lettuce, goat cheese and dried cranberries. If desired, season with a pistachio oil vinaigrette.
  • Pistachio flour . Pass the pistachios in a coffee grinder or in a small food processor to make a powder. This will replace up to a quarter of the flour in muffin mixes, cakes, cookies, pancakes, waffles, macaroons, etc.
  • They are a classic ingredient in Greek, Turkish and Arab pastries, including the famous baklava , sweetened with honey.
  • It can be made into a sauce to season roast meats, fish or baked vegetables. Blend the pistachios with the garlic, parsley, mint, lemon and orange zest, olive oil and lemon juice in a blender. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Use it in poultry or vegetable stuffing (tomato, eggplant, pepper, zucchini, squash, etc.)
Pistachios to make you blush
The first pistachios sold on the North American market were dyed red. It is generally said that the peoples of the Middle East preferred them this way. But another explanation is that it was an itinerant salesman from Brooklyn who had the idea to dye them to distinguish them from those of his competitors. The practice would have spread, for many years. However, today only 15% of pistachios are dyed, with the majority of consumers preferring them natural.
  • They can be integrated into a homemade ice cream .
  • In the tagines , these Arab or Berber dishes made up of stewed meat, vegetables and fruits, and slowly cooked in the oven or on the embers.
  • Spicy pistachios . Raw pistachios can be roasted in the oven after sprinkling them with a mixture of salt, sugar, paprika, hot pepper, garlic, finely chopped onion and ginger, or any other spice of your choice. Bake for ten minutes in an oven set to 150 ° C (300 ° F).
  • In cold cuts . Pates, galantines, terrines, sausages …
  • Pistachios are often served with rice , as in Arabic pilafs or Indian briyanis. They are roasted or fried in oil and placed on the rice, with raisins, thin slices of grilled onions and cashews. Other oleaginous fruits can be used: peanuts, almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, etc.
  • In the pasta with herbs, garlic and a drizzle of olive oil.
  • You can sprinkle ground pistachios on milk or smoothie .
  • Add a few drops of pistachio oil in salads, on steamed or grilled vegetables, in mashed potatoes, etc.

Conservation

Kept in an airtight container, in a cool place and protected from light, pistachios will keep for about six months. They can also be stored in the refrigerator or freezer, always in an airtight container so that they do not take moisture. If they have lost their crunchiness, they can be put in an oven set to 95 ° C (200 ° F) for 15 minutes before eating.

Ecology and environment

A devoted guardian until death
The Atlas pistachio tree grows mainly in the clumps of the jujube tree ( Zizyphus lotus ) of which it is the classic host. This thorny plant protects it from the winds and the advance of more vigorous plants, until it grows. Once its mission is accomplished, the jujube tree disappears under the effect of competition from its protégé.

The pistachio tree is particularly recommended for the development of marginal areas or areas threatened by erosion. It can also be grown where other fruit species cannot grow due to the climatic aridity. With deep roots capable of pumping water over 10 m, it is particularly resistant to drought, as well as chalky soils and salinity. We also use the various species of Pistacia to fix the soil of the dunes and as windbreaks in order to fight against desertification.

However, some Pistacia species are threatened with extinction or are experiencing accelerated genetic erosion. The main causes are deforestation, fires, pollution, climate change, excessive grazing by farm animals and large human removals. In this regard, the Atlas pistachio ( Pistacia atlantica) is the subject of special attention by researchers both in Morocco and Algeria. It has always played a fundamental role in the ecology and economy of the Sahara. “The iron tree,” as it is known locally, is food, folk medicine, fodder, firewood, lumber and wood for making handicrafts. It may soon be just a memory, unless significant means are put in place to preserve it.

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