A decade of brainwashing by the USDA’s food guide pyramid putting “fats and oils: use sparingly” at the top of the diagram is hard to undo.
So hard that, despite continual reminders at holiday gatherings, even my own mother still avoids olive-oil based salad dressings, replacing them with high fructose corn syrup or, even worse (gasp!!), salad dressings with sucralose. (Her dedication to eating low fat is so strong that, even after reading this post, it won’t change her habits…).
To clarify, bad fats will always be bad. Fats like trans fats (the all-evil partially hydrogenated oils), animal based fats, high levels of omega-6 fats (corn, soybean, cottonseed, peanut, sunflower oils) should be avoided as much as possible.
The healthy fats, however, have NEVER been shown to lead to weight gain. Now, I could be wrong in using the term “never” but I don’t really think so. Our body needs and functions well with healthy fats such as those found in wild caught fish (or, if you don’t like fish, you can just eat the algae and seaweed directly), avocados, olive oil and nuts.
Eating pistachios may reduce your body’s response to the stresses of everyday life, according to a Penn State study conducted by principal investigator Sheila G. West, professor of biobehavioral health and nutritional sciences.
I don’t think I’ve ever come across a study using nuts that did not show a positive benefit on our health. And it doesn’t seem to matter whether we’re talking about almonds, cashews, walnuts, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts or pecans—they all have been shown to be good for us and help us fight off heart disease and diabetes.
This particular study adds pistachios to the list, as would be expected. In this study, researchers replace 20% of the calories in a group of prediabetic patients’ diets with unsalted pistachios for 24 weeks to see what effect this had on markers of diabetes. Here’s what they found:
1. Waist circumference improved.
2. Fasting blood sugar improved.
3. Total cholesterol improved.
4. LDL (the “bad”) cholesterol improved.
5. The inflammatory marker TNF-α improved.
6. TBARS (a marker of oxidative stress) improved.
7. Adiponectin levels (a hormone produced by fat cells that protects against diabetes) improved.
Could we ask for anything more?
In a typical 2,000 calorie per day diet, replacing 400 calories with pistachios would equal just over a 1/2 cup of pistachios. Not exactly a difficult intervention.
Personally, I’ve become attached to the POM brand salt and pepper pistachios that I buy from Costco (or you can get them at Amazon by clicking here). They do have a wee bit of sugar, but not enough to counterbalance the positive effects of the pistachios themselves and the added spices as well.
One little caveat—never eat nuts with added oils, like peanut or cottonseed oil. This completely destroys the healthy benefits of the good fats. Other than that little rule, feel free to munch away.