Thursday, September 16, 2010
Uncovering Pistachios: Heart-Health and Happy Eats
Memories of my childhood include my father sitting on the patio, cracking open pistachios while telling political and historical stories that were more intriguing than anything I could read in a history book or watch on the news. I remember getting to crack open my own pistachios, the salty hard outer shell with the green and white seeds inside taunting me with their rich nutty goodness.
Recently I began seeing a nutritionist (Hi Lauren!) to ensuring my version of "healthy eating" was on par with what I really should be eating in order to not only lose weight but improve my overall well-being. One of the things I realized while keeping my food journal is how I eat a relatively low-fat diet. But the fats I was consuming were often not the healthy ones (yum bacon!) so when I hit the road this past weekend for a debate tournament in North Carolina, I needed to find a way to increase healthy fats without just doing shots of olive oil in my hotel room (that could be an interesting drinking game on a random Friday night though...).
I looked through the list of healthier options and that is when I saw a flash from the past. Pistachios! Not only are they delicious, they are also relatively good for you (in moderation of course). So I made it a point to buy a bag, portion them out, and carry them in my camera bag/purse for the tournament. Eating a half cup of pistachios kept me entertained for a reasonable amount of time and when I finished them, I was full! Which is when I realized that while many of us enjoy these little green morsels, how many of us know all of their health benefits?
Apparently there is a Web site (or course there is) dedicated to the health benefits of pistachios. Actually there were hundreds. But rather than just trust sites that are probably funded in part by the industry (not that they are wrong, but more for the academic "evaluate sources" teacher in me), I decided to hit the academic research on the nut.
Researchers at Penn State in an article in the Journal of Nutrition in June 2010 conducted research that "suggests that a heart-healthy diet including pistachios contributes to the decrease in the serum oxidized-LDL concentration through cholesterol-lowering and may provide an added benefit as a result of the antioxidants the pistachios contain."
According to the USDA Nutrition Laboratory, one ounce of dry-roasted salted pistachios (in shell) has 161 calories, 2.9 grams of fiber, 13 grams of fat, 6 grams of protein, and a number of minerals and vitamins including 137mg phosphorus (RDA 700mg).
Ultimately, I like pistachios because of their creamy nutty flavor, plus they are fun to eat! But it is also good to know that I am doing something good for my body in the process. I eat them by themselves but would love to know how you enjoy your pistachios!
I get asked by readers if I am being paid to push products. The simple answer is no. In fact, most of the products I write about are ones I have found and purchased during my trips to the grocery store or on the road. Occasionally, a company will send a sample my way and if I believe the product will serve a need for my readers and I would buy the product myself, then I will share it with you. Sometimes I will write to a company after reading about it, if I believe it will help us lead healthier lifestyles. But even then, if the product doesn't pass my scrutiny, it won't make the screen of Uncovering Food. You can trust that every product or recipe posted here has passed through my lips, and that I wouldn't blog about it if it wasn't worthy of you... my favorite readers.