Its good news for those who like to eat like squirrels. Pistachios or pista, the pale green crunchy nuts are declared heart-friendly by scientists.
Researchers led by Sarah K. Gebauer, a graduate student in integrative biosciences at Penn State, performed a study by giving subjects a pista feed after a typical American diet which consisted of 35 percent total fat and 11 percent saturated fat, for a period of two weeks.
The experiment included diet variants such as the consumption of 1.5 ounces or 3 ounces of pistachio nuts per day, and a control of zero gram pistachios. The nuts were given as either plain roasted nuts or added in pesto sauce or muffins.
The results were that volunteers who ate three ounces of pistachios a day, for one month lowered their total blood cholesterol by 8.4 percent. Crucially, levels of "bad" cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL), went down by 11.6 percent.
The balance between LDL and "good" cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL), was also changed. Participants on the pistachio diet had less LDL relative to HDL after four weeks.
Said Gebauer: "Pistachio amounts of 1.5 ounces and three ounces (per day) -- one to two handfuls -- reduced risk for cardiovascular disease by significantly reducing LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels, and the higher dose significantly reducing lipoprotein ratios."
According to the researchers, a handful of pistachios also provide the same antioxidants found in dark, leafy vegetables and brightly colored fruit.
"Our study has shown that pistachios, eaten with a healthy heart diet, may decrease a person's CVD risk profile," opines primary investigator Dr. Penny Kris-Etherton, distinguished professor of nutrition at Penn.
Pistachios are believed to be rich in nutrients that reduce hardening of the arteries, one of the main causes of heart attacks and strokes.
The study findings were presented at the Experimental Biology meet at Washington.