Perhaps you're looking to lose a few pounds. Maybe you want to try something new. Or it could be that you're simply looking for a new snack to replace your potato chip habit. Try an ancient symbol of wellness and health: the pistachio.
Pistachio nuts belong to the Anacardiaceae species of deciduous tree, of the genus Pistacia. Hailing from the mountain ranges in Western Asia, pistachios are related to sumac and mango. Because of their high nutritional value and long shelf life, the nuts were ideal for travelers.
They were also set aside for ancient royalty, as legend has it that King Nebuchadnezzar had them hung in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon for his wife — that was around 700 B.C.
Today, The United States — primarily California — China, Syria, Iran and Turkey maintain large pistachio orchards. California alone produces more than 300 million pounds of pistachios annually.
Most nuts have high amounts of healthy fats, and pistachios are no exception. They contain:
- Monounsaturated (e.g., oleic acid) and polyunsaturated fats — help to prevent coronary artery disease and strokes
- Phytochemicals, such as carotenes, vitamin E and polyphenolic antioxidant compounds
- B-complex vitamins — riboflavin, thiamin, niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B-6
- Minerals — copper, manganese, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium and zinc
Pistachios are primarily eaten by the handful, sometimes roasted, salted, curried or sweetened. Other options include sprinkling chopped pistachios on salads or in sweet dishes from India, Pakistan and southeast Asian countries.
Baklava — a popular Middle Eastern dessert made from phyllo dough and honey, incorporates chopped nuts — incorporates nuts, sometimes walnuts, pecans, almonds or pistachios.
The Nifty Nut House, north of Central on St. Francis, roasts its nuts and has a wide selection to choose from. Its best-selling pistachios are in-shell roasted and salted. Wonderful® Pistachios — in the black bag — can be found at many area grocery stores. Pistachio baklava is available at N & J Middle Eastern Cuisine at Lincoln and Edgemoor.
As with everything in life, pistachios are most healthful eaten in moderation. But with all the health benefits associated with the nuts, eating small portions frequently is a great solution for those looking to steer clear of fattier snacks.
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