Pistachios or peanuts?


What snack food does the word “baseball” bring to mind?  What food does the word “elephant” bring to mind?  Peanuts, right. Well not if you’re this particular pistachio-eating elephant, the main character is an ad campaign by Wonderful Pistachios that’s been running on relevant TV shows like the World Series.

So of course I started thinking about the nutritional aspects of switching from peanuts to pistachios.  The ad campaign is called “Get Crackin'”.  And actually that’s one benefit of pistachios:  you can’t just scoop up a handful (200 or so calories) and stuff them in your mouth.  You have to crack each one open individually, which sure slows down the rate of ingestion.  If you’re concerned about calorie intake, this is a good thing.  Sort of Mindful Eating by default.

We consider both peanuts and pistachios to be nuts, but in fact peanuts are legumes, botanical relatives of soy and peas.  Pistachios are tree nuts, relatives of cashews and mangos (yes those are related species of plant).  But despite the botanical distinctions, peanuts and tree nuts have many nutritional similarities.  Here are values for 1/2 cup of shelled nuts:

              calories   protein   fat    carbs  

peanuts        400        13 g     35 g    15 g

pistachios     350        13 g     28 g    17 g

They all notable for magnesium, vitamin E (peanuts have more), potassium (pistachios have more), zinc and iron.  Unsalted versions are naturally low sodium.

So peanuts or pistachios?  Nutritionally speaking they’re hard to distinguish.  It’s a matter of taste and for some people allergy is a concern.  It’s nice to have choices, and convenient pistachios that have to be cracked open one at a time make a nice addition to our snack repertoire.  They also make a nice addition to our culinary repertoire.  Like other nuts, pistachios boost protein in vegetarian and vegan foods.  The American Pistachio Growers website has a wealth of recipe ideas.

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