Time to go nuts! Eating pistachios may whittle your waist, according to a new study published in the journal Nutrition.
Sixty middle-aged adults who were at risk for diabetes and heart disease were divided into two groups. The (lucky) group that added pistachios to their diets ate 20% of their total calories from the nut, which increased their protein and good fat intake and decreased their carbs (their diets contained 51% carbs, 20% protein and 29% fat). The control group (no pistachios for them) ate a diet that was 60% carbs, 15% protein, 25% fat.
The results? After six months, people in the pistachio group had smaller waists (by approximately 0.7 inches), saw their total cholesterol score drop by 15 points, and had better blood sugar numbers. They also had less harmful inflammation.
Pistachios have several things going for them, explains lead researcher Seema Gulati, PhD, head of the National Diabetes, Obesity and Cholesterol Diseases Foundation in India. First, they’re packed with monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) that help control cholesterol. These fats also increase the release of hormones that help regulate glucose metabolism and increase the release of insulin, both of which help lower blood sugar.
And if you're stuck in the mentality that nuts—and their high fat content—are bad news for your weight, it's time to snap out of it. Numerous studies, including one in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, show they may actually help prevent weight gain with age, as nut eaters tend to have healthier diets because the nuts replace unhealthier processed foods. And it's even better news for your belly: The MUFAs tend to preferentially target belly fat, says Dr. Gulati.
One caveat: the study was funded by Paramount Farms, Inc., a pistachio supplier in California. However, this was a randomized, controlled trial, and the health benefits of pistachios and other nuts have been demonstrated before. Most recently, Harvard researchers reported in the New England Journal of Medicine that eating nuts daily reduces risk of death by 20%.