Going Nuts for Your Gut - Pistachios as Gut Food

A garnish on some foods, an afterthought in some others, the glorious pistachio has spent many a moment on the sidelines of nutrition. Even those most committed to the cause of dry fruit, often leave out this shell-cracking-carefully-extracting route to good health. Unless you’re crazy about pistachios, you may have decided that these green nuts are not a necessary part of your diet. I’m here to tell you that it is.

Globally, prioritizing gut health is now on top of most nutritionists’ lists. This is because your gut is not only responsible for digesting food, absorbing nutrients and expunging toxins, but is also the protector of your immune system, the booster of your brain function and the regulator of your mood. Did you know, for example, that 95% of the feel-good hormone Serotonin is produced in your intestine? Or that your gut is home to about 70% of the cells that make up your immune system? 

What you eat is one of the only ways you can take care of your gut. Nutritionally, everyone’s heard of foods with probiotics as good for gut health, have you heard of pre-biotics? Prebiotics are dietary fibres that create a favourable environment in your gut for good bacteria to grow. Pistachios are a fantastic source of prebiotics that work brilliantly to support the build-up of good bacteria. The added presence of phytochemicals (antioxidants, for example) also has a positive effect on gut bacteria, all of which work to create a nourishing environment for you to live your best life. 

Many studies have been conducted to see the impact of pistachios on the gut microbiome (defined as the ecosystem in your gut that contains both good and bad gut bacteria). In one such study, a group of healthy adults were divided into three groups: one that was not given pistachios, one that was given a little over 40 grams per day, and one that was asked to eat about 85 grams per day (147 nuts to be precise). After 19 days, all else being equal, the study concluded that those in the last group had more changes in the levels of various good gut bacteria, thereby establishing a causal link between the nut and gut health. All good news. 

In addition to fibre, pistachios have other nutrients too. For example:

  • Did you know that pistachios are a wonderful source of healthy fats?
  • Did you know that they are a lesser-known source of protein?
  • Did you know that they have Vitamin B6?
  • Did you know that they also have potassium, thiamine, copper and phosphorus?

That’s all good, you say, but aren’t dry fruits fattening? To answer that question, let me direct you to another study where women in their twenties were asked to get twenty percent of their daily calorific needs from pistachios. After ten weeks, the respondents experienced no changes in their weight or their waist circumference. If this isn’t an indicator of a complete health food, I don’t know what is. Another cool fact: one serving of pistachios is about 49 nuts, which makes it the largest recommended serving size of any nut in the nut universe.

Not many know that only two countries generate the biggest yields of pistachios: United States and Iran. What makes these two kinds of pistachios different is the fat content. California pistachios are lower in saturated fats (1.5 grams per serving) and high in protein (6 grams), making them a healthier choice than their counterparts from other countries, giving you yet another reason to bung it into your daily diet and open up one more avenue for healthful snacking. 

It’s time to go nuts.