We have written extensively about nuts and brain health in the past, but we haven’t talked much about pistachios–until now. Recent research on pistachios has found that they contain several types of antioxidant compounds that can be beneficial to the brain and body.

Interestingly, from a nutrient perspective, pistachios have more in common with fruits and vegetables than with other types of nuts. You have probably noticed that as compared to other nuts, pistachios are a lot more colorful, with green, yellow, and purple shading. Those colors correlate with the beneficial antioxidants found in the pistachios. The purple color comes from anthocyanins, which are those powerful brain-boosting nutrients found in blueberries. The yellow color can be attributed to beta carotene, lutein, and polyphenols, which are found in olive oil, grapes, and many other healthy fruits and seeds.

This is a fast and easy recipe that also happens to be vegan, and incorporates pistachios with garlic, olive oil, and fresh parsley, which all offer brain health benefits as well.

To learn more about proven foods for brain health like these, check out our extensive list of brain healthy foods and ingredients, check out the full brain food section on our website, or peruse dozens of brain healthy recipes!

RECIPE FOR BRAIN HEALTH: Pistachio Parsley Pesto
makes about 1 1/2 cups of pesto


  • 1 bunch Italian parsley
  • 1/2 cup shelled unsalted pistachios
  • 1 large or 2 small cloves of garlic, peeled
  • zest and juice of 1 large lemon
  • 1 large pinch of chili flakes (optional)
  • about 1/2 cup olive oil
  • salt to taste 


  • Grasp the parsley leaves in one hand and use scissors to cut the stems off just below the lowest leaves. Discard the stems. Rinse and dry the leafy parts thoroughly and set aside.
  • Put pistachios in a dry saute pan and toast over medium heat until warm and fragrant, about 3-5 minutes. Set aside.
  • In a food processor or blender, combine garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, and chili flakes. Add a few pinches of salt. Pulse mixture to chop garlic.
  • Add parsley and pulse until finely chopped.
  • Add 1/4 cup olive oil and the warm nuts and pulse until well-mixed. Continue adding olive oil, 1 tablespoon at a time, until mixture is creamy but not oily. Taste and add more salt or chili flakes.
  • This will keep in the fridge for a few days, and won’t become brown like basil pesto.