For several years now, nuts have been increasingly found in Polish homes. This very popular type of fast snack, until recently demonized and considered fat and unhealthy, is now regarded as an indispensable part of a well-balanced diet. Today we will check what nutritional properties the pistachios have.
Where did the fashion for nuts in the diet come from?
Fashion for eating nuts is associated not only with their ever-easier availability, but also with increasing consumers’ nutritional awareness and numerous studies on the beneficial effects of this type of food on the human body 2. The good effects of the described snack was especially highlighted in 2005 in the recommendations for healthy diets issued by the Harvard School of Public Health together with the US Department of Agriculture, USDA (United States Department of Agriculture).
In the presented food pyramids, which were carefully developed by dr n.med. Beata Całniuk, emphasized the obligation to include each day in their menu products with a high content of fats with a different composition of fatty acids. They include, among others, vegetable oils, fish, seeds and nuts. Thanks to this in the daily diet of a human should not lack the right amount of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids from the omega-3 and omega-6 1 families.
The discovery and origin of pistachio nuts
In studies carried out in 2010 by O’Neile, it was shown that the most frequently consumed nuts are Brazilian, cashew, almond, macadamia, pecans, hazelnuts, Italian, and most importantly, pistachio, which will be covered by the presented article 2.
Pistachios, like walnuts, are classified as so-called tree nuts, or wood products 2. They belong to the adrenaline plant family, and fruits are referred to as stone fruit 4. There is no information when they were discovered, although some Bible experts claim that they are listed in some of the Old Testament books and its trees although they do not occur naturally in Israel, they certainly grew on its territory already in the times of Jesus’ life. 5. The exact origin of these plants is also unknown, although according to some sources the first ones were located in areas of Central Asia and Minor 4. These are today’s areas of countries such as Afghanistan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkestan and Uzbekistan 4.
Currently, pistachios are grown in many Asian and European countries 5. It is easiest to meet them even in Pakistan, Iran, India or mountain areas of Afghanistan 5. They can be found even in the United States or in Italy 5. It is worth emphasizing here that However, the largest crops in Europe can boast of Greece, and above all, the island of Aegina, which is also famous for its pistachio trees, and the city known to tourists through numerous monuments and attractions, or Thessaloniki 4.
Pistachios grow on trees with a height of 5 to 7 meters, the leaves of which take on a red-yellow color in autumn 5. Their fruits form in the form of grapes, just like grapes. When the fruit matures, its hard shell breaks, which is why these nuts are often colloquially called cracked. In shops you can also find unbroken forms, i.e. simply immature. The harvest of this product takes place every two years, and the only types of trees on which these fruits grow are female plants. Once, to collect these nuts, they were knocked out of the branches with sticks and caught in a blanket, but today special machines are used for this purpose 5.
Nutritional values of pistachios and their impact on human health
Pistachios, like other nuts, are a source of both a large amount of vegetable protein, as well as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, which make their energy value very high.
The product discussed in this article contains about 51% of total lipids in fresh weight and as much as 49% in dry matter. In comparison with other fruits of this type, this is not a large amount. Only the cashews have a lower fat content, 45% in fresh weight and 43% in dry matter. Most macadamia nuts have macadamia nut in both fresh and dried form, as much as 76% and 74% in the given order.
The largest amount of pistachios are so-called MUFA, or monounsaturated fatty acids. They are composed of about 5% more than lipids belonging to the omega-9 family. On the other hand, the smallest amount in this product is health-unfavorable trans and the beneficial omega-3 1, which we find only 0.27 g in 100 g of product 2. It is worth noting, however, that both pistachios and hazelnuts and Brazilian, due on the average fatty acid content of linoleic acid belonging to the family of unsaturated omega-6 fatty acids with simultaneously low content of saturated lipids, mainly palmitic acid, have a beneficial effect in the prophylaxis of cardiovascular diseases, dyslipidemia and type 2 diabetes mellitus.
Pistachios, although they mainly consist of fats – like the rest of nuts, do not contain cholesterol at all. They are characterized by the largest amount of plant phytosterols, they contain as much as 214 mg per 100 g of product. They are components necessary to build specific membranes responsible for maintaining the appropriate structure of phospholipids in the cells of these fruits. They are plant equivalents of cholesterol, which also fulfills this function, but in animal cells. In addition to pistachios, a large amount of these sterols also contain peanuts, in an amount of 220 mg per 100 g 2.
The unsolvulated fruit in question also belongs to the first three nuts with the highest protein content, along with almonds and popular fistuces. It is worth emphasizing that the amounts of this macro-nutrient contained in these products are as high or even higher than in animal products. Unfortunately, these polypeptides do not contain all the essential amino acids needed for the proper functioning of the human body, hence their biological value is defined as low. However, due to the ratio of arginine to lysine, in individual nuts from 0.01 to 0.57, these fruits are considered necessary in the prevention and reduction of the risk of developing circulatory diseases 2.
