Skip to content

The Top 5 Health Benefits Of Pistachios & How To Eat More Of 'Em

Sarah Garone, NDTR
May 1, 2023
Sarah Garone, NDTR
By Sarah Garone, NDTR
mbg Contributor
Sarah Garone is a licensed nutritionist and freelance health and wellness writer in Mesa, AZ whose work has appeared in numerous publications.

Creamy, buttery, and imbued with a delightful green color, pistachios are a favorite nut all over the world. Their mild flavor is a crowd-pleaser, and in addition to their beloved taste, pistachios boast a variety of health perks. So sharpen your shelling skills—today we're cracking open the many health benefits of pistachios. 

This ad is displayed using third party content and we do not control its accessibility features.

What are pistachios?

Money may not grow on trees, but other good green things do! Pistachios come from short desert trees related to cashew trees. Originally native to Central Asia, Pakistan, and India, pistachio trees were brought to the U.S. in the 1850s. Now they produce nuts in just three states: California, Arizona, and New Mexico. These states' long, hot summers allow for optimal ripening.

Although pistachios are technically drupes (a botanical term meaning "a seed surrounded by fruit"), in culture and cuisine, they're considered nuts.

Their mild taste and softer texture make them a go-to for easy snacking and all sorts of culinary preparations. The little green nubbins are the fifth-most consumed nut globally! They can go both sweet and savory—you can start a meal with pistachio-crusted salmon and finish it off with nut-studded spumoni. And like almonds, peanuts, or cashews, pistachios can be used to make nut butter, nut milk, and other byproducts.

As a surprisingly good source of protein, antioxidants, and healthy fats, pistachios may play a role in supporting heart health, better sleep, and weight loss. One more reason to go nuts: The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020–2025 recommends consuming up to 5 ounces per week of plant-based proteins like nuts.


Pistachios have a mild flavor and soft texture. They're grown in Asia, Pakistan, India, and the U.S. and used in both sweet and savory recipes.
This ad is displayed using third party content and we do not control its accessibility features.

Nutritional information

According to the USDA1, a 1-ounce serving (49 pistachios) contains the following nutrition:

  • Calories: 159
  • Fat: 12.8 grams
  • Saturated fat: 1.68 grams
  • Cholesterol: 0 milligrams
  • Sodium: 0.3 milligrams
  • Carbohydrates: 7.71 grams
  • Dietary fiber: 3 grams
  • Protein: 5.7 grams
  • Melatonin: 3.57 miligrams
  • Vitamin D: 0 IU
  • Vitamin K: 3.74 micrograms
  • Vitamin E: 0.811 milligram
This ad is displayed using third party content and we do not control its accessibility features.

Compared to many other nuts, pistachios are relatively lean. They contain less fat and fewer calories than walnuts, pecans, and macadamia nuts, and most of their fat is the heart-healthy monounsaturated kind. 

Among nuts, pistachios also stand out for the fact that they contain "complete" protein—the kind with all nine essential amino acids the body needs to get from food. No other nut has this claim to fame.

And in each handful of pistachios, you'll take in an alphabet of micronutrients, including vitamins A, E, K, and several B's, not to mention some copper, phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium.


Pistachios are lower in fat and calories than walnuts, pecans, and macadamia nuts, and they're the only nut that's a complete protein source. Plus, they contain a variety of vitamins and nutrients.

Health benefits

When you snag a serving of pistachios (which, by the way, is exactly 49 nuts), you hold health benefits in the palm of your hand. Over the years, research has shown that the emerald-tinged nuts are more than just delicious. They may promote heart health, help with weight loss, provide essential protein, and more. Check out these top five benefits of pistachios:

This ad is displayed using third party content and we do not control its accessibility features.

Pistachios are packed with antioxidants.

Antioxidants are beneficial compounds that help your cells clear out harmful oxidation—and pistachios just happen to be loaded with them.

"Pistachios contain the highest levels of gamma-tocopherol, vitamin K, potassium, phytosterols, and the carotenoids beta-carotene and lutein, compared to other nuts," says Cheryl Rock, Ph.D., R.D., professor at the University of California–San Diego School of Medicine.

A 2022 study found that both raw and roasted pistachios contain high amounts of antioxidants2, with roasted nuts slightly outpacing raw. These anti-inflammatory properties3 could promote skin health4, as well as boost blood sugar control, create strong blood vessels, and support a healthy heart.


