Cashews are not only tasty but apparently, they can help reduce blood pressure and improve cholesterol levels, according to a new study.
The paper, published in the Journal of Nutrition, was based on a study of 300 people in Chennai, India, who were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Half of the participants were instructed to consume 30 grams of unsalted, raw, broken cashew nuts per day. After three months, the researchers revealed that the patients’ blood pressure, which is most of the time very high among those with diabetes, had dropped by 5 mm. More so, their high-density lipoprotein (HDL) level, otherwise known as “good cholesterol” had increased by 2 milligrams.
Nuts, in general, have high amounts of monounsaturated fats (MUFA) and polyunsaturated fats (PUFA) which are known as “good fats”. Indian diets contain plenty of carbohydrates which are mainly derived from polished rice and refined wheat, accounting for 64 percent of total energy intake. The diets, however, are very low on MUFAs, which account for only 7 to 8 percent of total energy, with an intake of 15-20 percent being the recommended amount.
According to Dr. V Mohan of Madras diabetes research foundation and lead author of the study, cashews have a higher amount of saturated fats, something that other nuts lack. These fats are also dubbed ‘bad fats’ and are commonly found in oily food, meat, and ghee.
“Around 20 percent of the fat in cashew nut is of the saturated variety. We wanted to check if this type of saturated fat has an impact on cholesterol. It didn’t,” said Dr. Mohan.
The author warned people that cashews are effective in controlling cholesterol levels and improving blood pressure only when there are taken in their raw form and not when they are salted, fried or roasted.
Researchers also advised the participants to follow a standard diabetic diet of 1,400 calories, with 60-65 percent of energy coming from carbohydrates, 15-25 percent from fat, and the rest from protein.
One-half of participants were asked to consume 30 grams of cashew nuts a day, either as a mid-morning or evening snack, and had to reduce their carbohydrate levels to allow for an even comparison. To make sure that they followed the instructions, researchers conducted biochemical tests on both groups.
According to the study, those who consumed cashew nuts had a 1.9-fold greater reduction in blood pressure compared to the other group. In addition to the blood pressure decrease, the cashew-consuming group also registered a 16-fold greater increase in HDL cholesterol.
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