It's time to get cracking! The pistachio harvest in California (the number one producer of these tasty nuts) runs August to early October and is just wrapping up. As a consultant to the Pistachio Health Institute, I give you the green light to grab a bag of these "skinny" nuts, nosh on a 49-nut serving and absorb both their health benefits and the fun facts below!
1. The Italians were ahead of the game. In the first century A.D. Emperor Vitellius introduced Rome to the pistachio. Apicius, Rome’s 5th-century A.D. recipe book, and that era’s version of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, includes pistachios. (Word’s still out on how much longer it took the Italians to come up with pistachio gelato—YUM.)
2. What’s in a name? That which we call a pistachio is known as the “smiling nut” in Iran and the “happy nut” in China. They’re also known as the “green almond.”
3. Better than a caveman diet. The nuts are also the original prehistoric snack! One of the oldest flowering nut trees, humans have eaten pistachio nuts for at least 9,000 years. Plus, pistachios are one of the only two nuts mentioned in the Bible (Genesis 43:11).
4. Where’s the green come from? Pistachios are the “colorful” nut, owing their green and purple hue to antioxidants.
5. Abide by the “Pistachio Principle.” Research suggests that as one of the only in-shell snack nuts, pistachios may help slow consumption and the empty shells offer a visual cue, potentially reducing calorie intake. A preliminary behavioral eating study suggests that in-shell snackers ate 41 percent fewer calories than those who snacked on shelled nuts. This effect is known as “The Pistachio Principle.”
6. Chock full of…nutrition. Pistachios are a good source of protein, fiber, magnesium, thiamin, and phosphorus. They’re an excellent source of vitamin B6, copper, and manganese.
7. Surprise branches in the family tree. Among its “kissing cousins”: pistachios are related to the mango and the spice sumac.
8. A queen-sized craving. Perhaps the original royal nut, the Queen of Sheba loved pistachios. In fact, she demanded that the entire region’s pistachio harvest be set aside for her.
9. Here’s to your heart. Scientific evidence suggests that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, such as pistachios, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease.