Protein Power in Pistachios
By Shelley Redford Young LMT
Last week I was talking with my beautiful daughter Ashley about alternative sources of protein in our diets. She is a very busy mother of three young children and needs good energy levels on any given day to keep up with them. She was curious about some protein-type snacks she could give herself and her family. Certainly, if we are to resolve that Dr. Young’s alkalarian diet, which excludes most animal and dairy products, is the way to go, then it should follow that we would seek out the best and most assimilative sources of complete essential aminos (proteins). While protein is important for proper functioning of the body, there is also scientific evidence suggesting we can get those protein needs met with small servings of protein—even vegetable-based proteins. Our ability to assimilate and utilize the protein we eat (or drink) is the important factor in my mind.
From Back to the House of Health1: The Protein/Calcium Myth pg.13 we read:
Consider the following clinical study reported in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. This study compared the essential amino acids in the diets of meat-eaters, lacto-ovo vegetarians (those who eat dairy and eggs), and pure vegan vegetarians. The study uncompromisingly set the protein requirements for each amino acid at the level that would easily cover the needs of growing children and pregnant women. The results? Not only did all three diets provide sufficient protein, they were all well above sufficient, each diet exceeding twice its requirement!
Dr. T. Colin Campbell director of the Division of nutritional sciences at Cornell University and former senior science advisor to the American Institute for Cancer research has stated:
There is a strong correlation between dietary protein intake and cancer of the breast, prostate, pancreas, and colon. The culprit in many of the most prevalent and deadly diseases of our time is none other than the very thing many of us have been taught to hold virtually sacred—animal protein.
This week I have been experimenting on myself with Pistachios as a good protein- enriched snack. I felt very sustained-even grounded when I ate them and noticed no weight gain at all. They are addictive little buggers and of course, and I couldn’t just eat one. The salt on them also satisfied my late afternoon munchy-attack, even better than any sweet treat could have, and I found myself thinking:
HEY..they’re GREEN!..they must be GOOD!
And I love anything Italian
The English word pistachio comes to us from the Old Italian pistaccio
I decided to delve deeper into some nutritional facts about pistachios, to validate my indulgence:
Pistachios are rich in potassium (helps regulate the body's fluid balance), phosphorus (helps build bones and teeth) and magnesium (important element in the conversion of the body's energy), and are also a good source of vitamin B6 (aids protein metabolism and absorption) and thiamine (enhances energy and promotes normal appetite). Pistachios supply vitamins A and E, both critical in keeping inflammatory pathways in balance.
Pistachios are also a good source of copper (strengthens the immune system) They deliver many vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, so they can be considered a nutrient-dense food and the perfect snack for someone who is in a good state of balance or good health. Dr. Young limits nuts like pistachios from the diets of severely sick people but encourages drinking nut milks like almond milk when on his cleanse.
Pistachios are a good source of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These fats reduce blood cholesterol levels and lower the risk of heart disease when they replace saturated fats in the diet. (Institute of Medicine)
After only three weeks of consuming pistachios as 20% of the calories in their diet, volunteers in a double-blind study saw their LDL (or bad cholesterol) drop by about 14%; HDL (or good cholesterol) rose by 26%, with a 12% decrease in total cholesterol. Recent studies show that the amount of inflammation in the blood vessels is often a more important marker for heart disease. A Penn State study showed that even a moderate intake of pistachios increases blood levels of lutein, an antioxidant that protects against oxidized LDL, which is even worse than regular LDL in terms of heart disease.
In trials, people on a 4-week pistachio diet showed no weight gain while improving risk factors for heart disease (Journal of the American College of Nutrition). The study showed that a daily dose of pistachios is beneficial in relation to cardiovascular disease. Study participants had moderately high cholesterol levels and consumed 15% of their calories from pistachios. Over a four-week period, blood lipid levels improved.
The special antioxidants found in pistachios can prevent a harmful process called glycation. Glycation occurs when sugars bond inappropriately to proteins, making the proteins unusable. This is the process by which diabetes damages tissues, and its products are called AGE or Advanced Glycation End-products. So pistachios can be a powerful ally in the treatment of diabetes and its related syndromes.
If you are looking to replace animal protein with vegetable protein, pistachios nuts are an excellent source of vegetable protein. The type of protein found in Pistachio nuts is rich in arginine -- a precursor to the substance nitric oxide, which helps relax blood vessels in the body, and lower blood pressure. You can get 6 grams of protein from just ½ cup of pistachios and 310 mgs.of potassium, not to mention all the dietary fiber they contained which was about 3grams per ½ cup.
As a precaution, Dr. Young would prefer that you keep your portion sizes down to ½-1 cup a day (Good Luck!) as 12 grams of dietary protein is plenty to cover your daily needs. Remember, your body is only 7% protein. Also watch for additives in died Pistachios. Traditionally pistachios were dyed red to hide stains on the shells from handpicking. Today, pistachio harvests are automated, preventing staining and rendering the dying process obsolete. Avoid dyed pistachios, as many food dyes can be harmful and may produce alergic symptoms in children, especially when consumed in combination with other food additives.
Make sure the pistachios you buy are fresh with the best form being raw. You can always add pHlavor SaltTM spray to make them a truly alkaline snack. Use Pistachios in Salad Dressings as a thickener or sprinkle over Shelley’s pHavorite Pasta or Spaghetti Squash with Pumpkin Seed Pesto dishes (both found in the new DVD pH Miracle Cooking with Chef Shelley www.pHmiracleliving.com) I even add them to Shelley’s Super Wraps (Back to the House of Health 1 pg. 77) or use them in place of croutons over a salad. They can also be removed from their shells and soaked in lemon water for a few hours to soften them and release their true flavor even more.
One thing is certain--eating pistachios renders significant benefits in relation to human health. Pistachio nuts deliver a nutritious array of important nutrients and compounds that support and assist body function.