Pistachios' Rich Flavor and Health
Sharon Palmer, R.D.
Pistachios date back eons -- evidence from excavations shows that tribes in the Near East gathered them as far back as 20,000 BC. Throughout history, pistachios were considered food suitable for the rich and noble. They were said to have been a favorite of the Queen of Sheba, and also thought to bring good luck to lovers, who would steal away to meet beneath pistachio trees.
This royal nut was brought from the
The pistachio tree (Pistacia vera L.) is related to the cashew, mango and poison oak trees. Pistachio nuts grow in grape-like clusters and are covered with soft, reddish husks that are removed when they are processed.
The nut shells begin to split as the pistachios mature. Pistachio kernels get their green color from chlorophyll, the same pigment found in leaves. In the
These jade gems are packed with healthy fats, protein, fiber and minerals. Pistachios are also rich in phytosterols, which appear to lower cholesterol levels and protect from certain types of cancer. Recent studies have found that pistachios may lower risk of type 2 diabetes by improving blood sugars, and reduce inflammatory markers (a known risk factor for heart disease.)
The Finer Points.
What do you do with those pesky pistachio nuts that are not completely split? Wedge one half of the shell from an already-opened pistachio into the split and twist it open. Pistachios draw moisture from the air, which causes them to lose their crunch, so store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator. The nutty crunch and lovely hue of pistachios blends beautifully in breads, cereals, salads, side dishes, entrees and desserts. Tuck them into your bag for one of nature's most perfect snacks on the go.
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