Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Pistachios, and the Evil Thereof!

My New Year's resolution, which I just decided yesterday I needed to make, is to eat only a handful of pistachios a day. Okay, maybe two handfuls, but spaced hours apart. To that end, I bought salted pistachios, reasoning that while they are a tad tastier than the unsalted that I usually buy, too much salt isn't good, it raises blood pressure, etc. Such knowledge should help me keep it to two handfuls a day, which is surely under the prescribed 50 pistachio recommended dose. That has to be a good thing.

I've discovered that I am addicted to pistachios but also allergic to these little nuts. I wondered about my reactions to hundreds of pistachios a day so I checked it out on the Internet, the Holy Grail of a lay person's medical knowledge. Too many pistachios and wham! The system reacts.

Pistachios are a funny nut. When I eat cashews I really don't want more than 5 or 6 a day. When I eat walnuts, 2 a day pushes it for me. But pistachios? They are small nuts, trapped in a small shell with an enticing split which begs to be pried open. I often feel like a pre-historic woman foraging for nuts all day long. I'm convinced I could eat hundreds of pistachios a day. I could live on pistachios. Which, IMHO, makes pistachios an evil nut, calling to me all hours of the day and into the night. And since I don't have the strength to resist, and like every other addict on the planet, with my particular poison I try to push the envelope and get away with indulging as much as I want. I'm trying to fight the addiction in the only way I know how without having to give up pistachios completely: I'm taking care of the more crucial BP, instead of worrying about my feeble digestive issues, or weight gain from these high-fat nuts.

Did you know that pistachios are native to the middle east and are one of the oldest flowering nut trees? Archaeologists have determined that we humans have been enjoying them for about 7,000 years. Pistachios have been used as a dye, and also a remedy for everything, from toothache to sclerosis of the liver. It takes 8 to 10 years for a plant to produce a crop. They have a long storage life and travel well, making them a necessity as the ancients travelled the Silk Road that connected China to the West. As to the negatives, besides being high fat, and the added salt, an allergic reaction consists of symptoms that range from itchy skin (hives) to a severe form of anaphylactic manifestations that include breathing difficulty, abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea.

Naturally mythology surrounds such an ancient nut. The Queen of Sheba is rumored to have decreed pistachios as exclusively a royal food, forbidding commoners from growing nuts for their personal consumption. Nebuchadnezzar, the ancient king of Babylon, planted pistachio trees in his fabled hanging gardens. In the first century A.D., the Emperor Vitellius brought the prized nuts to Rome. In the Muslim legends, pistachios were one of the foods brought to earth by Adam.

Here's a chart which lists the nutritional value of pistachio nuts.  Just because I can't eat more than one or two handfuls a day, that doesn't mean you can't enjoy these tasty morsels.

Pistachio (Pistacia vera),
Nutritional value per 100 g. 
(Source: USDA National Nutrient data base)
PrincipleNutrient ValuePercentage of RDA
Energy557 Kcal29%
Carbohydrates27.97 g21.5%
Protein20.60 g37%
Total Fat44.44 g148%
Cholesterol0 mg0%
Dietary Fiber10.3g27%
Folates51 µg13%
Niacin1.3 mg8%
Pantothenic acid0.520 mg10%
Pyridoxine1.7 mg131%
Riboflavin0.160 mg12%
Thiamin0.870 mg72.5%
Vitamin A553 IU18%
Vitamin C5 mg8%
Vitamin E-?22.60 mg150%
Sodium1 mg0%
Potassium1025 mg22%
Calcium107 mg11%
Copper1.3 mg144%
Iron4.15 mg52%
Magnesium121 mg30%
Manganese1.2 mg52%
Phosphorus376 mg54%
Selenium7 µg13%
Zinc2.20 mg20%
Carotene-ß332 µg--
Crypto-xanthin-ß0 µg--
Lutein-zeaxanthin0 µg--


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