EN on Foods

October 2017 Issue

Crack into a Pistachio Today

The Folklore.

There’s no denying the call of the pistachio. That smooth, beige shell, with the crunchy green prize tucked within is irresistible. A favorite American snack, pistachios have been enjoyed since the seventh century BCE and are one of only two nuts (the other is almonds) mentioned in the Bible. Native to the Middle East, pistachios were considered an aphrodisiac by the Queen of Sheba, and Chinese legend says they bring good luck to those who hear the shells pop open while sitting beneath the “smiling pistachio” tree.

protein-packed pistachios.

You get 49 nuts to a serving of protein-packed pistachios.

The Facts.

Pistachios (Pistacia vera), which are part of the cashew family, along with mango, sumac, and poison oak, grow in grape-like clusters, each nut encased inside its own hull. When ripe, in late summer and early fall, pistachios naturally split open. The drying process opens the shells further. A single, one-ounce serving is 49 nuts, more than any other snack nut, with just 160 calories. Pistachios are also packed with essential nutrients, such as thiamin (16% DV), vitamin B6 (18% DV), fiber (12% DV), and protein (12% DV).

The Findings.

Pistachios have high levels of potassium, many vitamins (vitamin K, vitamin B6 and thiamin) and minerals (magnesium, copper, and iron), and certain plant compounds, including carotenoids. Their high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory potential has been linked to health improvements (The British Journal of Nutrition, 2015). Daily pistachio consumption by adults with type 2 diabetes was shown to improve cardiovascular risk by significantly lowering total cholesterol and the ratio of total to HDL (“good”) cholesterol and triglycerides (Metabolism, 2015).

The Finer Points.

Though harvested in late summer/early autumn, pistachios are available year round. They’re sold in or out of their shells, raw or roasted, salted, unsalted, and seasoned. If in their shells, look for open shells, which are easiest to open. The nuts should be green, sometimes with yellow streaks or spotting. Store pistachios in the refrigerator or freezer, where they’ll keep for a year. Pistachios make a terrific snack, eaten out of the shell, blended into nut butter, or combined with dried fruit in trail mix. They also add nice crunch and color to pilaf, veggie sauté, whole grain cereal, or a healthy yogurt-granola-fruit parfait.

Spicy Roasted Squash with Pistachios

Spicy Roasted Squash with Pistachios

Spicy Dinner


1½ lb butternut squash, peeled, cut into ½-inch pieces (about 4½ cups)

2½ lb delicata squash, cut into ½-inch pieces

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp ground allspice

¼ tsp ground cayenne

½ tsp salt

½ c shelled pistachios, roasted, salted, chopped

2 Tbsp maple syrup

¼ cup pomegranate arils

2 Tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley


1. Heat oven to 425°F.

2. In a large mixing bowl, mix butternut and delicata squash with olive oil, cinnamon, allspice, cayenne, and salt.

3. Line two baking sheets with aluminum foil. Transfer the squash to the baking sheets, arranging in a single layer. Bake for 15 minutes.

4. Stir squash and sprinkle with pistachios and drizzle with maple syrup. Bake another 5 to 7 minutes until pistachios are toasted. Remove from the oven.

5. Arrange on a serving platter and garnish with pomegranate arils and chopped parsley.

Makes 8 servings

Nutrition Information Per Serving: 169 calories, 7 grams (g) fat, 51 g carbohydrate, 4 g protein, 5 g dietary fiber, 156 milligrams sodium

Recipe adapted courtesy Wonderful Pistachios