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Nutrition

Ranking the best pistachios of 2021

Pistachios are tree nuts that provide a good source of protein, dietary fiber, trace minerals, and healthy fats. They’re often served as hors d’oeuvres at dinner parties, but make for a great snack food too.

The strong antioxidant content of pistachios and their monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat content makes them well-suited for incorporation into a diet that’s oriented towards long-term health.

If you want a snack that tastes good as well as helping you improve your health, pistachios are an excellent option. We’ve ranked and reviewed the ten best pistachio brands, and afterwards, we’ll go in-depth on the scientific research behind the nutritional benefits of pistachios.

Rankings

1. Fiddyment Farms Gourmet Pistachios

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Fiddyment Farms Gourmet Pistachios is one of the best bulk options for people looking for an unsalted, in-shell pistachio.

This simple three pound bag contains high-quality pistachio nuts grown in California, and contains zero ingredients other than pistachios.

Notably, these pistachios are also free of any trace of peanuts, making them a good option for people who have a peanut allergy but not a tree nut allergy. Thanks to their purity, simplicity, and lack of any other allergens, they’re our top pick.

2. Sincerely Nuts Roasted and Unsalted Shelled Pistachios

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Sincerely Nuts makes one of the best bulk options for pistachio nuts, because these pistachios have already been removed from their shells and roasted.

They are a good option for people looking to keep their sodium intake low, as they are one of the few pistachio nuts on the market that have not been salted.

The two-pound resealable bag makes this a great choice if you are a heavy user of pistachios, or if you need to prepare a large amount of pistachios for guests.

3. Setton Farms Pistachios

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Setton Farms Pistachios are a gourmet pistachio nut that’s slowly dry-roasted and seasoned with sea salt. They come in a resealable two pound bag, and are the best option on the market if you want gourmet-quality pistachios without any fancy seasoning added to it.

These make for great appetizers and snacks, and the one-pound size is a nice happy medium that is well-suited for many different types of users.

4. Wonderful Pistachios Roasted and Salted 1.5 Ounce Packs

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Wonderful Pistachios also makes a version of their highly popular pistachios that’s much simpler and is conveniently packaged in single-serving packages that deliver 120 calories each.

These pistachios are roasted and seasoned with sea salt, so they don’t have the extra flavorings and ingredients as Wonderful Pistachio’s flagship products.

If you are a minimalist when it comes to additives and flavorings, though, that’s a benefit, and many people find the single-serving packages incredibly convenient.

5. Gorilla Food Co Natural Pistachio Nuts

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Gorilla Food Co Natural Pistachio Nuts are one of the few options for raw, unsalted and unroasted pistachio nuts. They come in an eight, 16, or 32 ounce plastic bag, and have already been removed from their shells.

Assuming you are looking for unroasted pistachio nuts, the packaging is the biggest downside: the bag cannot be resealed, so you’ll have to provide your own reusable container to store these after opening so they don’t go bad.

6. We Got Nuts Turkish Pistachios

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We Got Nuts Turkish Pistachios have a slightly different flavor than the typical pistachios grown in California. Moreover, if you are a serious bulk user of pistachios, this five pound bag is the only way to go.

These pistachio nuts have been roasted and salted, though they remain in their shell. While not everyone needs such a large amount of pistachio nuts, it’s an attractive option for those who go through a lot of pistachios on a regular basis.

7. Kirkland In-Shell Pistachios

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Kirkland Signature has a reputation for straightforward and simple products that are plain but high-quality, and they certainly live up to that reputation with their pistachio nuts.

These pistachios come in a three pound bag, and include their shells. Moreover, they’ve been roasted and salted, so they are ready for serving or for snacking.

8. Keenan Farms Shelled Roasted Pistachios

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Keenan Farms makes pistachio nuts that have been roasted and flavored with sea salt. They’re great for convenient snacking, but not so much for recipes that calls for roasted pistachios. The time saved by not having to shell the pistachios means you’d be better off with another option.

9. The Pistachio Factory Raw Pistachio Butter

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Pistachio butter is exactly what you think—a finely ground and mixed paste of pistachios. The texture and flavor of pistachio butter is much stronger than similar nut butters like almond butter and peanut butter, so even though this five ounce container is fairly small, you’ll find that it lasts you a surprisingly long time.

