Harvard study touts health benefits of pistachios

FRESNO, Calif.

It touted the health benefits of pistachios and other nuts while linking potatoes to weight gain. Now the pistachio industry is pouncing on the positive publicity.

Two days after being crowned Miss California, Noelle Freeman had a Fresno photo shoot with a local pistachio grower and members of the US water polo team.

This week the photo was featured in a USA Today story about the health benefits of pistachios.

Meridian Nut Growers managing director Jim Zion said of the spread, "That's just fantastic because that just reinforces the fitness message we're trying to get to."

California is home to 95% of pistachios grown in the US.

Richard Matoian is executive director of American Pistachio Growers. He said the industry was thrilled to be mentioned in the Harvard study. Matoian explained, "Harvard is certainly world-renowned in the type of work they do and if they are going to say something about pistachios and nuts in general we're going to tout that."

In the snack food industry pistachios compete against cheaper, saltier and sweeter snacks. Matoian added, "Which is why we always try to tout the healthful, nutritious benefits of eating our product."

A new mascot will be featured when a "Power of pistachios" promotion is unveiled next month.

Zion expects pistachio production in California to double in five years. He said, "You're going to see more of an ingredient side. Maybe cereals, cereal bars, candy cars, ice creams, baked goods."

New flavors such as chili lemon and garlic onion have been a big hit while the habanero flavored pistachios had a bit of a bite.

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