Are Pistachios Good for Weight Loss? 

Dr. Christopher McGowan
November 8, 2022

If you’ve ever tried to lose weight, you know that modifying your diet is a natural place to start the process. Picking the foods you’ll eat, however, can be fraught with uncertainty, especially with all the seemingly contradictory information available online these days. In recent years, foods of all sorts have been studied extensively in order to find out their effects on many aspects of health. One food that has been researched recently is the pistachio nut, and the results are promising—both in terms of being supportive for weight loss and for improving overall health.    

Where Do Pistachio Nuts Come From?        

The pistachio plant is a small tree from the cashew family that is thought to have originated in that part of the Middle East that is now Iran. It is still cultivated in the Middle East, Central Asia, and many other places around the world that have warm, dry climates. The seed kernels of the pistachio tree are its only useful product, and they can be eaten raw or prepared in a variety of different ways. The unique yellowish green color also makes the pistachio nut useful as a food coloring agent in confections and other types of food. 

Health Benefits of Pistachios   

Even beyond their potential benefits for weight loss, pistachios are full of nutrients that the body needs on a daily basis. One ounce of pistachios (around 40-50 nuts) has about 150 calories, eight grams of carbohydrates, three grams of fiber, and six grams of protein. The same serving also has about 12-13 grams of fat, but it’s important to note that it is monounsaturated fat, a healthy fat that is good for the heart and can even lower LDL cholesterol levels. Also, even though 150 calories seems like a lot, pistachios are actually one of the lowest calorie nuts—lower than pecans, macadamias, walnuts, for example. 

Pistachios are also a great source of certain vitamins and minerals; in fact, one serving of pistachios has 37% of the daily recommended value of vitamin B6, an essential nutrient that is involved in cognitive development, supporting the immune system, regulating blood sugar, and maintaining healthy blood circulation. Pistachios are also high in vitamin E, potassium, phosphorus, thiamine, copper, magnesium, and manganese—compounds that the body needs for a variety of functions. These nutrients are all important and provide a number of health benefits: 

  • Disease prevention: Pistachio nuts have high levels of antioxidants in the form of phytochemicals, polyphenols, lutein, zeaxanthin, and others. Antioxidants are important because they protect against cellular damage from free radicals that are thought to be a factor in the development of heart disease and some types of cancer. 
  • Improve digestion: The dietary fiber content of pistachios make them a good source for reaching the recommended daily amount of 25-30 grams. In addition to the bulk forming value of fiber, there is evidence that the fiber in pistachios can become fermented by gut bacteria and converted into short-chain fatty acids, compounds that are believed to reduce the risk of developing a digestive disease or colon cancer. 
  • Lower blood pressure: As noted above, the monounsaturated fat content in pistachios is linked to lower LDL cholesterol levels; these fat compounds are also linked with lower blood pressure. Recent studies have shown that pistachios are more effective than other types of nuts. 
  • Maintain blood vessels: Pistachios contain an amino acid known as L-arginine that is converted into nitric oxide during the digestive process. Nitric oxide is helpful in maintaining the health of both blood vessels, circulation, and overall heart health. 
  • Promote eye health: The antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin in pistachios are helpful in preventing the development of cataracts and macular degeneration, both of which are potential causes of blindness. 

Pistachios and Weight Loss

Research into the effects of pistachios on weight loss are still preliminary, but the initial results are promising. A 2010 study followed two groups of participants on the same calorie-restricted diet with different afternoon snacks of similar calorie counts—a pistachio group and a pretzel group. The reduction in BMI (body mass index) of the pistachio group was twice as great as that of the pretzel group. In another study from 2020, two dieting groups had similar reductions in BMI and waist circumference, but the participants in the pistachios group also had significant reductions in blood pressure. 

More research is needed to fully understand the connection, but these results suggest that the reason pistachios may be helpful in weight loss is in part because of their effect on satiety. The fat, protein, and fiber content leave people feeling full longer, and this can lead to a healthier eating pattern with ultimately less calorie intake. There is also some evidence that the monounsaturated fat molecules in the pistachios may be essentially stuck in their cell walls. This means that the lipids would not be fully absorbed during the digestive process and therefore wouldn’t contribute to the accumulation of fat deposits in the body. 

Another possible aspect of pistachios that can be beneficial for weight loss is related to the actual process of eating them. Most pistachio nuts are sold with the shell still on, requiring the manual removal of the shell. Having to individually de-shell each pistachio can help promote mindful eating as well as giving a clear visual cue about how many nuts you’ve eaten. While seemingly minor, this kind of engagement with the eating process can be beneficial when attempting to make changes to one’s eating habits. 

The bottom line is that pistachios really are a good choice. Overall, especially when compared to other nuts, pistachios seem to be the best choice for simultaneously supporting weight loss and promoting various aspects of overall health and wellness. Yet as delicious and nutritious as pistachios are, they alone won’t help someone lose weight; also, their potential impact on body weight would be negated if not eaten in moderation. Pistachio nuts are merely one good food choice in a broader series of changes to your daily diet and lifestyle.  

Long-Term Weight Loss Solutions

Switching pistachios for pretzels or chips is a good step for anyone trying to lose weight, but the truth is that journey requires a lot of other changes to actually burn fat and see waist size go down. The internet is full of fad diets and exercise regimens that promise amazing results, but unfortunately most people don’t find lasting success. Even if a diet works for a season, the likeliest outcome is that the weight will be put back on within a year or two. 

At True You Weight Loss, we understand the pitfalls of standard diets and why they don’t work. That’s why we are passionate about offering alternative solutions that can help you find long-term, sustainable weight loss. If you’d like to learn more about our non-surgical weight loss procedures, please contact us today to request a consultation. You can finally end the cycle of yo-yo dieting and find the freedom you’ve been looking for.

Dr. Christopher McGowan
Dr. Christopher McGowan
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