Pistachios

With the California pistachio industry making a big push to turn more Americans on to the wonders of the creamy, buttery, heart-healthy nut, worldwide consumption of pistachios is skyrocketing. Chefs are using pistachios in ever more ambitious ways, and it seems this humble tree nut is enjoying its moment in the sun. Here are five things you should know about the pistachio:

–The United States is currently the world leader in pistachio production, having surpassed Iran in 2010. And sales are booming, with exports nearly tripling over the past six years from 100 million pounds to almost 270 million pounds.

–Coming in at about 3 to 4 calories per nut, pistachios have fewer calories than just about any other nut. Plus, studies have shown that if you eat pistachios in their shells, you will eat less overall; the act of shelling slows consumption, and the leftover shells serve as a visual cue to the eater to limit intake.

–Pistachios contain more potassium than any other nut. Higher potassium content can lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol, thus lowering blood pressure and balancing sodium levels in the body.

–Eating pistachios may help lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of cancer. Pistachios are an excellent source of phytosterols, plant compounds that have been found to decrease levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol, and they are packed with cancer-fighting antioxidants, including the carotenoids beta-carotene and lutein, which gives the pistachio kernel its distinct green color.

–Red pistachios don’t exist in nature. Pistachio importers used to dye the nuts red, and sometimes green, to hide blemishes resulting from traditional harvesting methods.

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