Last Updated on November 14th, 2021
You may have heard that eating too many nuts, such as pistachios or almonds, can cause acne. You may have also heard that nuts can help treat acne. So which is it? Being extremely rich in nutrients, nuts like pistachios offer both advantages and disadvantages. We’ll go over everything, including what you really need to do to get your acne under control (spoiler alert: it doesn’t involve eating nuts!).
Pistachios, along with almonds are an ancient nut. Their availability has been documented centuries ago where they were cultivated and consumed. Originating in Middle Eastern countries, they have also been unearthed in Turkey where their trees date back to 7000 BC. It is said the Romans took the crop to Europe and one emperor started its cultivation in Italy.
Article Table of Contents
Although rich in nutrients, both pistachio and almonds have certain ingredients that have the potential of causing unwanted side effects. For instance, both these nuts have omega-6 fatty acids. The presence of too much omega 6 can lead to an imbalance in the immune system and an increase in polyunsaturated fats can lead to more free radical activity in the skin.
At the same time, almonds contain vitamin E, an anti-inflammatory that can help boost the immune system. Because one cause of acne is inflammation, vitamin E can help. Vitamin E also limits the ability of polyunsaturated fats to contribute to acne by stopping the oxidation process.
Both pistachios and almonds contain polyunsaturated fats, but pistachios have more. Still, acne afflicted individuals are advised against consuming too many almonds, despite their high vitamin E content.
Though having an inferior fat profile compared to almonds, the consumption of pistachios can still provide acne benefits.
So are nuts helpful or harmful to acne? The following comparison is between 100 grams of these nuts taking into account the various vitamins and minerals.
The above comparison proves the nutritional benefits with almonds over pistachio. But when looking at minerals, pistachios compare better. Although magnesium content is less than almonds, pistachio provides a worthy source. Having better concentrations of zinc and selenium does not necessarily translate into huge benefits as only small quantities are sufficient to show results.
Considering phytic acid, which inhibits the absorption of minerals into the body, pistachio has lower concentration of it compared to almonds. This translates into better mineral absorption into the body with the consumption of pistachios. Hence even with the lower concentration of minerals in pistachio nutrients will be better absorbed than the higher concentrations found in almonds.
The content of amino acids in almonds is glycine (1525mg), lysine (624mg) and proline (1006mg) and in pistachio it is 991mg, 1196mg and 844mg respectively. These amino acids are responsible for improving skin health by forming collagen; moreover, glysine also helps in the formation of the anti-oxidant glutathione.
The important thing to remember is that amino acids are necessary for the body. And for those who do not eat meat, this has to be compensated from plant sources. Pistachio, although with a lower concentration of glycine but with higher concentration of lysine when compared to almonds, is a good enough source.
High levels of insulin in the body can cause oily skin, and pistachios can help reduce blood sugar levels and combat oily skin. Let’s look at the studies.
Scientific studies have proved that high levels of insulin cause oily skin. In a study conducted on 48 patients who were given 25 grams of pistachio daily, it was found at the end of 12 weeks that the levels of fasting blood sugar came down drastically while at the same time there was no effect on the sensitivity to insulin. It also concluded that increased levels of blood sugar not only resulted in excess skin cells production which blocked skin pores but also in increasing AGE free radicals.
In another study, where only glucose levels were taken into account, it was observed that pistachio not only decreased these levels but also showed an anti-inflammatory property. In yet another 4 month study, pistachio was given daily to 54 patients. And at the end of the study, it was observed that the levels of insulin, resistance to insulin and glucose levels all came down. This confirmed the efficacy of pistachio in treating acne and bringing down blood sugar levels.
The intestinal bacterial flora is made up of both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria. And under normal circumstances, there is delicate balanced between the two. But if for some reason the ‘bad’ bacteria increase in number, it could lead to a number of health problems including nutrient absorption, inflammation and general feeling of ill being.
A study was conducted to find out the effect of almonds and pistachio on intestinal bacterial flora. Eighteen subjects were given almonds and 16 were given pistachios. And after eighteen days it was observed that both these nuts increased the number of ‘good’ intestinal bacteria in the subjects. But pistachio on the other hand, showed a higher degree of increase with no adverse effect on a common sub-strain of ‘good’ bacteria found in yogurt called bifidobacterium while at the same time also having a positive effect on a butyrate producing bacterial strain.
