Pistachios, A Complete Protein that Satisfies Protein and Nutrients Needs

With stay-at-home orders in full effect, many Californians are struggling to find ways to exercise and eat in a way that will help their physical and mental well-being. Every social media platform is full of quick fixes that lack substantial medical research to back their claims. Thus, the public is left to fend for themselves or to seek experts for guidance.  Registered dietitians (RDN) are uniquely qualified and aware of the scientific evidence that can help people achieve their goals without putting them at risk of nutrient deficiencies or long-term health issues.  Nutrition education is only half of the story.  To develop nutrition habits that are lasting, the fueling plan must get results, be convenient to follow and pleasing to the palate

So, how can we meet our protein and nutrient needs to support our immune systems while giving ourselves a mental boost with a delicious snack? Choose foods that are nutrient dense and pair them with savory satisfaction. Keeping hunger pangs at bay, improving blood flow and giving our immune system the nutrients required to keep us healthy are crucial during this time of inactivity. The shelter-in-place stress, combined with poor eating habits, may increase the risk of heart disease and other medical disorders, like diabetes.

Sources of Complete Protein

To fight muscle loss and cell damage, try to get at least 20g of high-quality protein at each meal. High-quality proteins are complete proteins, or those that contain all of the essential amino acids and are minimally processed. While foods like eggs, lean meats and fish might be the obvious choice, there are plant-based proteins, such as pistachios, that are also identified as complete proteins. Adding pistachios, soy, or quinoa a few times a day can aid in digestive health and in decreasing stress hormones.

To battle weight gain, match the portion size to the amount of calories (energy) you burn. On days that you are less active, use whole grains, fruits and vegetables to make up 50 percent of the plate with 25 percent containing high-quality protein and 25 percent of whole grain or high fiber carbohydrate. The frequency of our meals, however, should stay consistent.  Putting the body in a starved or overfed state can sabotage the immune system. Three meals and one snack is a great place to start.

To minimize the health risk of a sedentary lifestyle, look for foods that will help promote good blood flow.  Beets, spinach, pistachios and kale all promote low blood pressure, which will decrease complications like bloating, swollen joints and muscle stiffness.

The choices that are made and habits that are created during this time of sheltering-in can set the stage for our future. Choosing to eat well and keep our health a priority now, will help us maintain our healthy lifestyle later on. Here are a few healthy recipes: 

Pistachios and Dark Chocolate: This power-packed combination offers complete protein to allow cells to recover quickly – but is also an anti-inflammatory powerhouse with multiple antioxidants to help mood, energy and cell repair. This seemingly decadent snack offers access to copper, magnesium, lutein, zeaxanthin and vitamin K – all of which work to support our immune systems and heart health to combat the consequences of limited activity.

Avocado Toast – on sprouted or whole grain bread:  Healthy fats support brain and nerve function with savory smoothness and crunch. B vitamins, fiber, and folate keep cells working efficiently and aid in digestion. Add an egg to add protein if it’s your entrée, or use spinach and tomato if your vegetable intake has been limited.

Frozen Grapes: So simple and so delicious – just wash your grapes and put them in the freezer. In a few hours, you can enjoy nature’s popsicles with confidence that you are fueling with resveratrol to aid in cell replication and to limit cell damage. While there isn’t a lot of protein in grapes, adding a complete protein such as pistachios or Greek yogurt will balance it out.