Pistachios may increase weight loss.

For weight-loss-friendly meal planning, you may have heard it recommended to build your plate around a source of healthy fat, protein, and fiber. Pistachios are a good source of each of these nutrients.

"They are lower in calories than other nuts and higher in fiber compared to all the other healthy snacking nut options," points out Ella Davar, R.D., CDN, CHC. Their 3 grams of fiber per serving is especially helpful for keeping you fuller longer, reducing cravings.

Not surprisingly, studies have associated eating the nuts with achieving or maintaining a healthier weight. In a 2020 study in the journal Nutrients, 100 people with overweight or obesity ate 1.5 ounces of pistachios daily for four months as part of a behavioral weight loss program. As a result of this delicious intervention, they consumed more fiber and fewer sweets. Although they ultimately achieved the same amount of weight loss as a control group, those who ate pistachios had improved blood pressure measurements5.

Some weight loss experts have also pointed out that in-shell pistachios are an opportunity for mindful eating, which can lead to more moderate calorie intake. In fact, an older study found that the act of removing shells led to 41% less calorie consumption6, compared to eating shelled pistachios. 

Research-backed tip:

If you're working toward weight loss or portion control, buy your pistachios in their shells so you can eat them more slowly and mindfully.
This ad is displayed using third party content and we do not control its accessibility features.

Pistachios might lower cholesterol.

For years, many people avoided foods with high fat content (like nuts) due to fears that they might raise cholesterol. But current research indicates that pistachios may actually have the opposite effect. A large systematic review and meta-analysis from 20217 associated eating pistachios with improved blood lipids like LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol, and triglycerides.

As for how many pistachios a day to lower cholesterol, the research isn't clear—but that doesn't mean there aren't grounds to get crunching.


Pistachios help you meet your protein needs.

In your efforts to ramp up on protein for muscle growth, hormone balance, or satiety, add some nuts into the mix.

"Pistachios can absolutely help meet daily protein needs. One ounce of pistachios has 6 grams of protein, which is a good amount for a plant-based food," says Jen Scheinman, M.S., RDN

Plus, in 2019, some bombshell (pun intended) research revealed that pistachios are the only nuts that contain all nine essential amino acids the body can't make on its own.

This puts them in the esteemed company of other complete proteins like milk, beef, and chicken. "Very few plant foods are considered complete proteins, which is why it's important for vegetarians and vegans to eat varied sources of plant protein to ensure they get all the essential amino acids," Scheinman says.

Just don't count on a snack bag of pistachios to supply all your protein needs. "While pistachios are a source of all the essential amino acids, it's important to recognize that a serving of nuts has way less protein than a serving of most animal sources of protein, so I wouldn't consider them a substitute for meat," Scheinman notes. 


Pistachios can be a natural sleep aid.

Nuts make good bedfellows! Eating pistachios at night could help you fall asleep faster. The nuts contain ample amounts of melatonin, the hormone that signals to your body that it's time to unwind.

A 2014 analysis found that a 3.5-ounce serving of pistachios contained about 23 milligrams of melatonin8—more than the dose found in many synthetic OTC sleep aids. There's also evidence that tree nuts in general can increase serotonin, another hormone involved in relaxation. More research is needed to determine the exact effects of pistachios on sleep, but they may be worth a try as a bedtime snack.

Allergies and side effects

Pistachios are tree nuts, which are one of the top nine most common food allergens, affecting up to 1% of the U.S. population. If you know you're allergic to other nuts like almonds, cashews, or hazelnuts, your doctor will likely advise you to steer clear of pistachios as well.

Other potential side effects of eating pistachios mainly have to do with their calories and fats. Though these nuts have impressive health benefits, eating large quantities of them could lead to weight gain. 

Additionally, if you have a depressed immune system, you'll want to be aware of another important possible drawback. "There are serious considerations when it comes to pistachios: mold9, which can cause damage to those with compromised immunity or with autoimmune conditions," says Davar. "Purchasing sustainably grown and organic quality pistachios (ideally fresh and not chemically treated) can mitigate the exposure as much as possible."

Pistachios vs. other nuts

How do pistachios stack up to other nuts? Here's a look at how they compare to some popular varieties.

