A Balanced Nutrition Plan Includes Complete Proteins Like Pistachios

The COVID-19 shelter-in-place has likely moved many people to become home cooks and bakers.  I’ve seen more cookies, muffins, scones, and smoked brisket on social media than I ever have before.  While there is great value to cooking at home with your family or roommates, these foods could possibly have been more indulgent and less healthful. Now is the time to balance out sound nutrition practices with sound home workout routines.  Now is the time to build a base of nutrient-dense fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, dairy and lean proteins.

Fruits and vegetables are rich in fiber and antioxidants.  Fiber satiates the appetite and promotes gut health and weight maintenance. Antioxidants play a key role in overall cellular health.  Whole grains like oats, quinoa, brown rice, and farro have similar nutrients and provide similar health benefits.  The dairy and lean proteins like fish, chicken and lean red meat provide a variety of nutrients for overall health but primarily they provide a source of complete protein.  

Complete proteins are foods that contain all of the essential amino acids.  Essential amino acids, which are building blocks for strong muscles, hormones, nutrient transporters and a robust immune system, must be consumed in the diet.  Nuts and seeds are somewhere in the middle of the previously mentioned plant-based foods and protein sources. They contain fiber and antioxidants as well as amino acids.  Nearly all nuts and seeds are missing a certain amount of an amino acids and therefore cannot be considered a complete protein, with the exception of pistachios.

Recent data (Stein and Bailey) revealed that pistachios contain all of the necessary essential amino acids in order to be considered a complete protein.  This is quite remarkable, but now pistachios are also known to provide a comprehensive nutrient profile with 3g fiber, antioxidants including vitamin E and polyphenols, 6g of a complete protein, and only 160 calories per 1oz serving.  An added bonus is that 49 kernels equals a 1-ounce serving.

Grub Mix

I am a big fan of simple roasted pistachios as a snack. But a trail mix of roasted pistachios, dried cherries and dark chocolate, or a granola, as a topping for whole milk Greek yogurt is also great. Pistachios are very versatile when used in meals. They add a great crunch to a spinach salad with strawberries and chicken.  And for dinner, I think a pistachio crust is a great option on so many dishes from salmon, scallops, chicken, and lamb.  Pair with some farro and a green veggie and you have one tasty dish.  

Whether you are working out or just simply working in your home, a balanced nutrition plan will help you get the most out of this time.  Shoot to build a base of fruits, veggies, dairy, lean proteins, and nuts like pistachios.

Stein, H.H., Bailey H.M. (2019) Determination of PDCAAS and DIAAS values for raw and roasted pistachios.  Unpublished manuscript