(BPT) - Ted Harper, the team sports dietitian for the New England Patriots, and Bryan Snyder, director of team nutrition for the Denver Broncos, may be rivals on the field, but when it comes to nutrition, they agree on one thing: pistachios are an ideal snack, whether you're a professional athlete or an armchair spectator.
Harper and Snyder meticulously plan the diets of their teams to maximize each player's performance and recovery. The hard-hitting impact of weekly games and daily practices takes a toll on the players' bodies, and their nutrition plan is designed to help them achieve specific performance and recovery goals.
Both agree that, while the 'Average Joe or Joann' doesn't take the same hits as a professional football player, he or she still needs a healthy diet to battle the stresses of everyday life. According to Harper and Snyder, a big part of one's nutrition plan should be mindful snacking habits. And are those choices helping or hurting your everyday performance?
'One very easy way to improve your overall nutrition is to replace some or all of your not-so-wise snacks like chips, cheese flavored crackers, sugary fruit snacks, pre-made snack cakes, cookies, soda or candy, with something that still tastes good, but is full of healthy nutrients,' says Harper. 'Pistachios are one of the best recommendations I can make because they're packed with many important nutrients and because they are very versatile. They lend themselves to just snack on in a pinch, or can be incorporated into the larger scheme of things like adding them into smoothies, topping off oatmeal or on a salad.'
Pistachios contain important nutrients, such as potassium, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus, which can contribute to a lower risk of heart disease. They're also a great snack to help with weight management, and may help prevent hypertension and lower blood pressure, according to recent studies.
People who eat a handful of nuts (including pistachios) daily have a 20 percent lower death rate, according to a 30-year research project published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the largest study of its kind. In addition, other supporting studies showed people who eat nuts regularly tend to remain leaner due to an association with reduced waist sizes and less weight gain throughout the course of life, compared to individuals who don't regularly eat nuts.
Snyder adds that pistachios are a great snack for anyone looking to lose a few pounds.
'Not only do pistachios contain fiber and protein, but a study showed people eat 41 percent less when they snack on in-shell pistachios compared to those who consumed shelled pistachios,' he says. 'Cracking open each nut slows down your consumption, and the empty shells serve as an unconscious visual reminder of how much you've eaten.'
'We're all concerned about our heart health and living a healthy, active lifestyle,' says Snyder. 'It's important that you make smart choices with your nutrition so you can support these goals.'
Roasted pistachios straight from the store will satisfy and nourish, but for a dazzling game day snack, try this tasty pistachio recipe from Chef Robert Del Grande of Houston, Texas.
Pistachios Roasted with Smoked Chile Tequila and Limes
Recipe by Chef Robert Del Grande of Houston, Texas.
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 large chipotle chiles canned in adobo, approximately 3 ounces
2 tablespoons adobo sauce from the canned chipotle chiles
6 tablespoons silver tequila
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 pounds pistachio nuts in the shell
Combine the lime juice, sugar, chipotle, adobo sauce, tequila and salt in a blender. Puree until smooth. Place the shell-on pistachio nuts in a mixing bowl. Add the sauce and toss or stir until the sauce is fully incorporated into the nuts. Transfer the nuts to a sheet pan. Pre-heat an oven to 350 Fahrenheit. Toast the nuts for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the nuts are nicely browned. Remove from the oven and cool to room temperature.
To serve, place the pistachio nuts in a serving bowl. Sprinkle the nuts with salt and garnish with lime wedges.