They’re one of the world’s favourite snacks, but pistachios have a surprising number of benefits other than their ease to munch on. In fact eating pistachios before bed could help you fall asleep, and that’s directly down to the nutrients contained within them.
Here we’ll explain exactly why, as well as show you the other incredible health benefits to eating this delicious nut.
Pistachios before bed: The surprising sleep aid
A member of the cashew family, pistachios have been eaten by humans for around 9000 years, and are grown on trees that can live for several centuries!
However they’re not only fascinating because of those longevity statistics, but also due to their ability to directly effect sleep.
One of the reasons is the fact pistachios contain melatonin – a hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle. This hormone is so important to our sleep health that often individuals who are struggling to sleep – or have been diagnosed with insomnia – are prescribed melatonin.
Pistachios are high in melatonin content – more so that many other foods – and therefore eating a handful of pistachios before bed could be a great way to top up your natural melatonin levels at the right time. In fact one study that looked at nuts – many of which contain melatonin – found that pistachios had the highest melatonin content.
Pistachios are also rich in tryptophan – an essential amino acid that we don’t produce naturally, and which we must obtain through diet. Interestingly, supplementing with this amino acid appears to decrease the time it takes to fall asleep. That’s because tryptophan helps your body produce serotonin – a hormone that helps with our mood, well-being and happiness. Serotonin also has a role to play in inducing sleep, and is needed in order for the body to produce that all-important sleep hormone – melatonin!
It doesn’t end there either. An ounce of pistachios contains around 10% of your recommended daily intake of magnesium. Why’s that notable? Well supplementing with magnesium has been shown to help relieve symptoms of insomnia and improve sleep efficiency, sleep time and sleep onset. It’s also been shown to reduce anxiety – one of the leading causes of insomnia.
However there are a couple of caveats. Pistachios are high in fat and therefore calories – albeit lower than other nuts – and so eating too many before bed over a prolonged period may result in weight gain. Some individuals are also allergic to pistachios, so take care if introducing them into your diet for the first time.
Eating pistachios before bed could help sleep quality and onset due to the presence of tryptophan, melatonin and magnesium. All of which have been shown to have a positive effect on sleep quality.
Pistachios before bed: Any other HEALTH benefits?
This remarkable food is also an anti-inflammatory, and is loaded with antioxidants. Both are crucial to keeping your health in check, and can even reverse damage done to your body.
In particular the presence of antioxidant-packed polyphenols in pistachios has been shown in studies to give pistachios powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
That’s important as many major diseases like heart disease, arthritis, diabetes and Alzheimer’s are often linked to chronic inflammation. Therefore incorporating anti-inflammatory foods into your diet – like pistachios or kiwi – is a no-brainer.
Pistachios are also a great source of antioxidants – such as Vitamin E, which can protect cells from damage. That’s important as antioxidants appear to have a direct effect on sleep quality, as they support the immune system and help promote restfulness at night.
Antioxidant foods also help protect your body and can even reverse damage that has been done by oxidative stress. Oxidative stress comes about when there’s an imbalance between free radical molecules (which can cause harm) and antioxidants – that imbalance then causes illness and tissue damage. The result can be the development of diseases such as cancer, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease and many others. Therefore eating antioxidant foods – like pistachios or garlic – should be a priority.
The science has been backed up too. Studies have shown that eating pistachios can lower cholesterol, could protect against cardiovascular disease, and even has a beneficial effect on individuals suffering from Type 2 diabetes.
Pistachios have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant qualities. Because of that, several studies have shown pistachios to have a positive effect on health, protect against disease, and boost the immune system.
Pistachios for sleep: Incorporating them into your diet
Pistachios are tasty, relatively cheap and can be found around the world. They can also be eaten in their natural form, and so are easy to incorporate into your diet. It’s best to avoid roasted pistachios as they tend to have a high sodium content.
There are many other ways to incorporate pistachios into your diet too. You can use them as a topping for porridge, yoghurt or muesli, baked into deserts, or even cooked in curry. You can also chop them up and add them into a stir fry, noodles or pasta to add some ‘crunch’ to your meal.
For sleep benefits, a small handful one or two hours before bedtime will suffice.
Pistachios before bed: What about side effects?
If you don’t have a pistachio allergy then moderate consumption of pistachios shouldn’t cause any side effects. However, pistachios are relatively high in oxalate – too much of this molecule can cause kidney stones – so eating pistachios in excess could cause kidney problems.
As always, we recommend consulting with your doctor if undertaking a diet change, or if you have concerns about how a specific food may interact with any preexisting conditions or medicines.