Pistachios: The Skinny Nut
By Margaret Badore for DietsInReview.com
A study presented at the Experimental Biology conference in Washington, D.C. in April argued why pistachios may be the ideal snack for anyone looking to lose weight. The research uncovered that not all of the nuts’ fat is absorbed by the body, making them lower in calories than was previously thought. The findings work against the notion that nuts are too calorie-dense and high in fat to make them good weight-loss aids.
“What we found is that when people consume the nuts, all the fat wasn’t absorbed by the body and therefore the calories weren’t all available to the body,” lead author Dr. David Baer told DietsInReview.com. Researchers placed 52 obese and overweight subjects on diets that were 500 calories less than they usually ate. Half were assigned to a group that ate pretzels as a snack, and the other group snacked on pistachios. After 12 weeks, the pistachio group had more success in reaching their weight-loss goals.
Nuts are also highly nourishing, unlike many snack foods such as chips or pretzels. “Pistachios are a great source of some of the key nutrients that are low in a lot of diets,” said Dr. Baer. Pistachios are rich in healthy fats, protein, minerals and antioxidants.
The shells may also help to curb mindless eating. Behavioral eating expert James Painter, Ph.D., R.D., at the School of Family and Consumer Sciences at Eastern Illinois University found that people who ate pistachios served with their shells on felt full sooner than those who were given the nuts without the shell, because the act of shelling the nut lead to more “mindful” snacking. He found that participants who had to shell their nuts consumed 42 percent less calories.
In another study, Painter found that people who left the pistachio shells in their workspace consumed 22 percent fewer calories than those who had these “reminders of consumption” removed. “This is in keeping with existing research showing that when a person has visual cues of ‘leftovers,’ such as pistachio shells, they can see how many or how much they have eaten, helping to control portion size and consumption,” he explained.
“Some of the research that’s already been done with nuts shows that people who eat nuts generally have a lower body mass index than people who don’t,” Dr. Baer explained. He admitted that there may be some confounding factors, explaining that people who include nuts in their diet may eat a healthier diet overall. That said, he adds that including pistachios in your diet is “one way to move towards a healthier dietary pattern.”
We all know that all snacks need to be enjoyed with some degree of portion control. Dr. Baer concluded, “I think that one of the ways that people can apply this research is to read the food label, know how many calories they’re eating and think about pistachios as a healthy snack.”