They may be small, but the puny pistachio packs a nutritional punch.
Here are 10 reasons to go nuts for pistachios:
1. They're nutrient-dense.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Nutrient Database, pistachios provide more than 30 different vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients.
2. They have as much protein as an egg.
A serving (1 oz or 49 nuts) has 160 calories and 6 grams of protein -- about the same as an egg.
3. Their shells may help you eat less.
It's true: Preliminary research suggests, but does not prove, that in-shell pistachios may help youreduce calorie consumption. In one study, people who left pistachio shells on their desk lowered their calorie intake by 18 percent compared to participants who discarded shells immediately after consumption. The shells may help remind you of how much you've eaten, so you're less likely to overindulge.
4. They smile.
In China, pistachios are known as the "happy nut" because they look like they're smiling. Often given as a gift during the Chinese New Year, pistachios are a symbol of health, happiness and good fortune.
5. They're heart-healthy.
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's qualified health claim for nuts: "Scientific evidence suggests, but does not prove, that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, such as pistachios, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease." Be sure to check the nutrition information on the back of the package for fat content.
6. They're grown in the U.S.
While the cultivation of pistachios began in the Middle East thousands of years ago, today more than 550 million pounds of pistachios are grown in California, making the U.S. the second leading producer of pistachios.
7. They'll fill you up, not out.
Pistachios provide fiber and protein to help keep you fuller longer. What's more, they're one of the lowest-fat, lowest-calorie and highest-protein tree nuts.
8. They're great for cooking and baking.
Pistachios provide a rich, nutty flavor and texture to savory chicken or seafood meals, as well as sweet baked goods and grain-based sides. Here's a great Pistachio Crusted Salmon recipe to try.
9. They'll help you snack smarter.
According to USDA research, about a quarter of daily calories -- 586 for men and 421 for women -- now come from between-meal bites. Pistachios are a healthier alternative to the most popular snacks, including soda, chips, candy and baked goods.
10. They open on their own.
Pistachios grow in heavy grape-like clusters surrounded by a fleshy hull (they're actually related to mangoes!). When they ripen, the pistachio kernel grows inside until (in most cases) the shell splits open.