Almonds, walnuts, pecans, Brazil nuts, pistachios… I love them all. Besides their distinctly enjoyable flavors—whether eaten as a midday snack or added to a dish, from salads to a main course to dessert—turns out there are many ways that nuts are a healthful addition to a diet.

Nuts are a great source of plant-based protein as well as many nutrients and healthy fat. As the Mayo Clinic explains, eating nuts helps your heart. Most nuts contain at least some of these heart-healthy substances:

  • Unsaturated fats
  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Fiber
  • Vitamin E
  • Plant sterols
  • L-arginine

Nuts also can be beneficial to teeth and gums because they contain powerful teeth-healthy micronutrients such as phosphorous, magnesium, potassium, zinc and calcium.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Need more reasons to celebrate nuts? Well, turns out National Pistachio Day was this week. Did you mark the occasion? I will have to do so retroactively with a scoop of my favorite gelato from Sweet Spot.

Yes, gelato might be a guilty pleasure, but pistachios do not have to be. As Green Diva Gina of The Green Divas outlines, here are eight reasons it’s okay to go nutty for pistachios:

1. Heart Health

Pistachios have been proven to reduce LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol, and increase HDL, or “good,” cholesterol after only a very brief period of chowing down. They are high in antioxidants, like vitamin A and vitamin E. They also fight inflammation, protect blood vessels and ultimately decrease the risk of heart disease. Even a very small intake of these nuts have been linked to increase lutein levels.

2. Diabetes Prevention

Consuming pistachios may aid in the prevention of type II diabetes. This is because 60 percent of the recommended daily value of  the mineral phosphorus is contained in just one cup of pistachios. Not only does phosphorus break down proteins into amino acids, it also aids glucose tolerance.

3. Healthy Blood

Pistachios are a very rich source of vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 is essential to make hemoglobin, the protein responsible for bringing oxygen through the blood stream to cells, and is also shown to increase the amount of oxygen carried.

4. Healthy Nervous System

Vitamin B6, so prevalent in pistachios, has many effects on the nervous system. Messaging molecules called amines require amino acids to develop, which in turn rely on vitamin B6 for their creation. That being said, B6 plays a critical role in the creation of myelin, the insulating sheath around nerve fibers that allows optimal messaging between nerves. Furthermore, vitamin B6 contributes to the synthesis of serotonin, melatonin, epinephrine and gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA, an amino acid that calms the transmission of nerve impulses throughout the nervous system. Basically, if you want a nervous system that’s in tip-top shape, eat pistachios.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

5. Healthy Eyes

Pistachios contain two carotenoids not found in most nuts, lutein and zeaxanthin. These guys function as protective antioxidants by defending tissues from damage from free radicals. They have been associated with a decrease in the risk for developing age-related macular degeneration, which is the leading cause of visual impairments and acquired blindness in the nation.

6. Immune System Boost

Vitamin B6 is essential for a healthy immune system and pistachios have a lot of it. Vitamin B6 found in pistachios also helps the body make healthy red blood cells, and helps maintain the health of lymphoid glands, such as the thymus, spleen and lymph nodes, ensuring the production of white blood cells that protect the body from infections.

7. Glowing Skin

Pistachios are an amazing source of vitamin E, a powerful fat-soluble antioxidant, imperative for maintaining the integrity of cell membranes and often recommended for healthy and beautiful skin. Vitamin E does an excellent job protecting the skin from UV damage, providing daily defense against premature aging and skin cancer. Get lovely skin from the inside out by eating pistachios.

8. Extra Protein

Pistachios contain a higher amount of protein in comparison with other nuts such as almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans and walnuts. The amount of protein found in pistachios is 6 g per 1 ounce, which is the highest in comparison to other nuts. The fat content in pistachios is also the lowest compared to other nuts. Statistics collected by Thomas and Gebhardt show that the fat content in pistachios is 13 g per 1 ounce. Why not add them to a salad or your next baked-good?

Got a sudden hankering for something delicious and nutty? Try tossing some chopped pistachios in this chocolate superfood recipe for a healthy bark to snack on.

 Not sure how many servings of nuts to eat in a day? Check out the new and improved vegetarian food pyramid for guidelines.

Visit EcoWatch’s TIPS and HEALTH pages for more related news on this topic.

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