While it’s not quite as easy to snack on, it does go well with crackers, dry vegetables like carrots, or bread.

10. Wonderful Pistachios Salt and Pepper Flavor

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Wonderful Pistachios makes a snacking pistachio that’s intended for people looking for a high-end snacking option that’s both healthy and tasty.

These pistachios are seasoned with salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, lemon, and natural flavoring agents. While people focused on a healthy diet exclusively might not want these added ingredients, they do make for great hors d’oeuvres at dinner parties or cocktail parties.

The 48 ounce bag is great for people looking to entertain guests, or for people who want to parse out their snack servings into their own reusable containers. The sole downside with the packaging is that the bag is not resealable, so get our own reusable container to store these pistachios after opening.

Category winners

Best pistachios overall: Fiddyment Farms Gourmet Pistachios

Fiddyment makes great-tasting old-fashioned pistachios with just the right amount of salt. The large three-pound bag means great value, helping to win our overall top spot.

Best pistachios for weight loss: Sincerely Nuts Roasted and Unsalted Shelled Pistachios

The healthy fats in pistachios aren’t the only benefit for weight loss. They’re full of satiety-inducing proteins, and by getting pistachios with the shells on, and no salt, you counteract two subtle psychological factors that can contribute to overeating: rate of consumption, and sodium content. 

Best pistachios for sleep: Setton Farms Pistachios

Pistachios are often cited as a great natural source of melatonin, but they’re also a good source of tryptophan, which is thought to induce sleep as well. Setton Farms comes in a size that’s not too big for a small before-bed snack to help with better sleep. 

Best pistachios for heart health: Sincerely Nuts Roasted and Unsalted Shelled Pistachios

For heart health, you want pistachios with no added salt. Pistachio nuts contain plentiful monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which are great for heart health. The unsalted pistachios from Sincerely Nuts help ensure that high sodium levels don’t counteract the benefits of these unsaturated fats. 

Best pistachios without shells: Gorilla Food Co Natural Pistachio Nuts

Want pistachios with no mess and no shells to clean up? Gorilla Food Co has you covered, with great-tasting pistachios that are pre-shelled, unsalted, and unroasted: raw, just the way nature intended. 

Best pistachios for a low-carb diet: Gorilla Food Co Natural Pistachio Nuts

Need to replace carb-laden, unhealthy snacks? Gorilla Food Co makes pistachio nuts that are a great replacement for sugary snacks. Plus, because they’re already shelled, they are perfect for on-the-go snacking without making a mess.

Who Should Buy Pistachios?

Pistachios are great for everyone as they provide various essential vitamins and minerals. Specifically they’re great for older populations since they help to provide the right nutrients that strengthen bones.

Pistachios are also great for individuals who want to improve their gut health since they help to improve probiotic health in the gut gimme.

How We Ranked

Pistachios come in a variety of forms, including nuts, butters, flour, and oil. Pistachio butter is similar to peanut butter, where the nuts are ground until they become spreadable. Pistachio flour is made from grinding endosperm solids that remain after the nuts have been pressed for oil.

Raw pistachio oil is cold-pressed and has a deep green color that provides a full-bodied flavor (roasted pistachio oil has a more toasted flavor). For our rankings, we decided to stick to whole nuts, like Keenan Farms and butters, like The Pistachio Factory, because they are the least processed of the bunch.

Pistachios are often salted for flavor. While this is delicious and safe, for certain individuals, the excess salt isn’t healthy for them. Products that were salt-free like Fiddyment Farms and Sincerely Nuts ranked higher as a result.

We also preferred products that included their shells. Nuts whose shells are split or partially split open indicate ripeness. Any pistachio that is not partially open is an indication that the shell contains an immature nut and should be discarded. Furthermore, shelled pistachios tend to cost double the price as their non-shelled counterpart.

Benefits

Pistachios are a tree nuts that are high in protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Pistachios belong to the family of tree nuts, which includes things like pecans, walnuts, and cashews. Tree nuts all are excellent sources of protein, fiber, and healthy fats, but pistachios are particularly rich in nutrients like copper and vitamin B6.

Consumption of pistachios has also been associated with a reduction in risk factors for heart disease, and improvements in your body’s antioxidant status.

