Pistachios: Your Go-to Complete Plant-based Protein

As a dietitian, I certainly understand the importance and significance that protein plays in our diet. Professional athletes or people trying to live a healthier lifestyle, need protein. The body uses protein for a variety of functions including building, strengthening, and repairing tissues. The building blocks of protein are comprised of 20 amino acids, with the body producing 11 of them. What about the other 9 amino acids?  They come from the food we eat. Food that contains all essential amino acids are considered “complete,” and foods that are lacking in one or more of the essential amino acids are considered “incomplete.”

The health benefits of pistachios have been well noted and established. Pistachios contain powerful antioxidants that help keep our immune systems strong. They also are considered one of the most low-calorie nuts. Even with all of those benefits, pistachios were considered to be an “Incomplete Protein”–until now. Recent studies have shown that roasted pistachios meet the definition established by the FDA, thus they are now considered a “Complete Protein.” This is a big deal for a number of reasons, one being that they are perfect for those who need to stay home during this time of shelter-in-place.

Pistachios in a bowl

Over the last handful of weeks, I have been fielding questions from many people on how not to gain “shelter-in-place weight.” Many people are finding themselves cooped up inside, out of their normal routines, not able to go to the gym, and snacking—All. The. Time. This is a common scenario for many of us, and completely understandable. Having said that, we need to make sure that if we are snacking we are also choosing food that will actually fill us up and provide our body with excellent nutrients. I can’t think of a better snack than something that contains fiber, protein, antioxidants, as well as great taste. Pistachios can help us feel full and energized for those in-home workouts. 

When working with athletes, we are constantly trying to make sure they are consuming enough protein to help their bodies recover properly, after lifting weights, and to help them stay healthy and lean throughout the course of the long football season. We are always trying to gain an edge, and as a dietitian I am always trying to push healthy and whole foods on our players. We often rely on as many sources of protein as we can. It takes animal products as well as plant-based products in order to get adequate amounts of protein. Having pistachios as our primary go-to, plant-based complete protein provides us with another tool in our tool belt to help our athletes perform at the highest level, stay healthy, and elevate performance to give the team the best chance of winning.