Alisa Fleming, Dairy Free Made Easy – Not one, but two studies from researchers at Penn State reported on beneficial health findings for this simple little green nut (technically a seed) at the 2007 Experimental Biology meeting in Washington, D.C. It seems this nutritional powerhouse has the ability to tackle heart disease from two angles, cholesterol and blood pressure.
In one study, it was reported that eating roughly one to two handfuls of pistachios per day reduced the risk for cardiovascular disease by significantly reducing LDL cholesterol levels, with the most beneficial findings from the higher end of intake. In just four weeks, 3 ounces of pistachios reduced the amounts of total cholesterol in the blood by 8.4 percent and the LDL (“bad cholesterol) by 11.6 percent. The study also found that non-HDL (considered reliable predictors of heart disease risk) decreased by 11.2 percent.
In the second report, the research team examined the effects of pistachios on reducing the body’s response to everyday stressors. The 1.5 ounce dosage had the greatest effect on blood pressure reduction, however, those who followed the 3 ounce pistachio diet experienced a greater relaxation of the arteries overall.
It was suggested that other foods, which are high in unsaturated fat and antioxidants may have a similar effect on cardiovascular health.
If you are ready to start incorporating pistachios into your diet, try one of the following recipes direct from the source… the California Pistachio Commission!
Chocolate Pistachio Coffeecake
3-3 1/2 cups flour
1 package quick rising yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup milk (use your favorite soy, rice, or almond milk alternative)
1/4 cup each water, sugar and butter or margarine (Earth Balance or Fleischmann’s should work well for dairy-free)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons natural California pistachios, finely chopped
Chocolate Pistachio Filling (recipe follows)
Glaze (recipe follows)
Combine 1 1/2 cups flour, yeast and salt. Heat milk, water, sugar and butter to 120 degrees F.; add vanilla. With electric mixer at low speed, beat milk mixture into flour mixture; beat in eggs. Mix 3 minutes at medium speed. Gradually stir in enough remaining flour by hand to form soft dough. Knead on floured surface about 5 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Place in greased bowl; turn to grease top. Cover and let rise in warm place about 20 minutes. Punch down. On lightly floured surface, roll dough to 15 x 10 inch rectangle. Spread Chocolate Pistachio Filling to within 1 inch of one long edge. Roll jellyroll fashion spread from long edge. Pinch to seal edges. Place on greased baking sheet; slash at 2-inch intervals to within 1 inch from center. Twist each section slightly. Cover; let rise 20 minutes. Bake at 350 degrees F. 30 to 35 minutes or until roll makes a hollow sound when tapped on the bottom. Cool on rack. Brush with glaze and sprinkle with finely chopped pistachios.
Chocolate Pistachio Filling:
Combine 3/4 cup chopped natural California pistachios, 1/2 cup each vanilla cookie crumbs and melted butter alternative or margarine, 2 tablespoons each sugar and cocoa and 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon; mix well. Makes 1 1/2 cups.
Heat to boil 1/2 cup light corn syrup, 1/3 cup water and 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon. Reduce heat and simmer until reduced to 1/2 cup.
Makes 8 to 10 servings.
Nutty-Figgy Pistachio Sports Snacks
5 tablespoons natural California pistachios
1 1/4 cups dried California figs (moist-style), stemmed
2 teaspoons grated orange peel
Remove 8 whole pistachios, halve them and set aside for garnishing. Finely chop 2 tablespoons of remaining pistachios in food processor, remove from container and set aside. Combine remaining pistachios, figs and orange peel in processor; process until mixture forms into ball, less than 1 minute. Shape into an 8 inch log, then roll in reserved chopped nuts. Chill until firm, then cut into 16 slices. Place halved pistachios in center of each.
Note: If you do not have a food processor, turn figs and all but 8 pistachios onto board and chop together with large knife until fine. Mix grated orange peel then shape as above.
Makes 4 servings, 4 slices each.
Pecos Pitas with Pistachios
This entree can be made vegan or ominivorous depending upon the filling you choose.
1 can (11 oz.) Mexicorn, drained
2 medium Zucchini, diced (1/2 pound)
1-2 tablespoons Canned diced green chilies (or jalapenos, if preferred)
1 cup Coarsely chopped California pistachios
Cumin Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
Iceberg lettuce leaves
1 large Tomato, thinly sliced
1 cup Canned black beans or red kidney beans
4 Pita pocket breads
2 cups Shredded cooked or canned chicken
½ cup Coarsely chopped California pistachios
Lime Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
4 Pita bread rounds
1 cup Julienne pared jicama or pared, seeded cucumber
1 Avocado, peeled, seeded and sliced
½ cup Bottled roasted red pepper or pimiento, cut into strips
Toss corn, zucchini, chilies and 3/4 cup pistachios together with half the Cumin Vinaigrette. Warm pita pockets in 350 degrees F. oven for about 3 minutes, then halve and fill each half with lettuce, tomato slices and 1/3 cup corn mixture. Add a spoonful of beans to each. Place on plates; drizzle remaining dressing over filling and sprinkle with remaining pistachios.
Combine 1/4 cup vegetable oil, 1/4 cup cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon sugar and 1 teaspoon cumin seed in measuring cup. Stir vigorously to blend.
Toss chicken with half the pistachios and enough Lime Vinaigrette to moisten. Warm pita pockets in 350 degree F. oven for about 3 minutes, then halve and fill with chicken mixture. Add jicama, avocado and red pepper. Place on plates; drizzle remaining vinaigrette over filling and sprinkle with remaining pistachios.
Makes 8 servings.
Mix 1 cup lowfat or nonfat bottled Italian salad dressing with 1 tablespoon grated lime peel and 2 tablespoons lime juice. Shake to blend.
For more healthy recipes in general, check out our Recipe Section.