Butyrate is a fatty acid with a short chain. It exhibits powerful anti-inflammatory properties and is found in butter and some other foods. It has shown to improve mood swings and also has weight reduction properties by decreasing appetite. This fatty acid also has proved to increase the sensitivity of cells to insulin.
Consuming pistachio regularly enhances the production of butyrate and the resulting improvement in the health of the intestine. A study found that butyrate enhanced the absorption of nutrients from the intestines and inhibited one of the ‘bad’ bacteria, namely, candida yeasts.
All these factors like, better absorption of nutrients from the intestines, reducing inflammation and other subtle changes are indicative of better acne control.
On the other hand, fiber plays an important role as a probiotic in maintaining desirable levels of ‘good’ intestinal bacteria by acting as its fuel. Although both almonds and pistachio are extremely beneficial for intestinal bacteria but the difference in their action is due to raffinose, a carbohydrate with a short chain or it could be some other compound.
In a study, the antioxidative property of grapes due to polyphenols was shown to increase the levels of akkermansia muciniphila, a bacterial strain found in the intestine. In fact this particular bacterial strain is also being linked to weight loss and exhibiting anti-inflammatory properties.
Studies have proved that pistachio has a more favorable affect on the intestinal bacterial flora when compared to almonds.
Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols or FODMAP are typical plant carbohydrates with a short chain and raffinose being one of them. The digestion of these is extremely hampered by those with weakened intestinal bacteria flora or in some extreme cases genetic conditions. This lack of proper digestion leads to acne formation even with the consumption of healthy foods.
Asparagus, onions, cabbage and more importantly pistachios are sources where raffinose a FODMAP consisting of glucose, fructose and galactose, is commonly available. It is a carbohydrate storage form and when consumed the bacteria in the intestines cannot digest it because the enzyme α- galactosidase is not available in humans. As a result there is gas formation, feeling of fullness, allergic reactions and also the formation of acne. Moreover, raffinose damages the lining of the intestines and hampers with absorption of nutrients required for preventing acne. Intolerance to this FODMAP also increases the levels of leukotoxin or 9, 10-DiHOME in the blood which leads to increase in inflammation and decrease in antioxidants levels.
Although the correlation between acne and FODMAP is still not clear but with those who are sensitive, pistachios can precipitate this condition.
Studies have proved that as a food source, pistachios are not all that favorable. In a separate study conducted to ascertain this, one group of 20 endurance cyclists were given three ounces of pistachio daily. They were then made to cycle 75km of mountainous route. At the end of the course, the scientists found that the group who were given pistachio showed a 4.8% decrease in performance and power output in spite of having extra calories as compared to the other control group. This led the scientists to believe the influence of raffinose as the contributing factor.
The content of FODMAP in almonds is quite high but it is much higher in pistachios and also cashew nuts.
Having a compromised digestive system or irritable bowel syndrome or having a sense of what is FODMAP sensitivity is all about; it is advisable to first get the problem fixed. And during this period, pistachios need to be avoided. Once the problem is sorted out only then should the consumption of pistachio start again. Being vigilant to one’s tolerance level will help in finding out one’s ability to digest raffinose. This is because certain bacteria in the intestine will allow the digestion of raffinose from pistachios while at the same time making it difficult to digest other FODMAP.
The data reveals that almonds are extremely rich sources of nutrients for the body. On the other hand, pistachios are extremely beneficial for the health of the intestines. And its minerals and amino acid content, although inferior to almonds, are very good for treating acne.
Consuming pistachios should be within normal limits just like almonds especially if there are high intake foods that are rich omega 6. Take care to avoid useless sources of omega 6 like sunflower oil and stick to pistachios or other food sources that beneficial to acne prevention.
On the other hand, being FODMAP sensitive, care should be taken to avoid consuming pistachio till the problem is controlled and the intestinal health is restored. Only when the proper balance between the bacterial floras in the intestines is achieved should the consumption of pistachios be resumed.
Limiting or increasing your nut intake is not the magic bullet to treating acne. The real secret ingredient to effectively combatting acne is a simple, repeatable skincare routine with proven results.
That’s why we recommend our readers try Exposed Skincare. The Basic Kit includes the products for you to do three steps in the morning and three at night. If you follow this routine, every day and night, you will see results in 30 days. It’s literally guaranteed, or you get your money back.
A simple skincare routine like Exposed makes more sense to treat acne than trying different combinations of foods and nut intake. You can certainly try these dietary changes, but to see results fast, you need a scientifically proven product range.