Here, a look at the big health benefits of the little pistachio nut.
Pistachios originated in the Middle East and are one of the oldest flowering nut trees, with evidence suggesting that people have enjoyed them from as early as 7,000 B.C.
Today, in China, the pistachio is often given as a gift during the Chinese New Year as a symbol of health, happiness and good fortune -- and perhaps for good reason. While enjoyed around the world for their crunchy, delicious taste, studies continue to show the big health benefits of the little pistachio nut.
Pistachios are a nutritional powerhouse, containing more than 30 different vitamins, minerals and beneficial phytonutrients including thiamin, potassium, fiber, magnesium and vitamin B6.
And more good news for pistachio fans: studies have shown they deliver a number of health benefits including help with managing diabetes and reducing risk for some cancers and cardiovascular disease.
Lung Cancer. A daily dose of pistachios may help reduce the risk of lung and other cancers, according to data presented at the American Association for Cancer Research Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research Conference. This is because pistachios are a good source of gamma-tocopherol (a form of vitamin E), which is thought to help in the fight against cancer
"It is known that vitamin E provides a degree of protection against certain forms of cancer. Higher intakes of gamma-tocopherol, which is a form of vitamin E, may reduce the risk of lung cancer," said Ladia M. Hernandez, senior research dietitian at the University of Texas.
Cardiovascular health. Pistachios also provide heart healthy antioxidants. And most of the fat in pistachios is the 'good' fat that helps lower the risk of heart disease. Recent research from Penn State found that eating one to two handfuls of pistachios a day resulted in a nine to 12 per cent reduction in "bad" LDL cholesterol levels.
And according to the Mayo Clinic, eating nuts -- including pistachios -- reduces your risk of developing blood clots that can cause a fatal heart attack. Phytosterols -- a substance that helps the body from absorbing cholesterol -- can prevent arteries from clogging and to keep blood vessels clean.
Diabetes. A study from the University of Toronto found that when a handful of pistachios were eaten with a high glycemic index food (like white bread), the pistachios helped to thwart a rise in blood sugar. They also helped to suppress appetite by reducing hunger-stimulating hormones.
Pistachios have been called the 'skinny nut' because they are one of the lowest calorie, lowest fat and highest fiber nuts. (Each pistachio contains 3-4 calories.)
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