Crack into Happiness & Health for the Holidays


By Laura Schmidt

The holiday season is upon us! Spending time with family and friends probably puts a big smile on your face, and what better snack to have around than the “happy nut.” In China, pistachios are known as the “happy nut” because of their resemblance to a smiley face. What makes pistachios a great snack for everyone? Pistachios are a nutrient-dense food that not only have many different nutrients but numerous health benefits as well:

Protein. Protein is essential in the body as a building block for bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood. It is also needed to make different enzymes, hormones, and vitamins in our bodies. Another great reason to add protein in your diet is to help combat hunger. Protein aids in helping you feel full for longer. This will also help to maintain a healthy weight or even promote weight loss.

Fiber. Fiber helps with regular bowel movements and maintaining a healthy digestive system. It also aids in lowering cholesterol levels and helps to control blood sugars. In general, the daily recommended amount of fiber for the average adult ranges from 25 to 35 grams each day.

Heart-Healthy Fats. These fats are great for helping to lower bad cholesterol while increasing good cholesterol at the same time. In the past, low-fat diets have been popular, but recent studies have shown that they may not be the healthiest choice. Incorporating healthy fats into your diet is a great choice for your overall health. Also, in comparison with other nuts, pistachios are one of the lowest-fat nut choices, making them lower in calories as well.

Copper. This is a less talked about mineral but is very important for the formation of red blood cells and bone health. One serving of pistachios contains a whopping 20% of our daily need.

Manganese. Another mineral that is not talked about often, but is important for bone health/development and crucial for cell function. Pistachios contain 20% of your daily need of manganese as well.

Vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 is essential for carbohydrate and protein metabolism, formation of antibodies and red blood cells, and nerve function. Pistachios contain 20% of your daily need for vitamin B6.

It can be tricky to track your portions with foods that are packaged with more than one serving. With pistachios, here is a good rule of thumb to track your portions: One serving is about one ounce, which is ½ cup for in-shell pistachios and ¼ cup shelled (no shells). For some who need a physical number, about one ounce equals roughly around 49 pistachios worth 160 calories.

Let’s crack into happiness and health for the holidays with pistachios!

Try this easy, delicious recipe:

Spiced Pistachios

Serves 24 (2 tablespoons each)

All you need:

2 tbsp Hy-Vee orange juice

2 tbsp Chinese five-spice powder

1 1/4 tsp kosher salt

2 cups unsalted pistachios

All you do:

1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

2. Whisk orange juice, five-spice powder and salt in a large bowl. Add pistachios; toss to coat. Place on a large rimmed baking sheet; spread in an even layer.

3. Bake, stirring every 15 minutes, until dry, about 45 minutes. Let cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

Make Ahead Tip: Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.

Cut Down on Dishes: A rimmed baking sheet is great for everything from roasting to catching accidental drips and spills. For effortless cleanup and to keep your baking sheets in tip-top shape, line them with a layer of foil before each use.

Nutrition Facts per serving: 91 calories, 7g fat, 1g saturated fat, 0mg cholesterol, 88mg sodium, 5g carbohydrate, 2g fiber, 3g protein.

Daily values: 6% iron.

Source: adapted from EatingWell, Inc.

The information is not intended as medical advice.

Please consult a medical professional for individual advice.

Laura Schmidt is a registered dietitian representing Hy-Vee as a nutrition expert promoting healthy eating throughout the community.