Health nut? Well, here’s the skinny on pistachio


New research on Asian Indians suggests pistachios may be good for their hearts and waistlines

Substituting pistachios over fattier foods, coupled with a balanced diet and exercise program led to a small but significant decrease in waist circumference for Asian Indians following a six-month regimen, as described in a small, randomised controlled study published in February’s issue of the journal Nutrition. These new findings build on existing knowledge about the role of nuts in heart, health and weight management. This is great news for Asian Indians looking for simple small changes to the diet, supported by a healthy lifestyle, that are realistic and manageable.

The small trial is the first dietary study on pistachios with Asian Indians with metabolic syndrome. It included 60 participants in a six-month trial period, and was conducted by a team of experts from leading nutrition and health institutions in India.

Both the control and intervention groups followed an exercise program and a standard diet rich in fruits and vegetables and whole-grain high fibre foods. The diet also called for fat-free or low-fat dairy products and limited red meat and meat products, foods containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, soft drinks, sugar, salt and alcohol. Participants reported good levels of compliance based on 24-hour recalls, phone interviews, food-frequency questionnaires, monthly check-ups, and cross-checks with close relatives.

The intervention group received 20-percent of their daily kilojoules from pistachios (e.g. for a 5858 daily kilojoule allowance, 1172 kilojoules came from pistachios, which is about 86 kernels). Pistachios replaced visible fat (cooking oil and butter), a portion of carbohydrates, and dairy.

“Our study helps confirm previous findings about the benefits of pistachios, but the new news is how this small change, as part of a healthy lifestyle, can help reduce waist circumference, even without significant weight loss,” said study author Anoop Misra, M.D., Chairman, Fortis-C-DOC Centre of Excellence for Diabetes, Metabolic Diseases and Endocrinology in New Delhi, India.

These new findings are an important addition to the existing knowledge about the role of pistachios in weight management and heart health. However, longer term trials and replication of results may be needed before it’s possible to conclude cause and effect between pistachios and the favorable results of this study.

Accredited Practicing Dietitian and author of The Clean Separation, Kara Landau  says: “It’s good to see that pistachios are in the spotlight again due to their nutritional benefits and it also mirrors recent research from Harvard University suggesting that the benefits of snacking on nuts go up as the number of servings go up too! Bottom line: more nuts, more benefits. Pistachios are a wise snack choice for Australians — not only are they delicious and convenient, they are a source of protein and fibre.”

“A 30 gram serving of pistachios equals approximately 49 nuts, which is more nuts per 30-gram serving than any other snack nut, and a reduced serving of 20 pistachios is just about 300 kilojoules – making it a perfect snack! Evidence also suggests that consumption of in-shell pistachios may promote mindful eating, since you have to crack open the shells and it takes longer to eat them. The leftover shells can also act as a visual cue, reminding you of how many you have eaten,” adds Landau.

Published in The Indian Sun (Indian Magazine  in Australia)

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