Pistachios are a great source of dietary fiber, contain as much as 9 g per 100 g of product. The amount of this ingredient in various nuts varies from 3 to 12 g per 100 g of fruit. This amount allows to cover a daily demand of 5 to 10% when eating only 30 g of nuts 2.
The product in question also has an important source of folic acid, magnesium and copper in the diet. As for the first ingredient, pistachios contain about 51 μg per 100 g. Folic acid, otherwise known as vitamin B9, is essential in the detoxification of homocysteine, an amino acid with sulfur. It is an element that exhibits high atherogenic properties, i.e. atherosclerotic, which are manifested in the case of too little B9 in the plasma.
The largest amount of the discussed vitamin contains peanuts, hazelnuts and Italian, where its amount is not less than 100 μg per 100 g of these fruits. 2. In the case of magnesium and copper, pistachios contain respectively 121 and 1.3 mg per 100 g of product. They lead to a reduction in the risk of insulin resistance, hypertension and cardiac arrhythmia 2.
Pistachios and the rest of this type of products are also a great source of antioxidant ingredients that protect the human body from the adverse effects of oxidative stress, such as changes and damage to protein structures and DNA of cells 6 cells. These fruits together with walnuts contain the largest amounts of antioxidant such as one from the family of vitamin E, ɣ-tocopherol. In the given order, it is 22.5 and 20.8 mg, respectively, per 100 g of these products. This component is important in the prevention of atherosclerosis 2.
Other antioxidant ingredients found in pistachios are numerous compounds belonging to the category of polyphenols, such as, for example, anthocyanins, flavonoids, lignans, naphtoquinones, proanthocyanidins, stilbene, tannins and phenolic acids, mainly gallium 2.
Pistachio in the athlete’s diet
According to ADA (American Dietetic Association), ASCM (American College of Sports Medicine) and DC (Dietitians of Canada) experts, a well-balanced athlete’s diet not only leads to improved exercise capacity but also reduces the time of post-athlete regeneration 3. Nuts, due to the high content of ingredients extremely important in nutrition for people with increased physical activity, such as tocopherol, phenolic compounds, selenium, unsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, amino acids, quercetins, calcium, iron and zinc, are necessary in the athlete’s menu .
Unfortunately, due to the possibility of a post-exercise anorexia-related anaphylactic reaction, or FDEIA (food dependent exercise-induced anaphylaxis), and due to the fact that studies on the influence of nuts on improving the effectiveness of active people’s training have been insufficient, caution should be exercised as well as the currently recommended method of prevention, recommending that athletes consume products from the described category.
However, consuming one portion of nuts by the players daily (about 40 g) is perfectly reasonable. This was also emphasized in the nutritional pyramid developed by the Swiss Society for Nutrition for trainers and confirmed by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). It is believed that eating nuts is, after all, necessary to improve the nutritional status and ability to function of an organism forced to exercise more. 3
In the athlete’s diet, products belonging to this category are primarily responsible for reducing the formation of oxidative stress, and thus eliminating the harmful effects of its action in the body. The most important of these are, of course, the formation of free radicals in short called ROS (reactive oxygen species). However, the worst consequences for people with increased physical activity are the impairment of skeletal muscles and increasing their fatigue during training.
It is worth noting, however, that according to the theory of the hormones of the men of Marin, Bolin and Campio regular moderate intensity exercises adapt the body to the formation of free radicals, resulting in an increase in resistance to oxidative stress. On this basis, the statement contained in the article published in 2015 in the Nutrition magazine that the supplementation with antioxidants may positively influence the balance between prooxidative and antioxidant factors in the body. Experts disagreed with this thesis, noting that the harmful effects of ROS formation appear only after exceeding the dose of the highest level of exposure, ie NOEL (No Observable Adverse Effect Level). Below this amount, oxidative stress affects the body positively, leading to repetitive physical activity of medium intensity to increase the sensitivity of tissues to insulin and a shorter time of muscle and tissue post-workout regeneration.
Therefore, in the case of athletes, the optimal way to fight the intensely arising ROS is to include nuts in the diet as ingredients that are the source of numerous antioxidants. Here, first of all, the antioxidative role of tocopherol is emphasized, the amount of which in pistachios is extremely high, which has already been discussed in detail. The selenium and phenolic compounds are also important in the fight against the effects of ROS. However, not all nuts have an equally strong antioxidant effect. According to a ranking published by TAC (Total Antioxidant Capacity), the highest antioxidant capacity is followed by pecans, Italian, hazelnuts and pistachios 3.
