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Pistachios's Health Benefits

By Livestrong Contributor

Reduce Heart Disease Risks With Pistachios

After only three weeks of consuming pistachios as 20% of the calories in their diet, the volunteers in a double-blind study saw their LDL (or bad cholesterol) drop by about 14%; HDL (or good cholesterol) rose by 26%, with a 12% decrease in total cholesterol. That's very good news, but cholesterol levels are not the only important factor in reducing heart disease risk.

Recent studies show that the amount of inflammation in the blood vessels is often a more important marker for heart disease risk. Pistachios are rich in antioxidants, which fight inflammation. A Penn State study showed that even a moderate intake of pistachios increases blood levels of lutein, an antioxidant that protects against oxidized LDL, which is even worse than regular LDL in terms of heart disease.

These Nuts are Rich in Antioxidants

Pistachios supply vitamins A and E, both critical in keeping inflammatory pathways in balance. Inflammation is the first stage of healing, but when the body contains too few antioxidants, the inflammatory process can damage tissues rather than heal them. By eating foods rich in vitamins and minerals, you can stack the odds in your favor. Raw pistachios contain the most antioxidants.

Antioxidants in Pistachios Can Slow the Aging Process

Pistachios contain a fat-soluble antioxidant that protects the body from lipid peroxides. Lipid peroxides are harmful chemicals produced when oxygen interacts with fats in the absence of antioxidants. A healthy diet contains antioxidant molecules that protect you from lipid peroxide formation, and pistachios are one of the few sources of fat-soluble antioxidants. The study noted above required participants to eat 20% of their calories from pistachios, which seems like a lot, but since pistachios are rich in fat and high in calories, it takes relatively few pistachios to achieve the benefits.

Use Pistachios to Combat Diabetes

The special antioxidants found in pistachios can prevent a harmful process called glycation. Glycation occurs when sugars bond inappropriately to proteins, making the proteins unusable. This is the process by which diabetes damages tissues, and its products are called AGE or Advanced Glycation End-products. So pistachios can be a powerful ally in the treatment of diabetes and its related syndromes.

Watch For Additives In Died Pistachios

Traditionally, pistachios were dyed red to hide stains on the shells from handpicking. Today, pistachio harvests are automated, preventing staining and rendering the dying process obsolete. Avoid dyed pistachios, as many food dyes can be harmful and may produce ADD/ADHD-like symptoms in children, especially when consumed in combination with other food additives.

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