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Frequently Asked Questions

Are pistachios a good choice for diabetics?

Yes. Pistachios are naturally low in carbohydrates and are a good source of protein and a good source of mono - and polyunsaturated fats (MUFA), making them a perfect snack for diabetics following recommended dietary guidelines.

Pistachios are also included in the FDA health claim for nuts which states: "Scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts such as pistachios, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease. See nutrition information for fat content." Supporting heart health is important for diabetics.

Are pistachios a good workout snack?

Yes, pistachios make both a great pre- and post-workout snack. Pistachios provide a satisfying combination of protein, fiber and carbohydrates, which are great nutrients to include before and after a workout.

Are pistachios heart healthy?

Pistachios are included in the FDA qualified health claim for nuts and heart health: "Scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts such as pistachios as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease. [See nutrition information for fat content.]".

Most of the fat found in pistachios is the healthy mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Aren't pistachios (or nuts) high in sodium?

Contrary to public opinion, salted nuts aren't necessarily high in sodium. Because salt is present on the surface of the nut, it's tasted immediately. In actuality, a 1-ounce serving (or 49 kernels) of pistachios only contains 7% DV of sodium. As an option, raw pistachios are sodium free.

Does roasting nuts make a difference?

Yes, roasting nuts increases a nut's flavor, making it a more assertive ingredient in terms of flavor. Thanks to a process called the Maillard Reaction, named after the French chemist Louis Camille Maillard, a complex reaction occurs when proteins and sugars are heated together. The molecules break down into hundreds of flavor compounds, forming a brown color and increasing the complexity of taste. This same reaction is also responsible for the transformation that takes place when meat is browned and coffee beans roasted.

It's important to note that there is very little difference between the nutrient compositions for raw versus roasted pistachios as evidenced in the Pistachio Health tree nut comparison chart.

I heard the USDA changed the nutrition information for pistachios. How did the nutrition facts change?

The USDA's National Nutrient Database issued a new release (Release 21) in September 2008; however the nutritional information for pistachios did not change. An article published in the Western Pistachio Association's Fall/Winter 2008 newsletter quoted a consultant who used a reduced serving size of 1 oz (28.35 grams), and that was the reason for the cited variation in caloric content.

The format and regulations concerning the Nutrition Facts statements on packaged food products, like pistachios, is governed by the FDA, not the USDA. FDA regulations have established a standard serving size (or Reference Amount for Customary Consumption) of 30g. In addition, the FDA has established rounding rules for the various nutrient amounts.

What is considered a standard serving size of pistachios?

A 1 oz serving size of pistachios, about 30 grams shelled, yields about 160 calories. That measures out to be about 49 kernels per ounce - which can make for a very satisfying snack.

What is the best way to store pistachios?

Pistachios absorb moisture from the air and will become stale if improperly stored. Keep pistachios in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer to maintain freshness. In-shell pistachios will remain fresh for up to one year from the date of production, while shelled pistachios are best eaten within four months for maximum flavor. When thawing frozen pistachios, place them in a plastic bag to prevent the formation of condensation.

What is the Pistachio Principle?

According to James Painter, Ph.D., R.D., Chair of the School of Family and Consumer Sciences at Eastern Illinois University, the "Pistachio Principle" is caloric reduction without calorie restriction. It is one of the many ways we can alter our environmental cues, allowing us to become more mindful and satisfied with our food choices.12

Dr. Painter has conducted two preliminary, behavioral nutritional studies which suggest that consuming in‐shell pistachios may help to slow consumption while empty shells may serve as a visual cue about how much has been eaten. In the first study people who consumed in‐shell pistachios ate 41 percent fewer calories than those who consumed pistachios without shells. This suggests that empty shells may be a helpful visual cue as to how much has been eaten – thereby potentially encouraging reduced calorie consumption. In the second study participants who left pistachio shells on their desk reduced their calorie consumption by 18 percent compared to participants who discarded shells immediately after consumption.

What makes pistachios a good snack choice?

Naturally trans-fat and cholesterol-free, and one of the lowest calorie, lowest fat nuts, pistachios make an ideal snack choice. Pistachios are not only tasty and delicious, they're one of the most nutrient dense nuts1, offering a good source of eight important nutrients including thiamin, vitamin B6, copper, manganese, potassium, fiber, phosphorus and magnesium. They're also portable, making them a great snack for on the go.

References

  1. Rainey CJ, Nyquist, Food Research Inc., Los Angeles. Unpublished original research 2006
  2. Wu et al, "Lipophilic and hydrophilic antioxidant capacities of common foods in the United States," J. Agric Food Chemi, 52 (12), 4026-4037
  3. Complete Food and Nutrition Guide, 3rd Edition, Roberta Duyff
  4. Institute of Medicine, 2002a. "Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein and Amino Acids. Washington , DC: National Academy Press
  5. American Chemical Society, "Sunflower seeds, pistachios among top nuts for lowering cholesterol," Dec. 7, 2005.
  6. Wu et al, "Lipophilic and hydrophilic antioxidant capacities of common foods in the United States," J. Agric Food Chemi, 52 (12), 4026-4037
  7. Institute of Medicine, 2004. "Dietary Reference Intakes for Water, Potassium, Sodium, Chloride, and Sulfate." Washington DC
  8. "Trans fat share attack on Americans' hearts," USA Today, accessed online Feb. 23, 2007
  9. "Trans Fatty Acids," AmericanHeart.org, accessed online Mar. 5, 2007
  10. Sabate, J. (2003) "Nut consumption and body weight," American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 78(3), 647S-650.
  11. Seeram NP, Aviram M, Zhang Y, Henning SM et al. Comparison of Antioxidant Potency of Commonly Consumed Polyphenol-Rich Beverages in the United States. J Agric Food Chem. 2008 Feb 27;56(4):1415-1422.
  12. Painter, J. The Pistachio Principle: Calorie Reduction Without Calorie Restriction. Weight Management Matters, 6(2),8.
  13. U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. (2007). USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 18. Beltsville, MD: USDA Agricultural Research Service, Nutrient Data Laboratory.
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