The pistachio, Pistacia vera, a member of the cashew family, is a small tree originally from Central Asia and the Middle East. Pistachio trees can be found in regions of Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, Greece, Tunisia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, India, Pakistan, Egypt, Italy (Sicily), Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, and the United States, specifically in California. The tree produces a seed.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, and their seeds which are much smaller and have a shell that is not hard.
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 temperatures ranging between -10 °C in winter and 48 °C 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 kernels are often eaten whole, either fresh or roasted and salted, and are also used in ice cream, pistachio butter, pistachio paste and confections such as baklava, pistachio chocolate, pistachio halva, pistachio lokum or biscotti and cold cuts such as mortadella. Americans make pistachio salad, which includes fresh pistachios or pistachio pudding, whipped cream, and canned fruit.
Pistachios have been shown to reduce LDL ("bad") cholesterol and increase the good HDL cholesterol after only a short period of regular consumption. High in antioxidants such as vitamins A and E, they fight inflammation, protecting blood vessels and reducing risk of heart disease. Even a moderate intake of pistachios has been shown to increase levels of lutein, an antioxidant well known for protecting against oxidized LDL, reducing heart disease.
Eating pistachios may help to prevent Type 2 diabetes. 60 percent of the recommended daily value of the mineral phosphorous is contained in just one cup of pistachios. As well as breaking down proteins into amino acids, phosphorous aids glucose tolerance.
Pistachios are an incredibly rich source of vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 is essential to make hemoglobin, the protein responsible for carrying oxygen through the blood stream to cells, and is also shown to increase the amount of oxygen carried.
The vitamin B6 so abundant in pistachios has wide-ranging effects on the nervous system. Messaging molecules called amines require amino acids to develop, which in turn rely on vitamin B6 for their creation. Furthermore, B6 plays a crucial role in the formation of myelin, the insulating sheath around nerve ?bers that allows optimal messaging between nerves. Furthermore, vitamin B6 contributes to the synthesis of serotonin, melatonin, epinephrine and gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA, an amino acid that calms the transmission of nerve impulses throughout the nervous system.
Pistachios contain two carotenoids not found in most nuts. These carotenoids, called lutein and zeaxanthin, function as protective antioxidants, defending tissues from damage from free radicals. They have been linked with a decrease in the risk for developing age-related macular degeneration, which is the leading cause of visual impairments and acquired blindness in the United States.
A healthy immune system requires adequate intake of vitamin B6, which pistachios abound in. A surfeit of vitamin B6 can retard brain activity as well as decrease the effectiveness of the immune system for fighting infections. Vitamin B6 found in pistachios also helps the body make healthy red blood cells, and helps maintain the health of lymphoid glands, such as the thymus, spleen and lymph nodes, ensuring the production of white blood cells that defend the body from infections.
Pistachios are a great source of vitamin E, a powerful fat-soluble antioxidant, essential for maintaining the integrity of cell membranes and often recommended for healthy and beautiful skin. Vitamin E does an excellent job protecting the skin from UV damage, providing daily defense against premature aging and skin cancer.
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