Pistachios are rich in copper, which can help strengthen your bones. Copper is a trace minerals that’s hard to find in many common foods. Pistachios, however, contain 40% of your recommended daily intake in just two ounces (1).

Scientific research has demonstrated a connection between copper deficiency and an increased risk of bone fracture, which indicates that copper plays an important role in bone metabolism and growth.

One such study was published in 1990 in the journal Age and Aging, and tested blood levels of copper among elderly patients with a femoral neck (hip) fracture from a fall, compared to age- and sex-matched controls who did not have a hip fracture (2).

The researchers found a significantly lower level of copper in the blood of the elderly people who had fractured their hip, indicating that a deficiency in copper could be related to worse bone strength.

Pistachios can improve your gut microbiome. Probiotics are a hot new area of nutritional research—these are species of bacteria that live in your stomach and intestines, and play a critical role in health conditions ranging from obesity to autoimmune diseases.

The old adage of “you are what you eat” seems to be particularly apt for probiotics. While some foods, like kombucha, directly introduce new beneficial strains of bacteria into your digestive tract, others (sometimes called prebiotics) instead provide digestible nutrients that specifically target the beneficial bacteria that live in your gut. Pistachios are one of these prebiotic foods.

A scientific study published in 2014 in the British Journal of Nutrition investigated the effects of almond and pistachio consumption on gut bacteria composition in a randomized trial (3).

The study involved a group of healthy adults consuming a control diet, a diet that included a substantial amount of almonds, or a diet that included a substantial amount of pistachios.

Each diet was consumed for 18 days, after which the researchers analyzed the probiotic bacterial content of the feces of the volunteers. While almonds had a small benefit to levels of probiotic bacteria, the effects of almonds paled in comparison to the effects of pistachios.

Eating a diet high in pistachios was associated with a marked increase in bifidobacteria, one of the main categories of probiotic bacteria.

As such, the findings of this study provide strong evidence for using pistachios as a functional food that provides prebiotic fuel (such as fiber) to the beneficial bacteria that live in your gut, leading to better digestion, higher immune system function, and the host of other health benefits associated with a strong gut flora population.

Pistachios can help slow the absorption of carbohydrates in your diet. The negative effects of refined carbohydrates and sugars in your diet are well-documented—a diet high in either of these tends to lead to obesity and metabolic problems like type two diabetes.

For these reasons, carb blockers are a popular category of weight loss supplements, but it turns out that pistachios can act as a 100% natural carb blocker. Research published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2011 by a team of researchers in Canada investigated the physiological effects of pistachios on blood sugar, both alone and in combination with refined carbohydrates (4).

In the study, healthy volunteers consumed pistachios either alone or in combination with a controlled amount of white bread. After each meal, the researchers analyzed how the subjects’ blood sugar levels changed.

Typically, after a meal rich in refined carbohydrates (such as white bread), blood sugar spikes significantly. After analyzing the data, the researchers found that pistachios alone had little effect on blood sugar, and when they were eaten in combination with white bread, the blood sugar response was blunted markedly compared to eating white bread alone.

This makes pistachios an especially attractive snacking option for people who are looking to lose weight and for people trying to achieve better control over their blood sugar.

Side effects

Like other tree nuts, somewhere around two percent of the population has an allergy to pistachios. Obviously, these people should not be eating pistachios or any other tree nut.

A greater proportion of people, perhaps 8-11%, have oral allergy syndrome, which can cause itching and irritation in the mouth, throat, and lips (5).

These people should also avoid pistachios and other tree nuts. Finally, though peanut allergies are different than tree nut allergies, some pistachios are roasted using peanut oil, or are processed on the same equipment that processes peanuts and other allergens.

If you have a peanut allergy but not a tree nut allergy, make sure to opt for a high-quality pistachio that does not contain traces of peanuts.

Recommended intake

Research has tested individual “doses” (serving sizes) of pistachios of up to 84 grams. At least with respect to the carb blocking abilities of pistachios, increased doses of pistachios appear to be more effective.

Other work has replaced up to 20% of total caloric intake with pistachios and found positive results, so at least up to this limit, there does not seem to be a cap on the effective dosage level.

Notably, though, epidemiological research has found that lower doses of tree nuts are effective at decreasing your risk for heart disease, so there are some benefits even with a few servings of pistachios per week.

