Pistachios can be a healthy and helpful addition to one’s diet, promoting a healthy pace of eating and mindful eating, according to presentations at this year’s American Dietetic Association’s annual Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo (FNCE).
The S-L-O-W Down Pistachio Shell
Dr. James Painter, a behavioral eating expert for more than 18 years and professor and chair of School of Family and Consumer Sciences at Eastern Illinois University presented his latest research in this area; two studies on “The Pistachio Principle,” which encompasses these mindful eating techniques.
“The research shows that our perception of how much food we need to become satiated and maintain a healthy body weight is skewed by many environmental factors,” says Dr. Painter. “We eat more food if we eat off of a bigger dinner plate; we’ll eat more potato chips if they come in a larger bag.” Painter added that mindless eating essentially means we are ignoring hunger cues that tell us to stop, but said that small behavioral changes can help people eat less without feeling deprived.
In Painter’s first study, 140 subjects self selected a portion of pistachios as they entered the classroom and the weight of the selected portion was recorded. At the end of the class, the weight of the remaining pistachios was recorded and subjects were surveyed to determine their fullness and satisfaction (satiety).
In condition one, the subjects were offered in-shell pistachios and consumed an average of 125 calories. In condition two, subjects were offered shelled pistachios and consumed an average of 211 calories, a difference of 86 calories. Those who snacked on in-shell pistachios consumed 41 percent fewer calories compared to those who snacked on shelled nuts and fullness and satisfaction ratings were not significantly different. The shell changed the package of the pistachios, adding volume and it slowed consumption, allowing for hunger cues to be activated, reducing overall calorie intake.
Pistachios with Shells as Visual Cue to Cut Calories
In Painter’s second study, 118 subjects were offered pistachios to eat at their desk over an eight hour period beginning each day with a 16 ounce bowl filled with four ounces of in-shell pistachios. Another 16 ounce bowl was provided to place the empty shells. Every two hours pistachios were added in two-ounce increments, as needed. In condition one, the shells remained in the bowl until the end of the day and subjects consumed an average of 216 calories. In the second condition, the bowl with empty shells was emptied every two hours and subjects consumed an average of 264 calories, a difference of 48 calories. In the first condition subjects ate 23 percent fewer calories, yet fullness and satisfaction ratings were not significantly different between conditions.
Eating in-shell pistachios helps consumers become more mindful of their snacking behaviors, reducing overall calorie intake without feelings of deprivation.
These and other studies underscore the notion that pistachios are a great snack to add to any weight management plan because they are a good source of protein and fiber. Pistachios also offer 49 kernels per serving – more than any other nut. Comparatively, almonds have 23 in a serving, walnuts 14 halves and cashews, 18 (Courtesy of EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS).