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A recent study has found that cashew nuts can help lower high blood pressure and improve the level of ’good cholesterol’ (HDL). The findings are based on a study of 300 people in Chennai who have been diagnosed with type-2 diabetes. Earlier, research has shown that eating more nuts, such as cashews, can lower your risk for cardiovascular disease.
“It was earlier believed that all nuts were bad as they contain quite a lot of calories and people thought taking nuts would result in increased weight and high cholesterol. However, during the last decade or so, the nutritional value of nuts (almonds, pistachios and walnuts) and their health benefits have been proved by many studies. This particular study was done on cashew consumption among diabetics,” Dr V Mohan, director, Madras Diabetes Research Foundation (MDRF), Chennai, and lead author of the study was quoted as saying.
In the study, half of the participants were asked to consume 30 grams of unsalted, raw, broken cashew nuts a day. At the end of three months, the researchers analaysed various parameters, such as their blood pressure, cholesterol level, etc. In addition to their medication, the participants were asked to follow a standard diabetic diet of 1,400 calories, with 60-65% of energy coming from carbohydrates, 15-25% from fat, and the rest from protein.
The results of the study showed that their blood pressure – usually high among those with diabetes – had dropped by 5mm, whereas their high-density lipoprotein (HDL) level or ’the good cholesterol’ had also increased by 2 milligram. Moreover, there was no deleterious effect on the body weight or sugar levels.
Cashews are loaded with vitamins and nutrients, but they also contain a lot of fat. The good thing is that these fats are mostly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. Mono and polyunsaturated fats, when eaten in moderation and substituted for saturated fats, have been shown to improve heart health as well as reduce the risk of stroke and prevent weight gain. Consumption of cashews has also been linked to cancer prevention.
“Although about 20% of the fat in cashew nuts is of the saturated variety, it is predominantly stearic acid which is relatively neutral on blood lipids,” Dr Mohan adds.
“The beneficial effects seen may be due to the increased intake of MUFA, a good type of fat present in cashews, but replacing the carbohydrate calories in the diet,” Sudha Vasudevan, head of foods and nutrition research, MDRF, explains.
The researchers, however, pointed out that the study was done using raw cashew nuts, adding that the beneficial effects of cashew may be mitigated, if the cashew nut is salted or roasted in unhealthy oils or ghee.
The findings were published recently in peer-reviewed Journal of Nutrition.