There are many preconditions that must be met to live a long life. Staving off high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood sugar levels and obesity are some of the most important. All of the above contribute to heart disease, a general term that includes conditions that narrow or block blood vessels.
Heart disease is a major killer in the UK but certain dietary items can fend off the markers that contribute to it.
In fact, pistachio nuts have been shown to offer protection against these precursors.
Take high blood pressure and cholesterol first.
Both high blood pressure and cholesterol (a waxy substance found in your blood) produce a similarly pernicious effect – they restrict the supply of blood flowing through your arteries, thereby raising your risk of heart disease.
Pistachios have been shown to lower blood cholesterol and improve blood pressure, thus lowering your risk of heart disease.
Several studies have demonstrated the cholesterol-lowering effects of pistachios.
Many studies on pistachios and blood lipids (general term for fatty substances found in the blood) are conducted by replacing part of the calories in a diet with pistachios.
Up to 67 percent of these studies have shown reductions in total and LDL (bad) cholesterol and increases in HDL (good) cholesterol.
LDL cholesterol is branded “bad” because it sticks to your artery walls and HDL cholesterol counters this harmful effect, hence the “good” reputation.
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Blood sugar benefits
Despite having a higher carb content than most nuts, pistachios have a low glycemic index, meaning they don’t cause large blood sugar spikes.
This is significant because researchers have found that, among other things, high blood sugar causes stronger contraction of blood vessels.
One study showed that when two ounces (56 grams) of pistachios were added to a carb-rich diet, healthy individuals’ blood sugar response after a meal was reduced by 20 to 30 percent.
In another 12-week study, individuals with type 2 diabetes showed a nine percent reduction in fasting blood sugar after eating 0.9 ounces (25 grams) of pistachios as a snack twice per day.
Fasting blood sugar is a test to determine how much glucose (sugar) is in a blood sample after an overnight fast.
In addition to being rich in fiber and healthy fats, pistachio nuts are rich in antioxidants, carotenoids, and phenolic compounds, all of which are beneficial for blood sugar control.
Finally, eating pistachios has produced favourable results for weight loss.
According to an article published in Vascular Health and Risk Management, the mechanisms through which obesity increases heart disease risk involve changes in body composition that can affect the dynamics of blood flow and alters heart structure.
In one 12-week weight loss program, those who ate 1.9 ounces (53 grams) of pistachios per day as an afternoon snack had twice the reduction in body mass index, compared with those who ate two ounces (56 grams) of pretzels per day.
Moreover, another 24-week study in individuals with excess weight showed that those who consumed 20 percent of calories from pistachios lost 0.6 inches (1.5 cm) more from their waistlines than those who did not eat pistachios.
Research suggests one factor possibly contributing to pistachios’ weight loss properties is that their fat content might not be fully absorbed.
What’s more, shelled pistachios are good for mindful eating, as shelling the nuts takes time and slows the rate of eating.
The leftover shells also give you a visual clue of how many nuts you have eaten, research suggests.
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