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The pistachio, Pistacia vera, a member of the cashew family, is a small tree originally from Central Asia and the Middle East. Pistachio trees can be found in regions of Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, Greece, Tunisia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, India, Pakistan, Egypt, Italy (Sicily), Uzbekistan, Afghanistan (especially in the provinces of Samangan and Badghis), and the United States, specifically in California. The tree produces a seed.

In research at Pennsylvania State University, pistachios in particular significantly reduced levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL cholesterol) while increasing antioxidant levels in the serum of volunteers. In rats, consumption of pistachios as 20% of daily caloric intake increased beneficial high-density lipoprotein (HDL cholesterol) without lowering LDL cholesterol, and while reducing LDL oxidation.

Human studies have shown that 32–63 grams (1.1–2.2 oz) per day of pistachio seeds can significantly elevate plasma levels of lutein, alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, and gamma-tocopherol.

In December 2008, James Painter, a behavioral eating expert, professor and chair of School of Family and Consumer Sciences at Eastern Illinois University, described the Pistachio Principle. The Pistachio Principle describes methods of "fooling" one's body into eating less. One example used is that the act of shelling and eating pistachios one by one slows one's consumption, allowing one to feel full faster after having eaten less. Contrarily, pistachios contain a somewhat high amount of palmitic fatty acid, a fatty acid that is associated with an increase in appetite and cardiovascular disease by the world health organization.

The fat profile of Pistachios is roughly 14% saturated fat, 54% monounsaturated fat and 32% polyunsaturated fat. A 1-cup serving of pistachio seeds contains 6.143 g (94.80 gr) of saturated palmitic fatty acid, only 0.585 g (9.03 gr) of stearic fatty acid and trace amounts of arachidic and behenic saturated fatty acids.

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