To go nuts for nuts, or not to go nuts for nuts? This is the question many dieters are faced with, as nut consumption seems rife with contradictions.
On the one hand, nuts are high in fat and calories and have a reputation for causing weight gain. Just a half cup of shelled pistachios with no salt added has 170 calories, 13 grams of fat, and 1.5 grams of saturated fat. At only four calories each, pistachios are a relatively low-calorie snack. Meanwhile, denser nuts such as walnuts can pack more than 350 calories and 30 grams of fat per half-cup.
On the other hand, experts are quick to point out that the fat in nuts is healthy monounsaturated fat, which is an essential component of a healthy diet. Monounsaturated fat can elevate healthy cholesterol levels, improve skin and hair health, and more, and that same half-cup of pistachios also has 6 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber, which helps increase feelings of satiety in dieters. Dieters also prize pistachios’ slow-to-eat shelling process — shelling individual nuts as you eat is thought to help with portion control.
Now a new study published in Nutrition Journal has found that all of this back and forth about nuts, specifically pistachios, might be moot. Researchers in Beijing who studied the diets of adults with metabolic syndrome found that pistachios neither lead to weight gain nor loss over a 12-week period.
In the study, 90 participants were split into three groups: The first group consumed the recommended daily serving of 42 grams of pistachios per day, the second group consumed a higher serving of 70 grams per day, and the three group ate no pistachios. All participants received dietary counseling in line with the guidelines of the American Heart Association. Twelve weeks later, none of the groups reported significant changes in weight or body mass index. But the groups who ate pistachios did see other benefits. Both groups of nut-eaters had lower blood glucose levels and lower triglycerides, prompting researchers to conclude that pistachios won’t necessarily promote weight changes, but may improve symptoms of metabolic syndrome, such as blood pressure, insulin, and triglycerides, when part of a healthy diet.
The best way to eat pistachios is raw, in the shell, with no salt. Stick to the recommended half-cup serving for a smart snack that’s full of potassium, cancer-fighting vitamin E, and vitamin B6, which can lift your mood, strengthen your immune system, and more.