The Health Benefits of Pistachios

Pistachios are lauded for their low-calorie, low-fat stats. But those aren't the only positive attributes of the hard-shelled nuts.

These green members of the cashew family pack a long list of health benefits, especially for endurance athletes.

"Shelled pistachios are great for taking on extra long runs or cycling," said registered dietitian Becci Twombley, who's also the director of sports nutrition at the University of Southern California and spokesperson for the American Pistachio Growers. "Adding salt, protein, carbohydrate and antioxidants will allow the body to refuel while training."

Pistachios contain three types of antioxidants—polyphenols, carotenoids (vitamin A) and tocopherols (vitamin E)—which boost immunity and tissue repair, and improve blood flow to your cells. Those antioxidants also aid exercise recovery.

More: Recovery Foods That Ease Muscle Soreness

Additionally, pistachios are full of insoluble fiber, which promotes a clean digestive tract. They also contain the nutrient zeaxanthin, which helps protect the skin and eyes from sun damage.

"When your sport or hobby requires constant exposure to the sun, it is important to protect yourself from free radicals in every way possible," Twombley said.

Pistachios may also help reduce the risk of heart disease. A 2010 Penn State study showed that the bioactive compounds in the nuts lowered LDL (bad) cholesterol and increased HDL (good) cholesterol levels.

In the same Penn State study, researchers tested the bio-accessibility (absorption) of raw and roasted-and-salted pistachios. They found no significant differences.

That's good news for your preference. Whether you like to add raw pistachios to your smoothies or toss the roasted-and-salted varietal into pesto, your body will reap the health benefits.

More: The Importance of Nuts and Seeds in an Athlete's Diet

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About the Author

Nicole Reino

Nicole Reino is the former nutrition editor for She's a yogi, runner, cook and real-foods enthusiast.
Nicole Reino is the former nutrition editor for She's a yogi, runner, cook and real-foods enthusiast.

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