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If you like eating nuts, both pistachios and cashews are a healthy, satisfying snack. They contain the same number calories and grams of fat per serving, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. However, they differ in protein, vitamin and mineral content. Depending on your personal dietary needs, one nut or the other may be a more nutritious choice.
If you're eating nuts for extra protein in your diet, pistachios contain slightly more than cashews. According to the USDA, 1 ounce of pistachios provides 6 grams of protein and the same serving of cashews provides only 4 grams. The protein in both nuts contains a mixture of essential amino acids that your body needs but is unable to produce. You will get a little more of the amino acids leucine and lysine from pistachios. Among other things, these two aminos help provide energy for exercising muscles, preserve muscle mass and aid in the absorption of calcium.
Both pistachios and cashews provide 13 grams of fat per serving, but they contain slightly different ratios of the types of fats. Monounsaturated fats make up over half of the fat present in both nuts. In pistachios, polyunsaturated fats make up the second largest percentage, while in cashews, it's saturated fat. The American Heart Association notes that monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats help to lower your cholesterol and may decrease your risk of developing heart disease, while saturated fat contributes to elevated an cholesterol level and may increase your risk of heart attack and stroke. The fat ratios present in pistachios, then, are slightly better for your heart health.
For the most part, the same vitamins and minerals are found in both cashews and pistachios, but the concentration of these nutrients varies between the nuts. Pistachios are a better source of the B vitamins thiamine and B-6, giving you 13 percent of the daily value for thiamine and 20 percent of the daily value for B-6. Cashews have only 4 percent of the daily value for both vitamins. Getting an adequate amount of thiamine and B-6 daily helps your body metabolize energy, maintains healthy red blood cells and aids in proper nerve function.
While pistachios are higher in certain vitamins, cashews provide a greater concentration of minerals. According to the USDA, the amounts of magnesium, copper and zinc are higher in cashews than pistachios. These minerals are essential to your overall health and play a role in many body functions. Magnesium helps maintain healthy bones. The creation of hemoglobin and proper red blood cell function rely on adequate amounts on copper in your body. Zinc boosts your immune function, helps blood clot and preserves your senses of taste and smell, according to HelpGuide.org.