FAQ

Can you eat raw pistachios? Absolutely, raw pistachios are incredibly healthy and are full of nutrients, which makes them the perfect snack (5). If you need some energy, they’ve got great protein content, and they also have fiber to help with your blood sugars and digestion. Pistachios also have calcium and iron, so you get some essential minerals like magnesium and potassium.

Are pistachios travel-friendly? Yes, pistachios are small and don’t need refrigeration, making them a perfect travel snack.

What happens when you eat too many pistachios? Pistachios are calorie-dense, so eating too many pistachios may lead to excess weight, which comes with a host of issues in itself.

Can you make jewelry out of pistachio shells? Yes, if you’re crafty, you can make gorgeous jewelry with the dried husks and shells since they are curved and all very uniform, making them ideal for jewelry projects. Using a tiny drill, you can put small holes into the shells and thread some elastic string through them for a bracelet. You can even paint them with acrylic paint to decorate them and make beautiful colors.

Is it safe to eat raw pistachios? Yes, raw pistachios are safe to eat and are healthy and nutrient-rich.

How many pistachios should you eat in a day? Around 3 ounces is the recommend maximum dose due to the high caloric content in these nuts.

Can pistachio shells drain your plants? Yes, the hard shell has a pretty high surface area, which makes it perfect for plant drainage. Simply rinse them really well, so you get rid of the salt and put them in the bottom of your potted plant before adding the soil. These shells will keep your plants healthy and ensure optimal conditions.

Why do pistachios cost so much money? Pistachios have a long process of manufacturing to get them into your hands, which is why they often cost so much more than other nuts. It takes 15 to 20 years for a pistachio tree to reach the point where it can fully bear nuts. At this point, they can still only produce about 50 pounds of nuts per year (as opposed to brazil nuts, which produce 250 pounds). This means that each tree takes two decades to reach a point where it can produce enough nuts every other year to supply 50 people buying only ½ a pound of nuts per year.  

Another reason they are expensive is that machines will destroy them. A lot of nuts have moved to a mechanized sorting process, but pistachios still need to be sorted by hand. This means that it costs significantly more in labor because you are employing a lot of people rather than a few machine operators. 

Pistachio trees both need long cold winters and hot summers to grow, which eliminates most of the planet’s climate. In fact, the only climates in the entire world that are suitable for growing pistachio trees are Iran, Turkey, and California, which only increases its rarity and scarcity. When a pistachio growth region experiences a severe drought, it becomes extremely difficult to grow the same plants. It costs a lot more money to keep them hydrated when water is scarce and therefore expensive. This is especially true when a drought becomes severe enough to prohibit watering because even agricultural farms are subject to limitations or extremely high excess taxes. That excess penalty gets passed along to consumers. 

Can you make musical instruments with pistachios? Yes, it’s a great rainy day activity for when your kids are restless and also a great educational way to teach them about recycling. Have them save tin cans, cardboard tubes, empty yogurt containers, and other materials and fill them up with pistachio shells and seal the ends with recycled newspaper. Let the kids decorate their very own musical instrument and let them experiment with how different materials and shapes create different sounds.

Do pistachios slow the absorption of carbohydrates? Yes, pistachios can slow the absorption of carbs in your diet and is a natural carb blocker. A 2011 study found that pistachios alone had little effect on blood sugar, and when they were eaten in combination with white bread, the blood sugar response was blunted markedly compared to eating white bread alone (6).

What’s the average lifespan of a pistachio tree? Each tree usually has a lifespan of about 300 years, although peak production will eventually slow down as they age. Trees are planted in their orchards and take about a decade to grow enough to start bearing nuts. After about 20 years, they reach the peak of their production, providing 50 pounds of nuts every other year.

How do you farm pistachios? Trees are usually pruned to a specific size to make it easier to harvest the nuts. Harvesting usually entails using some specialized equipment to shake the drupes off of each tree. Then, they are gathered from the ground up, by hand, and the outer shell is removed from the pistachio either by machine or by hand. Once they are washed, they are sorted by hand since machines are unable to sort them without breaking them. The nuts are sorted by size, appearance, quality, and whether or not their shell has opened. The sorted nuts then get dried in hot air to prevent humidity and water damage.

Where are pistachios grown? Pistachios are grown primarily in Italy, Iran, Turkey, Syria, and Afghanistan, where the climate is ideal.

