Benefit comes from a particular type of vitamin E in the nuts, expert says. Eating pistachios every day might reduce your risk for lung cancer and other malignancies, according to a new study. Pistachios are a good source of a type of vitamin E called gamma-tocopherol. “It is known that vitamin E provides a degree of protection against certain forms of cancer. Higher intakes of gamma-tocopherol … may reduce the risk of lung cancer,” Ladia M. Hernandez, a senior research dietitian at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and a doctoral candidate at Texas Women’s University, said in a news release from the American Association for Cancer Research. The study included 18 people who ate 68 grams (about 2 ounces or 117 kernels) of pistachios a day for four weeks and 18 people in a control group who did not add pistachios to their normal diet. As the study progressed, those in the pistachio group showed significantly higher blood levels of gamma-tocopherol. The findings were to be presented Dec. 8 in Houston at a cancer prevention conference sponsored by the American Association for Cancer Research. “Pistachios are one of those ‘good-for-you’ nuts, and two ounces per day could be incorporated into dietary strategies designed to reduce the risk of lung cancer without significant changes in body mass index,” Hernandez said. “Other food sources that are a rich source of gamma-tocopherol include peanuts, pecans, walnuts, soybean and corn oils,” she added. news from health.usnews.com – The pistachio (Pistacia vera L., Anacardiaceae or sometimes Pistaciaceae) is a small tree native to some regions of Syria, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Greece, Turkmenistan, Turkey, Pakistan and western Afghanistan, that produces an important culinary nut. Pistacia vera often is confused with other species in the genus Pistacia that are also known as pistachio.
These species can be distinguished from P. vera by their geographic distributions (in the wild) and their nuts. Their nuts are much smaller, have a strong flavor of turpentine, and have a shell that is not hard. The word pistachio is a loanword from Persian via Latin, and is a cognate to the Modern Persian word پسته Peste. The modern pistachio nut P. vera was first cultivated in Western Asia. Its cultivation spread into the Mediterranean world by way of central Iran, where it has long been an important crop. The early 6th-Century manuscript De observatione ciborum (On the observance of foods) by Anthimus implies that pistachio nuts (“pistacia” in vulgar Latin) were well known in Europe by late Roman times. More recently pistachio has been cultivated commercially in the English speaking world, in Australia, New Mexico, and California. The United States Department of Agriculture introduced the tree in California about 1904, but it was not promoted as a commercial crop in California until 1929. The tree grows up to 10 meters (30 ft) tall. It has deciduous pinnate leaves 10–20 centimeters (4-8 inches) long. Pistachio is a desert plant, and is highly tolerant of saline soil. It has been reported to grow well when irrigated with water having 3,000-4,000 ppm of soluble salts. Pistachio trees are fairly hardy in the right conditions, and can survive temperature ranges between −10°C (14°F) in winter to 40°C (104°F) in summer. They need a sunny position and well-drained soil. Pistachio trees do poorly in conditions of high humidity, and are susceptible to root rot in winter if they get too much water and the soil is not sufficiently free draining. Long hot summers are required for proper ripening of the fruit. The plants are dioecious, with separate male and female trees.
The flowers are apetalous and unisexual, and borne in panicles. The fruit is a drupe, containing an elongated seed, which is the edible portion. The seed, commonly thought of as a nut, is a culinary nut, not a botanical nut. The fruit has a hard, whitish exterior shell. The seed has a mauvish skin and light green flesh, with a distinctive flavor. When the fruit ripens, the shell changes from green to an autumnal yellow/red and abruptly splits part way open. This is known as dehiscence, and happens with an audible pop. The splitting open is a trait that has been selected by humans. Commercial cultivars vary in how consistently they split open. Each pistachio tree averages around 50 kg of seeds, or around 50,000, every two years. The trees are planted in orchards, and take approximately seven to ten years to reach significant production. Production is alternate bearing or biennial bearing, meaning the harvest is heavier in alternate years. Peak production is reached at approximately 20 years. Trees are usually pruned to size to make the harvest easier. One male tree produces enough pollen for eight to twelve nut-bearing females. Harvesting in the United States is often accomplished by using shaking equipment to shake the nuts off the tree. Pistachio nuts in and out of the shell. Pistachio trees are vulnerable to a wide variety of diseases. Among these is infection by the fungus Botryosphaeria. This fungus causes panicle and shoot blight (i.e., kills flowers and young shoots), and can damage entire pistachio orchards. In California almost all female pistachio trees are the cultivar “Kerman”. A sprig from a mature female Kerman is grafted onto a one-year-old rootstock. Male pistachios may be a different variety. Bulk container shipments of pistachio nuts are prone to self-heating and spontaneous combustion because of their high fat and low water content.
The kernels are often eaten whole, either fresh or roasted and salted, and are also used in ice cream and confections such as baklava and cold cuts such as mortadella. Inhabitants of the American Midwest make pistachio salad, which includes fresh pistachios or pistachio pudding, cool whip, canned fruit and sometimes cottage cheese or marshmallows. In July 2003, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first qualified health claim specific to nuts lowering the risk of heart disease: “Scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces (42.5g) per day of most nuts, such as pistachios, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease”. In research at Pennsylvania State University, pistachios in particular significantly reduced levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL cholesterol) while increasing antioxidant levels in the serum of volunteers. In rats, consumption of pistachios as 20% of daily caloric intake increased beneficial high-density lipoprotein (HDL cholesterol) without lowering LDL cholesterol, and while reducing LDL oxidation. In December 2008, Dr. James Painter, a behavioral eating expert professor and chair of School of Family and Consumer Sciences at Eastern Illinois University, described the Pistachio Principle. The Pistachio Principle describes methods of “fooling” your body into eating less. One example used is that the act of de-shelling and eating pistachios one by one slows your consumption allowing you to feel full faster after having eaten less. The shell of the pistachio is naturally a beige color, but it is sometimes dyed red or green in commercial pistachios. Originally dye was applied by importers to hide stains on the shells caused when the nuts were picked by hand. Most pistachios are now picked by machine and the shells remain unstained, making dyeing unnecessary except to meet ingrained consumer expectations. Roasted pistachio nuts can be artificially turned red if they are marinated prior to roasting in a salt and strawberry marinade, or salt and citrus salts. Pistachio has also been a flavor for ice cream, including spumoni. Like other members of the Anacardiaceae family (which includes poison ivy, sumac, mango, and cashew), pistachios contain urushiol, an irritant that can cause allergic reactions.
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