How It Heals
Pistachios, native to the Middle East and now grown abundantly in California, are not technically nuts but drupes with a small, hard shell. Crack one open: studies have shown that the bright-green goodies inside help lower levels of "bad" LDL cholesterol, thereby reducing the risk of heart disease; they're a rich source of phytosterols, which chip away at cholesterol and keep arteries free of buildup. "Pistachios are low in saturated fat yet high in mono- and poly-unsaturated fats, as well as fiber, all of which have positive impacts on cholesterol," says Jill Nussinow, MS, RD, a dietitian in Santa Rosa, Calif.
Scale stuck? Try eating more pistachios. A study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition in 2010 found that snacking on pistachios every day can help curb appetite. "The trifecta of protein, healthy fats, and fiber can dull hunger, so you're less likely to overeat," explains Nussinow. A mere ounce of pistachios delivers 3 grams of hunger-quelling dietary fiber and as much protein as an egg. Pistachios also supply a payload of lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidants that help maintain good vision.
Eat It Up
Pistachios add satisfying crunch to whole-grain salads, baked goods, oatmeal, and ice cream. Try roasting them with Chinese five-spice powder, or whirl up a smoothie with pistachios, yogurt, soymilk, and ginger. Limit yourself to a handful, or 1 ounce, to avoid calorie overload, says Nussinow. And buy pistachios in the shell—the extra work of shelling may help control intake.