Properties of the pistachio

The pistachio is a nut that over the millennia has given us its crunchy texture and slightly sweet taste. It is such a versatile fruit that, as well as delighting the palate, it is also capable of delighting the eyes and offering generous amounts of protein, vitamins and antioxidants.

Nature gives it to us wrapped in a semi-open beige shell that reveals a core of a green colour, so striking and bright that it has been perfect for decorating and offering contrasts in countless gastronomic creations. Moreover, thanks to its high nutritional value, pistachios promote the wellbeing of the body in many ways.

For this reason and more, pistachios are increasingly in demand worldwide in the food and cosmetics industry, especially for the production of functional foods, clean label products and nutricosmetics.

In this post we present the properties of the pistachio that make it one of the most complete and versatile fruits in existence. We detail its qualities and particularities that are attractive to various industries.

Nutritional attributes of the pistachio nut

Atributos nutricionales del pistacho
Pistachios are rich in vitamins, minerals, fibre and phenolic compounds.

Among the nuts, the pistachio has a high level of vitamins, carotenoids and minerals. It contains no cholesterol and is high in unsaturated fats, mostly monounsaturated, such as oleic acid.

According to research published by the University of Cambridge, the main nutrients and compounds present in pistachios are the following:

  • Vitamins and minerals. Pistachios have large amounts of:
    • Minerals, such as magnesium, manganese, copper, calcium, zinc, selenium, etc.
    • Vitamins, such as vitamin A, C, K and E. In addition, it contains all B vitamins (except B12), especially high levels of vitamin B1 (thiamine) and B6 (pyridoxine).
  • Phenolic compounds. Pistachios contain phenolic compounds, such as flavonoids, stilbenes, phenolic acids and anthocyanins, which are micronutrients with high antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and cardioprotective properties.
  • Carotenoids. Pistachios contain lutein and zeaxanthin, two carotenoids responsible for the colour of this fruit and which have antioxidant properties.
  • Fibre. Pistachios are rich in fibre. A 28-gram serving of pistachios can provide approximately 3 g of fibre.
  • Protein. Approximately 20% of the weight of pistachio nuts represents vegetable protein. This portion contains about 2% of L-arginine, an amino acid that helps the body generate protein.

Main properties of pistachios and how they are used by the industry

Pistachio nuts are used by many industries for their health benefits.

Although small in size, pistachios are a powerhouse of nutrients and benefits for the body. This, together with their unique flavour and attractive colour, has led the industry to use this nut in the preparation of functional foods, in confectionery and in the production of ice cream, snacks, chocolates, etc.

It is also marketed in different presentations: chopped, sliced, in pastes and oils. On the other hand, they are also being used to manufacture cosmetic products for skin protection or hair beautification.

Let’s take a look at the different health properties of these nuts and why they are in such demand.

Antioxidant properties

Antioxidants are vital substances for health, preventing cell damage and helping to reduce the risk of chronic diseases. Because pistachios are rich in phenolic compounds and carotenoids, they are a source of antioxidants that work in a variety of ways. For example:

  • Lutein and zeaxanthin are antioxidants that are associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and other serious ailments. They are also substances that help protect eye health and improve vision.
  • The phenolic compounds in pistachios may protect the body from cardiovascular disease and help balance blood glucose levels.

Recent research at Cornell University in New York has confirmed that pistachios have a high antioxidant capacity, helping to keep the body functioning properly and acting against the proliferation of cancer cells.

Cardioprotective properties

60% of the total fat content of pistachios is made up of fatty acids with cardiovascular preventive properties, such as oleic and linoleic fatty acids. In addition, antioxidants and minerals such as zinc and selenium, which are abundant in pistachios, also play a role in protecting the heart.

These fruits can act in different ways to reduce the risk of heart disease. For example:

  • They reduce total cholesterol in the blood, lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol and increasing HDL (good) cholesterol.
  • Balance blood pressure values.
  • Promote healthy blood vessels. Because they activate vasodilation to improve blood flow.

Prebiotic properties

Propiedades prebióticas y antiinflamatorias del pistacho
Prebiotic and anti-inflammatory properties of pistachio nuts.

Due to the high fibre content of pistachios, this nut may act as a prebiotic. Specifically, its fibre moves through the digestive system to be digested by good bacteria in the gut. These bacteria then ferment the fibre and convert it into acids (such as butyrate) that benefit health, helping to:

  • Reduce the likelihood of developing digestive disorders.
  • Lower the risk of colon cancer and heart disease.

Anti-inflammatory properties

Thanks to the antioxidant content, monounsaturated fatty acids and the high amount of γ-tocopherol (one of the many natural forms of vitamin E), pistachios help to reduce inflammation.

For example, this property helps to control certain ailments, such as arthritis. It also helps to reduce inflammation in the respiratory tract and speed up recovery.

Anti-diabetic properties

Pistachios have a low glycaemic index, so their consumption does not cause blood sugar spikes. Indeed, one of the studies published by the US National Center for Biotechnology Information concluded that:

  • Pistachio can significantly reduce fasting blood sugar. It also improves insulin resistance in people with metabolic syndrome, pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes.

Antiviral properties

Pistachios provide large amounts of magnesium, selenium and zinc, minerals that are essential for strengthening the immune system. In addition, the presence of vitamin B6 and protein helps the immune system to function at its full potential.

Properties that improve sexual and reproductive health

As explained, the consumption of pistachio helps to improve vasodilation and thus blood flow. This is important for various bodily functions, including improving erectile function.

  • Several studies, such as the one conducted by professionals from the Universitat Rovira i Virgili in Catalonia and the Hospital Universitari Sant Joan de Reus, associate regular consumption of pistachios with increased sexual desire and improved orgasmic function in men.

Antimicrobial properties

Numerous research studies have demonstrated the antimicrobial properties of pistachio. For example:

  • Professionals from the Norwich Food Research Institute (UK) concluded that pistachio extract possesses a strong bactericidal effect which makes it useful for:
    • Use in food safety.
    • Topical treatment of Staphylococcus aureus, a bacterium responsible for various skin and respiratory tract infections.
  • Researchers at the University of Messina in Italy found that phenolic compounds present in pistachio extracts are ideal candidates for developing new oral and topical drugs for the treatment of HSV-1 (herpes simplex virus) infections.

Properties that improve skin health

Pistachios are endowed with powerful antioxidants and high amounts of vitamin A and E that prevent skin dryness and fight cell ageing. In addition, these nuts help to protect the skin from UV rays and prevent diseases or conditions.

Various properties of pistachio nuts are exploited by the cosmetic industry to create products for topical application to the face and hair. For example, pistachio cosmetic oil is a powerful antioxidant and natural moisturiser for skin and hair.

A partner for growing high quality pistachios

In order to make the most of the pistachio’s properties, it is essential to have a high-quality production.

At Agróptimum we have a trained technical team and state-of-the-art machinery to respond quickly and efficiently to each of the needs of your plantations, at any stage of the production cycle. We also carry out all the analyses and studies necessary for the implementation and management of the pistachio planting project.

This service is specially designed for you to obtain the maximum profitability from those lands that are insufficiently exploited or are not being exploited due to the lack of time to dedicate to working the land.

If you want a profitable and sustainable plantation, contact us. At Agróptimum we become your partner in the pistachio growing business. You only have to supervise and obtain the benefits of the plantation, because we take care of all the management, from the sowing to the harvesting of the fruit.

Main sources

Cambridge University, Healthline, NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology Information), WebMD, FEN (Fundación Española de la Nutrición), American Pistachio Growers.