Why are pistachios red and green? Pistachios are red and green because of the use of dyes. Companies began dyeing the nuts to cover up blemishes and imperfections and make them more attractive, so now consumers are used to these unnatural colors. Natural pistachios will have the same beige appearance as other tree nuts. We encourage you to try to find these naturally colored nuts to reduce the amount of artificial dye that makes its way into your system. That being said, the dye is fairly harmless, and there’s nothing wrong with your pistachios regardless of whether they are brown, beige, red, or green. 

Can pistachio shells be used for cleaning? Yes, pistachio shells are used for cleaning. Simply grind them into a coarse and gritty material, which will be perfect for getting that pesky mud off your gardening tools.

Can you make mosaics with pistachios? Yes, pistachios are the perfect shape and texture for tons of different craft projects, like mosaics. You can paint them, varnish them, and glue them in place on plain picture frames, school notebooks, and more. Combine them with beautiful twigs, dried flowers, and other natural materials to create a beautiful and ecologically friendly work of art. 

Can pistachios strengthen your bones? Yes, pistachios can help strengthen your bones due to its high concentration (40% of your RDI) of copper. Research show that copper deficient is associated with an increase in bone fractures, especially in the elderly. One study found a significantly lower level of copper in the blood of the elderly people who had fractured their hip, indicating that a deficiency in copper could be related to worse bone strength (7).

Are pistachios useful in gardening? Yes, pistachios are the perfect mulch material. You can leave them whole or grind them up so they won’t even require much work from you. Just rinse off the salt and put the shells at the base of your pants to help retain moisture and prevent weeds from growing. Finely ground shells can go into cracks on your patio to prevent weeds from growing there as well.

How do you barbecue with pistachios? Pistachio shells will lend a rich and unique flavor to your meat due to their high oil content, which smoke’s beautifully when burned. Adding some to your grill or smoker will lend a rich, nutty flavor to your meats. 

Do pistachios make you poop? Yes, pistachios help you poop. Pistachios have properties similar to probiotics, which help the growth of healthy bacteria in the digestive tract.

What nut is poisonous until roasted? Raw cashews are poisonous until roasted and are unsafe to eat. This is because they contain a toxic resin called urushiol, which causes rashes if it touches the skin. To remove this substance, cashews must go through a rigorous roasting or steaming process to ensure they are safe to eat.

What is the optimal dose of pistachios to exhibit carb blocking benefits? Unfortunately science has yet to determine the optimal dose for carb blocking, however more seems to be better in regards to exhibiting this particular benefit.

Do pistachios affect your gut health? Yes, pistachios can affect your gut microbiome by improving gut health through providing digestible nutrients, such as probiotics, that specifically target the beneficial bacteria that live in your gut. A 2014 study showed a marked increase in bifidobacteria, one of the main categories of probiotic bacteria (8). The findings of this study provide strong evidence for using pistachios as a functional food that provides prebiotic fuel to the beneficial bacteria that live in your gut, leading to better digestion, higher immune system function, and the host of other health benefits associated with a strong gut flora population.

What are the side effects of pistachios? Pistachios can have some side effects that mimic IBS like symptoms. Furthermore, pistachios can cause allergic reactions in certain people, which can be life-threatening.

How many calories are in pistachio nuts? In 100 grams of pistachio nuts, there are 562 calories. The average serving size of about 3 oz will run you about 400 calories, which is why pistachios should be consumed in moderation, despite the health benefits.

Do pistachios help you sleep? Yes, pistachios contain various minerals and vitamins that can help you sleep, including rotein, vitamin B6, and magnesium. These ingredients help to manufacture melatonin and promote a deeper, more restful sleep.

Related Articles

Recap

Pistachios are a tree nut that are an excellent source of healthy fats, trace minerals like copper to strengthen your bones, and have potent beneficial biological effects.

These include boosting the strength of your gut bacteria, and even blocking the absorption of carbohydrates when eaten alongside a meal rich in carbs.

Aside from those with tree nut allergies or oral allergy syndrome, pistachios can be included even at relatively large amounts (at least 20% of your total daily caloric intake) without any apparent ill effects.

Due to all of these health benefits, pistachios are far from just a snack and hors d’oeuvres option—they’re a full-blown functional health food.

For Body Nutrition’s #1 pistachio recommendation, click here.

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