New Research Earns Pistachios Superfood Status For People With Desk Jobs

Tuesday, June 19th, 2018

People who are distracted at their computer by hunger pangs have something to celebrate—a new snack might just improve their productivity. By Dr Arianna Carughi, Advisory Board Member of the College of Natural Resources at the University of California, Berkeley.


Adding to an increasing number of research studies around the health benefits of pistachios, one study and a national survey in the U.S. now suggest a snack of pistachios might boost brain power and concentration levels at work.  For anyone reluctant to add calories to their daily diet, a French study showed that adding a daily pistachio snack to an existing diet is not likely to cause weight gain. However, it could add important nutrients you might be missing in your diet at present.


Pistachios Help Office Workers Stay Focused Until Lunchtime


In a national survey, 1,000 American office workers who skipped breakfast consumed a snack of 42 g (1 ½ serving size) of pistachios between 9am and 11am. Of the participants, 92 percent said they were “distracted from their tasks at work due to hunger before lunch.” 80 percent said they usually get hungry in the mornings before lunch and think about food often or every day.

The midmorning snack of pistachios proved to be just what they needed to power through the morning.  Ninety-two percent of the participants reported that the pistachio snack helped improve their concentration at work as stated in the study, “somewhat or greatly”.

That’s not surprising, according to Dr Mike Roussell, nutrition expert and advisor to Men’s Health and SELF magazines. “Skipping breakfast is never a good idea, but even with a good breakfast and lunch, hunger pangs and stress-driven hunger can be distracting, leading to unhealthy snacking habits.”

Dr Roussell continued, “Pistachios are an ideal midmorning or mid-afternoon snack because of their unique nutrient package that not only promotes feelings of fullness and satiation. Newer studies show that it can also promote an optimal mental state and focus at work.”

Increasingly, people with desk jobs are looking for a healthier snack alternative to the usual donuts and vending machine fare. Ninety percent of the survey’s participants said they believe that snacking on pistachios is healthier than their usual snack.  The study involved office workers in the Northeast, South, Midwest and Western United States who snack at their desk two or more times a week at midmorning.


Pistachios May Have A Role In Improved Brain Function


Being alert and successful during the workday starts with a good sleep the night before. Loma Linda University (LLU) researchers found that eating nuts on a regular basis enhances brainwave frequencies associated with cognition, learning, memory, recall and other key brain functions. While the research studied multiple nuts, pistachios produced the greatest gamma wave response, which is critical for enhancing cognitive processing, information retention, learning, and perception. 

Electroencephalograms (EEG) were taken to measure the strength of brainwave signals. EEG wave band activity was then recorded from nine regions of the scalp associated with cerebral cortical function, the researchers explained.

“This study provides significant beneficial findings by demonstrating that nuts are as good for your brain as they are for the rest of your body,” said the study’s principal investigator, Dr Lee Berk, associate dean for research at the LLU School of Allied Health Professions, in an interview featured in the November 2017 issue of LLU’s publication, TODAY.


A Daily Snack For A Trim Waist And Added Nutrients


A recent study conducted by the Institut Paul Bocuse in the culinary capitol of Lyon, France, discovered women who added pistachios to their daily diet did not gain weight.

During a four-week period, French women were divided into two groups, one group snacked on a protein biscuit popularised as a healthy snack, while the second group consumed roasted pistachios (California origin). The snacks were matched for calories and protein content. Importantly, the snacks (about 315 calories each) were added to their usual daily food intake. Food records were taken from the study subjects and anthropometric measurements (such as weight and waist circumference) were taken at the fourth week.

While the weight of the participants did not change for either group, the pistachio group trended toward a reduction in waist size after four weeks. Body fat measurements remained stable in the pistachio snackers, but it rose slightly in the control group. Unlike the healthy protein biscuit snack, those who ate pistachios for four weeks increased their consumption of nutrients important to women and men alike, such as thiamin, vitamin B6, copper and potassium.

A one-ounce serving of shelled pistachios contains 160 calories, and provides a bonus of healthy fats (4 g polyunsaturated and 7 g monounsaturated), 6 g of protein, fibre and essential vitamins and minerals, like vitamin B6, thiamin, copper, and phosphorus. Their unique nutrient package is credited to the linkage between pistachios and multiple health benefits.


Plant-Based Eating And Pistachios Gain Popularity

Plant-based eating styles, such as Mediterranean, vegetarian, or flexitarian diets, are growing in popularity around the world because they can replace animal protein in meals. This is also viewed by some as a more sustainable dietary practice than meat-based diets. Pistachios pack an impressive 6 g of protein (12 percent of the Daily Value) in a one-ounce serving, counting as a protein group serving, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

A number of health benefits have been linked with plant-based eating styles, including lower risks of heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer, and obesity. It’s easy to understand why: plant-based diets are higher in fibre, certain vitamins and minerals, and phytochemicals (plant compounds with health protective properties). They are also lower in saturated fat and dietary cholesterol than meat-heavy diets.  

The workplace snacking survey and health benefit studies add to a growing base of pistachio research conducted worldwide.  The emerging research is credited with an increase in consumer demand for pistachios in Europe, the United States and Asia.


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