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Pista power

A great source of vitamins, pistachio is believed to prevent cancer.


LIKE THE mango, the pistachio too is a member of the cashew family, andis native to the deserts of Asia Minor and West India. According to the folklore of the Middle East, young lovers who meet under pistachio trees and hear the nuts crack open on a full moon night will eventually marry. Queen Sheba liked pistachios so much she decreed that the yearly crop in her kingdom would belong solely to the royal palace. In the 20th Century, hate and turmoil in the Middle East helped boost pistachio production in California.

The U.S. is now one of the leading producers of the crop. Pistachio nuts are delicious roasted (salted or unsalted), shelled or unshelled, and they can also be incorporated into ice cream, sweetmeats, meat dishes, candy and cakes. The pistachio is a source of chewing gum in Iran.

A hundred gm of raw pistachios provides a whopping 557 calories. Nearly two-third of the calories is from fat, a fifth is from carbohydrate and just over a tenth is from protein. Nearly 90 per cent of the fat content is monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat that, in small amounts, is good for the heart and blood vessels. Overall, the pistachio is low in sodium and cholesterol. The protein is rich in many essential amino acids that the body cannot produce on its own and must obtain in the diet.

The nut is a great source of, thiamine, Vitamin B6, Vitamin A, folate, calcium, potassium, iron, zinc, selenium, magnesium and copper. In fact, pistachios contain more magnesium and copper than potatoes, milk, or bread. Pistachios are rich in phytosterols that lower blood cholesterol levels and also have the potential to prevent cancer. They are also rich in dietary fibre: in fact, an ounce of nuts contains more fibre than half a cup of spinach.

Pistachio husks find use in the tanning, dyeing and fertilizer industries in India. The tree gum is used to make blood-clotting agents and also to treat periodontal diseases. In folk medicine, the pistachio is a cure for liver and other abdominal complaints, chronic cough, abscesses, sores and vascular insufficiencies. Pistachio leaves are a fertility drug in the folk medicine of Lebanon, and, in much of Arabia, the nuts are thought to have aphrodisiacal properties.

RAJIV. M

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