In addition to fighting the effects of oxidative stress, products from this group are extremely important for athletes also because of the omega-3 fatty acid content. In the case of people whose training is regular and their intensity is moderate, the immune function of neutrophils increases, which in turn leads to the inflammation in damaged muscle cells due to infiltration of the blood components mentioned to them. Therefore, supplementing the diet of athletes with rich sources of omega-3 fats is so important. In addition, these lipids help to reduce the effects of ROS formation, have an antithrombotic effect, improve blood supply and reduce serum cholesterol and triglyceride levels 3.
In the athletes’ environment, there is a growing group of people using vegetarian and vegan diets. If they are properly balanced, according to the position of the ADA (American Dietetic Association) in 2009, they meet the needs of both people with moderate physical activity and those who train on all the macro and micronutrients necessary in the body. In these types of nutrition, especially for people who regularly play sports, nuts are a very important component of the diet. They help not only provide the body with the right amount of energy due to its caloric value, but they are also a great source of well digestible proteins, in the number of up to 90%, which is comparable to the quality of proteins contained in fish.
In addition, these products are characterized by a rich content of good fatty acids. In a study conducted by Polish scientists (Zuziak and Plich) observed in sportsmen on a lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet, i.e. where it is allowed to consume milk and its products and eggs, disturbed ratios between saturated lipids and those with double and triple bonds in molecules. This indicates the importance of introducing nuts into the diet, which are the source of both polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, which in turn has a positive effect on the treatment of atherosclerotic diseases.
In addition, the products in question contain large amounts of such ingredients as calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc, which makes it easy to supplement these micronutrients in athletes who are vegetarians and vegans. Unfortunately, these fruits also contain phytic compounds and form salts with magnesium and calcium ions, which adversely affects the bioavailability of these elements 3.
The greatest threat in the case of nut eating is the occurrence of an exercise-related anaphylactic reaction, or FDEIA (food dependent exercise-induced anaphylaxis). It can even occur in people who are not allergic to the product. After eating his portions and taking exercises or finishing them, they have allergic symptoms such as itching, urticaria, dyspnoea, coughing and others. The FDEIA mechanism is not fully investigated, although it is believed to occur as a result of increased absorption of food allergens and release of mast cell mediators, which have a lowered threshold by the action of IgE-mediated allergic food reaction, most often at the start or duration of physical activity. .
Anaphylactic reactions may be life-threatening, which is why it is obligatory to educate athletes and not eating nuts in the period from 4 to 6 hours before or after the training. This is particularly true for people who practice running, swimming, football, volleyball, handball, as well as tennis players, dancers, cyclists and alpine skiers. Other factors that can cause FDEIA include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, especially those taken immediately before exercise 3.
Use of pistachios in cosmetics and spa
Pistachios and other nuts, as has already been emphasized, are real vitamin bombs. They are a valuable source of B vitamins, especially B6, but also biotin, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin and pantothenic acid. In addition, they also contain a lot of minerals, and above all, potassium, iron, phosphorus, copper, magnesium, manganese and selenium. We also find in them valuable antioxidant ingredients, including large amounts of γ-tocopherol, a variety of vitamin E and carotenoids. All this makes pistachios not only have a beneficial effect on health, but also on beauty.
Women have long ago observed that eating this type of nuts helps to preserve the young look. It’s all because of tocopherol, which not only has antioxidant properties, but also delays the aging process, which has been hailed as a vitamin of youth. Pistachios are also a rich source of carotenoids, as well as lutein and zeaxanthin. They act positively not only on the organ of sight, but also improve the skin tone, which makes the skin cease to be pale or sallow.
In addition, due to the selenium content, the consumption of these nuts improves the appearance of the hair, strengthens it and prevents hair loss. The product is recommended in the diet of people with hypothyroidism, where patients complain particularly about the symptoms associated with a large loss of head hair. Including pistachios in the menu also has a beneficial effect on nails that stop crumbling and breaking. In addition, the presence of fiber improves the functioning of the intestines, which helps to lose excess pounds and maintain proper body mass 7.
What to remember when we reach for pistachios
Pistachios are a component of the diet containing valuable minerals and macro elements necessary for both physically active people and those leading a sedentary lifestyle. They help to maintain health, have a positive effect on physical fitness, improve the appearance and improve the functioning of the digestive system. In addition, they are a great source of highly bioavailable protein and elements, which is extremely important especially for a growing group of vegetarians and vegans.
The disadvantage of pistachios is not only that they are one of the very strong allergens, but also the fact that they are very rarely found in stores in previously unprocessed form. Unfortunately, in most cases, we can only buy them with added, where such a large addition of sodium chloride will have no positive effect on our health or beauty. It is worth to go for it to places where we are sure that no additional ingredient has been added to them.