If you’re trying to lose weight, then you shouldn’t go past nuts – particularly not pistachios. While they are fairly calorie-dense, nuts offer a powerful source of nutrients and heart-healthy fats.
For that matter, the connection between pistachios and weight loss is strong, with many people feeling that they are one of the best snacks for weight loss. That idea isn’t an empty promise either.
Instead, there is considerable evidence behind the role of pistachios in helping people to lose weight. Besides, they make for a great snack in their own right.
At face value, pistachios often sound horrible for weight loss. In particular, an ounce of the nuts (shelled) comes in at around 160 calories – which is on the high side for a snack. Roughly speaking, an ounce is a handful of the shelled nuts and is a common serving side for people who have pistachios as a snack.
With pistachios, the majority of calories (67%) come from fats, while the rest come from carbs (20%) and protein (13%) (1).
This breakdown also means that pistachios are fairly high in fats. But, as you may know, fat isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Instead, healthy fats are critical for lowering heart disease risk and promoting health overall (2). For that matter, researchers consider pistachios to be a good source of heart-healthy fats (3).
In contrast, high carb intake is associated with a range of negative outcomes, including inflammation. For that matter, the conventional high-carb and low-fat diet actually does more harm than good and many people end up gaining weight and increasing disease risk by doing so (4,5,6,7,8).
Authority Nutrition offers a detailed list about why that diet approach is so dangerous – and why relying on fats instead is much healthier.
So then, the fat in pistachios isn’t a bad thing. In fact, the combination of fat and protein can help with weight loss, which we’ll come back to shortly.
At the same time, pistachios are a good source of other nutrients.
For example, a one-ounce serving has 3 grams of dietary fiber and is a source of a range of powerful vitamins and minerals, including manganese, copper, vitamin B6 and vitamin E (9).
Finally, there are many plant-based nutrients present, including ones that can have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties (13,14). These aspects also help promote health overall, especially when pistachios are consumed instead of unhealthy alternatives.
So, with all these nutrients, pistachios do make a powerful addition to the diet. But, what about weight loss?
Pistachios and Weight Loss
The relatively high protein and fat content of pistachios makes them particularly relevant for weight loss. Relying on foods like this can help to reduce cravings and make it easier to avoid heavily processed alternatives.
For that matter, high protein snacks are associated with weight loss and they can be a critical component in successful long-term weight loss. The nutritional profile of pistachios also makes them great snacks, especially as they are easy to eat and are portable.
Indeed, research has even shown that pistachios can be valuable for weight loss and health.
For example, one comprehensive study indicated that the combination of nuts and dried fruit could be particularly relevant to good cardiovascular health. In that study, the authors specifically looked at raisins and pistachios as representatives of each type and examined results from a range of different studies.
Overall, the authors came to this conclusion:
As such, pistachios have the potential to promote health and reduce key problematic symptoms. Additionally, managing glucose (i.e. blood sugar levels) is a critical practice for weight loss and overall wellbeing (15).
The authors of that study also mentioned that despite common perception, nuts do not significantly contribute to weight gain. Indeed, some of the papers the authors analyzed even showed that nuts could help lower waist circumference, body weight and BMI (16).
Such an outcome strongly supports the theory that pistachios can promote weight loss.
Other studies also support those conclusions. In particular, one smaller review of research highlighted that pistachios can promote desirable blood lipid profiles, triglyceride levels and also weight loss (17).
Likewise, some authors have suggested that nut consumption could help improve inflammatory conditions, lower disease risk and even reduce the risk of death. This is particularly true for pistachios because of the plant-based compounds present (18).
Finally, one experimental study specifically looked at whether pistachio consumption could directly impact weight. The study took place over a 12-week period, where all participants were on a weight reduction diet.
As part of the diet, around half of the participants were given a 240-calorie serving of salted pistachios, while the other half were given a 220-calorie serving of salted pretzels. Both groups of participants lost weight in the 12-week period.
However, there was a significant difference in the body mass index (BMI) outcomes between the two groups. The image below highlights the differences between each group for the highest and lowest BMIs observed.
Data from Li et al., 2010
As this image shows, the pistachio group of participants ended up having a lower BMI overall, indicating that they lost more weight.
Even though this study was only short-term, it shows that snacking with pistachios can help support weight loss. Additionally, the practice may help people to develop healthy habits, which could the contribute to long-term weight loss as well.
Finally, it’s worth mentioning that many studies have found that pistachios have no effect at all on weight loss (19). Despite appearances, that conclusion doesn’t actually contradict anything we’re saying here. Instead, pistachios often won’t have an impact on weight loss – because people are simply adding them to their diet, often in large quantities.
If you want to lose weight with pistachios, then they do have to be part of a healthy diet approach overall. Likewise, you’re not going to see any benefits if you are overconsuming them.
As a result, it’s still important to pay attention to the overall calories and nutrients that you are consuming.
Interestingly, research suggests that eating in-shell pistachios can help people to maintain greater control over their consumption (20), partly because of the visual cues from empty shells. As such, in-shell pistachios can be a good way to get the most weight loss benefits from pistachios.
Nuts, Weight Loss and Diets
At the end of the day, pistachios make a great choice for weight loss, helping you to feel full longer and to reduce cravings. Certainly, they are a much better choice than many of the junk food snacks out there.
The same is true for most other types of nuts, many of which we’ve featured in posts previously.
Nevertheless, the suitability of pistachios does depend on the diet that you’re following.
One reason for this is snacking in general. This is a common practice that many people rely on and it can help with weight loss. However, some diets avoid snacking as much as possible (particularly autophagy approaches). Likewise, if you are following intermittent fasting, the times that you can snack are much more limited.
Beyond all of that is the keto diet.
Generally speaking, nuts are a great addition to this type of diet and many ketosis recipes heavily rely on nuts as ingredients. However, pistachios (like cashews) are fairly high in carbohydrates compared to other types of nuts.
As a result, they typically can’t be included at all in a ketosis diet for weight loss. If you want more information on that topic, Ruled.Me has an amazing Ketogenic Diet Food List that talks about which foods you can and cannot eat, including the differences between types of nuts.
But, unless you are on a ketosis diet, pistachios are a good choice for weight loss and can be powerful. For that matter, the same is true for nuts overall.
Because different nuts all have their own combinations of nutrients, it’s often best to include a variation of these within your diet. So, pistachios are one option, as are almonds, walnuts and even peanuts. Likewise, you can rely on products like almond butter – as long as you look for a brand with minimal processing, such as the option below.
Nevertheless, regardless of the specific nuts you choose and the type of product, it’s important to be careful with how much you consume. After all, nuts are calorie-dense and taste amazing. So, it’s easy to eat too much.
But, as long as you’re careful, nuts can be a great source of nutrients and may significantly help you to lose weight.
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