- A handful of cashew nuts a day could help reduce blood pressure and improve the level of 'good cholesterol'.
- Those who included 30gms of nuts, found blood pressure levels reduced 1.9-fold and a 16-fold greater increase in HDL cholesterol.
Diabetics usually avoid nuts thinking that it will increase their blood cholesterol levels. A recent study done in South India finds that cashew nuts, a commonly used nut in the Indian cuisine reduces blood pressure levels and increases HDL levels.
Nuts are rich in monounsaturated fats (MUFA) and polyunsaturated fats (PUFA) — the 'good fats'
. Current Indian diets are high on carbohydrates - derived largely from polished rice and refined wheat - which account for 64% of total energy intake, and low on MUFAs, which provide just 7-8% of the total energy. The recommended intake is 15-20%.
‘Including 30 gms of cashews every day as a snack can help reduce blood pressure levels and improve good cholesterol levels in diabetics.’
Past studies have also shown that including nuts in breakfast could improve satiety and reduce second meal consumption in adults. Researchers also found that every 100 grams of cashew nuts have 20 grams of proteins.
Goodness of Cashews
While studies across the world have shown the benefits of other nuts like almonds and walnuts, little has been done on cashews.
A new study was done in 300 people in Chennai with type-2 diabetes. Half of them were asked to consume 30 grams of unsalted, raw, broken cashew nuts a day.
Both the study groups were advised to follow, in addition to their medication, 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.
One half, who were asked to take 30 grams of cashew nuts a day either as a mid-morning or evening snack, had to reduce their carbohydrates intake to make the comparison even. Biochemical tests were done in both groups to ensure they followed the diet and the nuts were consumed.
At the end of three months, various parameters were studied:
Cashews - Not as Bad as It was Thought
- Blood pressure — usually high among those with diabetes — had dropped by 5mm. This was a 1.9-fold greater reduction in blood pressure
- High-density lipoprotein (HDL) level, dubbed 'the good cholesterol', had increased by 2 milligrams, a 16-fold greater increase in HDL cholesterol.
- There was no deleterious effect on the body weight or sugar levels.
Dr V Mohan of Madras diabetes research foundation and lead author of the study said, unlike other nuts, cashew has a higher amount of saturated fats - the 'bad fats' found in oily food, ghee, and meat.
"Around 20% 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. He, however, cautioned that these nuts are beneficial only if taken in their raw form and not when added with salt and other spices, fried or roasted.
"This is crucial as Indians are traditionally low on proteins because of high vegetarian intake," said Dr Mohan.
The study is significant as past research has found that nearly 80% of Asian Indian adults have dyslipidemia, largely driven by low HDL cholesterol concentrations. Among those with type-2 diabetes, 86% of males and 98% of females have been shown to have dyslipidemia.