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7 Nutty Facts To Help Celebrate World Pistachio Day

02/26/2016 10:39 EST | Updated 02/26/2017 05:12 EST
Feng Yu via Getty Images
Pistachios

It's February 26th and you know what that means... it's World Pistachio Day! OK, so you've never heard of World Pistachio Day. In fact, the only things you probably know about pistachios is that they're green, tasty and come in a shell that's already half-open for some strange reason.

Don't worry. That's all the more reason to read on as we celebrate this otherwise ordinary day in the middle of winter with eight nutty facts about pistachios:

I've gotta split

OK, let's get to the bottom of this right away. Why exactly do pistachios come partially open? Well, when they ripen in late summer or early autumn, the pistachio kernel fills inside the shell so vigorously that it splits the shell. For the sake of imagination, picture this. Because of the semi-opening in the shell, Iranians call them "smiling pistachios" and in China they're known as the "happy nut."

It's all about the heat

You certainly won't find pistachios growing in Canada. Pistachio trees require an arid semi-desert environment with ideal summer temperatures hovering around 38 degrees Celsius. With that in mind, it's not surprising that the world's top producers include Iran, Turkey, Italy, Greece and California, which alone shells out around 300 million pounds of pistachios per year.

Go ahead, indulge yourself

The thing about snacking is we always want to eat more. That's why it's welcome news that you can munch on more pistachios per serving than most any other nut. Pistachios offer the most nuts per serving -- with about 49 kernels per 30 gram portion -- when compared to other popular snack nuts. For the same portion, you get only 28 peanuts, 18 cashews or 14 walnut halves.

Hey, it's not a popularity contest

With an annual consumption of 80,000 tons, China is the top pistachio consumer worldwide, followed by the United States (45,000 tons), Russia (15,000 tons) and India (10,000 tons). However, Israel is considered to be the largest per capita consumers in the world, eating pistachios as a snack, in savoury dishes such as pesto and pilafs, and as a nut meat in sweet dishes such as baklava.

Where's the evidence?

While pistachios aren't that difficult to open, snacking on them does require more effort than say, a bowl of potato chips, and this relatively tiny barrier can be the perfect defence against overeating. Additionally, when you snack on pistachios, the evidence is literally left right in front of you. And preliminary behavioral research suggests these empty shells may offer snackers a visual cue of what they've already eaten, which may help slow down consumption and could reduce further calorie intake.

The right call for sports fans?

A 2015 survey commissioned by Wonderful Pistachios during the NHL playoffs showed that the repetitive action of cracking open up pistachios provided great stress relief for many of those sports fans who are always on the edge of their seat during big games. One in three Canadians surveyed said they enjoy a crunchy snack to combat spectating nerves, and almost two-thirds (64 per cent) said they seek salty snacks to satisfy cravings.

Eat your heart out

Pistachios are a source of protein, fibre and unsaturated fats (the good kind). With a quarter cup of pistachios equalling one serving of meat and alternatives (Canada Food Guide), it's easy to get in your daily recommendation just through snacking.

So whether you're at work in need of a midday snack to include as part of a healthy diet or your stomach's growling during a television binge-watching session, here's wishing you a Happy World Pistachio Day.

Grab a handful (or two) and go nuts!

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