Pistachios vs. Cashews 

Pistachios and cashews are related, so it's only natural that they both come with a pleasantly creamy texture. They're also neck and neck for calories, fat, and protein per ounce. But where cashews have just 1 gram of fiber per serving, pistachios have 3 grams. And because of their smaller size, you get to eat more pistachios per serving!

Pistachios vs. Almonds 

Almonds are the darling of the nut world, and we totally get it. They have plenty of protein, fiber, and unsaturated fats—but not significantly more than pistachios. However, they are higher in magnesium and vitamin E.

Pistachios vs. Peanuts

Peanuts' lower price is a clear point in their favor, and their natural creaminess rivals pistachios' as well. Nutritionally, though, peanuts don't have much of an edge over pistachios. Both have comparable calories, fat, and protein (and peanuts have slightly less fiber). As for micronutrients, peanuts contain more folate and vitamin E, while pistachios are higher in potassium.

Raw vs. roasted pistachios

Besides selecting nuts with added flavors or in-shell versus shelled, you have your choice of raw or roasted pistachios.

"Pistachios are usually roasted, which improves their taste and aroma and also promotes their crunchy texture because roasting decreases the moisture content," says Rock. However, Rock notes that roasting reduces fiber content somewhat and may degrade vitamin E and some other antioxidants. Either way, though, pistachios remain a good source of fiber.

Roasting the nuts at home is a fairly simple affair, too. Spread them on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and your favorite seasonings, and bake at 375 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes.


Roasting pistachios brings out the best of their texture and aroma, though it does reduce their fiber content slightly and may degrade vitamin E and some other antioxidants.

Pistachio butter

Unlike some other nut butters, pistachio butter has yet to become a household name. Still, you can find the creamy spread at some specialty food purveyors or make your own by pulsing the nuts in a blender until smooth. A 2-tablespoon10 serving has 180 calories, 13 grams of fat, 3 grams of fiber, and 6 grams of protein.

Pistachio nut recipes

From breakfast to bedtime, any meal or snack can be pistachio time. Crushed, the nuts can top oatmeal, yogurt parfaits, brownies, or meats. Or try them whole tossed onto a Mediterranean-themed salad, a chocolate pudding, or your favorite hummus. We've got plenty more inspo! Try these pistachio-forward recipes:

Buying & storage tips

All pistachios have a place in a nutritious diet, but to promote sustainability as well as health, consider purchasing organically grown pistachios. Davar also encourages looking for nuts with natural preservatives like vinegar and salt.

To get the most out of your 'stachio stash, proper storage is also critical. Though they can keep in a cool, dry place like the pantry, refrigerating them extends their life even further since it keeps their fats from going rancid.


How many pistachios should you eat in a day?

A serving of pistachios is 1 ounce, which translates to 49 shelled nuts. Though every person's health needs are unique, most people can stick to a single serving per day for good health. Just note that because the nuts have about 13 grams of fat per serving, regularly overconsuming them could lead to high fat intake.

Do pistachios reduce belly fat?

If only there were a magical food that would melt away belly fat. Alas, that’s not the case, even with pistachios. While they may help with weight reduction in general, they won't directly affect fat cells in your midsection. "Unfortunately, no one food can reduce belly fat, but all nuts, including pistachios, can help if you follow a healthy diet and get plenty of physical activity," says Scheinman. 

Do pistachios lower cholesterol?

Pistachios offer definite promise for lowering cholesterol. Research conducted thus far indicates that the nuts' fiber and healthy fats probably contribute to reduced cholesterol levels.

The takeaway

As plant-based proteins continue their upswing in popularity, you might be used to turning to soy or grain-based sources to meet your needs. But don't forget about pistachios! Their versatility means they easily find their way into tons of snacks and meals, while their protein content, antioxidants, and fiber make them one of the healthiest nuts out there.

Sarah Garone, NDTR author page.
Sarah Garone, NDTR

Sarah Garone, NDTR is a licensed nutritionist and freelance health and wellness writer in Mesa, AZ whose work has appeared in numerous publications. After a first career as a college German teacher, health problems led her to pivot her work to the way food impacts wellness. In addition to her writing, Sarah enjoys spending time with her husband and three teenage kids, cooking, running, volunteering at a certified pro-women's healthcare center, and singing in a concert choir.