All About Pistachios - From History To Health

Pistachios, also known as the “smiling or happy nut” grow on Pistachio trees (Pistacia vera), a deciduous tree belonging to the Anacardiaceae or Cashew nut family.  The female pistachio tree produces the nuts (in grape-like clusters) while the male pistachio produces the pollen. Pistachio tree farmers plant their male and female trees close together, even sometimes grafting them. Pistachios trees also rely on wind to assist pollination so the fruit can come to fruition.

Flourishing in hot climates pistachios originated from the middle east and a bit of southern Russia.  Archaeological evidence suggests that pistachios were eaten as far back as 6750 BC.

During the reign of Queen of Sheba, there were many Pistachio groves throughout Persia bringing in many riches and high-status. Through the conquest of Alexander the Great pistachios spread into Greece, then was introduced to Italy and Spain. Nowadays Pistachio nuts are grown widely around the world, including California – which is where we source ours. 

Pistachios distinctive warm green and purple hues (due to the antioxidant levels) and sweet, nutty flavor have been a desired delicacy and main ingredient in such deserts like Baklava, Nougat and Turkish delight for centuries. Today pistachios are widely used in a variety of sweet and savory dishes as well as being a Moorish and popular snack.

According to folklore originating from the middle east, two lovers were sitting in a grove of mature pistachio trees, under a beautiful moonlit sky, listening to the sound of the little shells bursting open. They were magically bestowed with blessings of good fortune, abundance, and happiness.

Pistachios are a rich source of protein, fiber, and many vitamins and minerals, including Thiamine (B1), B6, Copper, Manganese, Phosphorus, and Magnesium. 

Pistachios are an excellent source of antioxidants and essential fats that act to prevent cells from damage and inflammation, helping to reduce the risk of chronic, inflammatory diseases. Pistachios are believed to contain one of the highest amounts of antioxidant of all the nuts and seeds – only walnuts and pecans contain more. Two of the pistachios antioxidants are polyphenols and tocopherols, these may protect against cancer and heart disease. (1) (2)

Nutrition facts

According to the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), Pistachios macronutrient ratio is 67% Fat, 13% protein, and 20% Carbohydrate. Pistachios have a low glycaemic load and are low in cholesterol and sodium.  (3) (4)

The critical nutrient values below represent a standard serving of 1 small handful (around 28g).

Calories: 156 kcal

Protein: 5.8 grams

Fat: 12.4 grams

·      Saturated Fat   1.5g

·      Monounsaturated Fat  6.5g

·      Polyunsaturated Fat     3.8g

·      Omega-3         71.1mg

·      Omega-6         3696mg

Carbs: 7.8 grams (of which 2.9g is from fiber)


Copper: 0.4mg (18% of the RDI)

Manganese: 0.3mg (17%)

Phosphorus: 137mg (14%)

Magnesium: 39.9mg (8%)

Potassium: 287mg (8%)

Iron: 1.2mg (6%)

Zinc: 0.6mg (4%)

Selenium: 2.0 mcg (3%)

Calcium: 30.0mg (3%)

Vitamin B6: 0.5mg (24%)

Thiamine (B1): 0.2mg (16%)

Folate (B9): 14.3mcg (4%)

Vitamin E: 0.6mg (3%)

Vitamin A: 155 IU (3%)

Just one serving of Pistachios contains 37% of your RDI of Vitamin B6. B6 plays many vital roles in the body, including the metabolism of protein, neurotransmitter production, and cognitive development. Pistachios protein is around 20% of their weight, only second to almonds.

Improves cholesterol and heart health

Like all the other nuts, Pistachios, due to their high antioxidant levels, anti-inflammatory properties, and beneficial essential fats, help to lower LDL (harmful) cholesterol and lower blood pressure – thus providing greater protection and wellbeing for your heart. (5)

Weight Management

Snacking on Pistachios (well nuts in general really) can help you maintain a healthy weight and even maybe help you lose weight. Due to the healthy fats, fiber, and protein found in Pistachios, which all create a sense of satiety (satisfaction) and help you to feel fuller for longer between meals.

Lowers diabetes symptoms

Pistachios have a low glycaemic load, so they do not cause a sharp rise in your blood sugar levels, thus reducing the risk of developing diabetes. For people with diabetes, a study suggested that eating pistachios as a snack is beneficial for blood sugar levels, blood pressure, obesity and inflammation, symptoms associated with Type 2 Diabetes. (6)

Supports eye health

Pistachios contain high amounts of the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin (carotenoids), which are both important nutrients for the eyes and the only Carotenoids found in the retina and lens of the eye. (7) These two antioxidants protect the eyes against blue light, age-related macular degeneration affecting your vision and cataracts. (8) (9) (10)

Fiber for your gut

All nuts, being high in fibre, are beneficial for your digestion process and microflora. Fibre moves through your digestive tract undigested. Which slows stool transit time allowing you to absorb as many nutrients as possible as well as helping your digestion move well to avoid constipation. Prebiotics (a type of digestible fiber) is food for the good bacteria in your large intestine. This fibre promoting the growth of the population of your good guys (thus crowding out the bad guys). Your Beneficial gut bacteria ferment the fiber consumed, turning it into short-chain fatty acids that have a wide range of health benefits. Including reducing the risk of various chronic conditions like digestive disorders, cancer, and heart disease. (11) (12)

Pistachios may reduce the risk of some cancers, such as colon cancer, due to their high fiber content. (6)

The information in our articles is NOT intended to replace the one on one support of a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice.

By Linda Ross ICNT
Integrative Nutritionist
Body, Mind and Eating Coach
Wholefood Chef 




Linda is currently teaching and consulting Globally. Specializing in identifying the underlying factors of chronic stress and related conditions, using clinical and holistic techniques. Blending ancient wisdom that is backed up by the modern science of nutrition to nourish the body and support people of all ages in understanding and transforming their health and wellbeing.

Links to connect with Linda:
Instagram: @nourishing_ways