Cracking open the health benefits of pistachios

By Jodi Mohrmann - Managing Editor of special projects
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Happy National Pistachio Day! While not a federal holiday, February 26 is unofficially set aside to celebrate the nut and all of the health benefits it can provide. Cleveland Clinic registered dietitian Laura Jeffers says pistachios pack a powerful one-two punch for heart health.

"Pistachios have a great amount of monounsaturated fat, so that is the heart-healthy fat. They've also been shown to reduce the LDL cholesterol, your bad cholesterol," she explained.

Jeffers says pistachios can also help to promote blood flow because they're rich in vitamin B6, which helps to carry oxygen through the bloodstream to cells. Vitamin B6 also helps to promote immune and nervous system health. Pistachios are good for your eyesight, too, because they contain two antioxidants, not found in other nuts, which have been linked to a decrease in the risk of macular degeneration.

The large amounts of vitamin e in pistachios may also help to protect your skin.  The best news is you don't have to eat a lot of them to reap the benefits. Jeffers recommends about a handful, or so, each day.

"Pistachios are a great source of nutrition, but it's really easy to over-eat them. So, an ounce, or an ounce and a half every single day will get those health benefits for you over time," she added.

Jeffers says to buy pistachios with the shells on, so they're a little harder to eat, which will help to keep you from overeating them when you're snacking. The shells also are a good reminder of how many you have eaten.

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