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Health Effects of Pistachios

In general, tree nuts are considered a healthy food that contain large amounts of protein and fiber, and are good for heart health. Pistachios are a nut of particular interest. Several epidemiological studies have found that subjects who consumed 15-20 percent of their daily caloric intake in the form of pistachios for several weeks experienced statistically significant reductions in levels of harmful cholesterol without changes in the amount of beneficial LDL cholesterol.

Pistachios have been compared to berries, due to anthocyanins in the skin of the nuts. They contain a number of phtyochemicals thought to be beneficial to health, including resveratrol, phytosterols, and the carotenoid lutein. The fat of the nuts has a high proportion of monounsaturated fatty acids, which are considered one of the more healthy forms of fats to include in one’s diet. Like avocados, pistachios have a high concentration of oleic acid.

Additional Uses of the Pistachio Tree

The tree has strong bark and is the source of quality furniture and agricultural tools. Unfortunately, in many areas pistachio groves are the only source of firewood, leading to the large-scale destruction of such orchards. This has been the case in Afghanistan during the war years.

Infestations of mites can lead to the production of galls on the trees. These have been the source of several useful items. In the country of Georgia, such galls were the source of material for high-quality paints. They have also been used to produce tannins in Algeria, which have been used to tan goat wool. This wool is then used to produce a traditional cloth to cover water jugs.

Helga George

Further Reading

Ferguson, L., and M. Arpaia. “New Subtropical Crops in California.” In Advances in New Crops. Edited by Jules Janick and L. E. Simon, 331-37. Portland, OR: Timber Press, 1990.

Ferguson, L., V. Polito, and C. Kallsen. “The Pistachio Tree; Botany and Physiology and Factors That Affect Yield.” In Pistachio Production Manual. 4th ed. Edited by L. Ferguson, 31-39. Davis, CA: UC Fruit & Nut Research & Information Center, 2005. (accessed 10 September 2011).

Hokmabadi, H., A. Tajabadipour, A. Shaker Ardakani, and A. Javanshah. “Following Pistachio Footprints in Iran.” In Following Pistachio Footprints (Pistacia vera L.)—Cultivation and Culture, Folklore and History, Traditions and Use. Edited by D. Avanzato and I. Vassallo. Scriptae Horticulturae 7 (2008): 39-49.

Alasalvar, C., and Fl Shahidi, eds. Tree Nuts: Composition, Phytochemicals, and Health Effects. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 2008.

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