SHAFAQNA (Shia News Association) – Wonderfully delicious pistachio nuts have been revered as symbol of wellness and robust health since ancient times. The nuts are enriched with many health-benefiting nutrients that are essential for optimum health.
Pistachio nuts are dry fruits of species of trees belonging to the anacardaceae family, of the genus: Pistacia. The plant is a medium sized broad, bushy, dioecious, deciduous tree, believed to be originating in the mountain ranges of western Asian region. Several cultivars exist but the most popular variety grown for commercial purpose is the kerman.
Pistachios grow well under hot, dry climates with cool winters. They are currently being cultivated in large scale in the orchards in the USA, Iran, Syria, Turkey, and China. After plantation, the plant takes approximately eight to ten years until it produces its first major crop. Once established, it keeps bearing fruits for centuries.
The fruit, in fact, is a drupe (a fruit with large central single seed) and the seed kernel is actually the edible portion. They are borne in heavy clusters somewhat like that of grapes bunch. Exteriorly, the mature fruit features off white colored, hard, shell with splits apart exposing yellow-light green colored oblong kernel, which measures about 1 inch in length and 1/2 inch in diameter.
Health benefits of Pistachios
Pistachios are rich source of energy; 100 g of nuts contain 557 calories. Nonetheless, the nuts contain many health benefiting nutrients, minerals, antioxidants and vitamins that are essential for optimum health.
The nuts are rich in mono-unsaturated fatty acids like oleic acid and an excellent source of antioxidants. Regular intake of pistachios in the diet help to lower total as well as bad LDL cholesterol and increase good HDL cholesterol levels in the blood. Research studies suggest that Mediterranean diet that is rich in dietary fiber, mono-unsaturated fatty acids, and antioxidants help to prevent coronary artery disease and strokes by favoring healthy blood lipid profile.
They are rich source of many phyto-chemical substances that may contribute to their overall antioxidant activity, including carotenes, vitamin E, and polyphenolic antioxidant compounds. Research studies have been suggestive of that these compounds help body remove toxic oxygen free radicals and thus, protect body from diseases, cancers, as well as infections.
Pistachios are an excellent source of vitamin-E, especially rich in gamma-tocopherol; contain about 23g per100 g. vitamin E is a powerful lipid soluble antioxidant, essential for maintaining the integrity of cell membrane of mucus membranes and skin; offers protection from harmful oxygen free radicals.
The nuts are packed with many important B-complex groups of vitamins such as riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B-6, and folates.
These nuts are storehouse of minerals like copper, manganese, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, and selenium. 100 g nuts provide 144% of daily-recommended levels of copper. Copper is an essential trace mineral that is required in neuro-transmission, metabolism, as well as red blood cell (RBC) synthesis.
Pistachio nut oil has flavorful nutty aroma and has an excellent emollient properties. It helps to keep skin well protected from dryness. It has also been used in cooking, and as “carrier or base oil” in traditional medicines in massage therapy, aromatherapy, in pharmaceutical, and cosmetic industry.
Just a hand full of pistachios a day provides enough recommended levels of phenolic anti-oxidants, minerals, vitamins, and protein.
See the table below for in depth analysis of nutrients:
Pistachio (Pistacia vera),
Nutritional value per 100 g.
Selection and storage
Pistachios are available in the markets year around. In the grocery store, different forms of nuts are available such as shelled, unshelled, salted, sweetened etc. Try to buy whole “unshelled” or “with shell” nuts instead of processed ones. They are generally available in the airtight packs as well as in bulk bins.
Whole nuts should feature healthy looking, off white color shell, have compact and uniform in size, and feel heavy in hand. They should be free from cracks other than the natural split, mold, spots, and free of rancid smell.
Unshelled pistachios can be placed in cool dry place for many months, while shelled (without the shell) kernels should be placed inside airtight container and kept in the refrigerator to avoid them turn rancid.
They are usually eaten on its own, by cracking them open between fingers or using nutcracker machine. They can also be enjoyed roasted, salted, or sweetened, just like peanuts.
Pistachios are nutty, yet pleasantly sweet in taste with fruity aroma. Baklava, a sweet pastry made of layers of paper-thin "phyllo or strudel dough" filled with chopped pistachio, almonds and cashew nuts and sweetened with syrup or honey, is a popular pastry preparation in Turkey, Iran, Armenia, and many Middle East states.
Roasted and crushed nuts often sprinkled over salads, desserts, particularly sundaes and other icecream based preparations, biscuits, sweets and cakes.
Split pistachios are a great addition to vegetable/fruit salads.
Popularly known as "pista," these nuts have been widely used in sweet dishes in Indian, Pakistani and other South-East Asian countries. – www.shafaqna.com