The ever so delicately flavored cashewnut is a favorite between-the-meal snack that can readily be found in local markets across the world all year round. Cashewnuts are actually the kidney-shaped seeds that adhere to the bottom of the cashew apple, the exofruit of the cashew tree that grows abundantly in coastal areas of northeastern Brazil, tropical Asia and Africa. While cashew apples are not appreciated in the Western world, they are regarded as delicacies in Brazil and the Caribbean. Cashews are always sold shelled as the interior of the shells contains a caustic resin which must be carefully removed before the nuts are fit for consumption. This caustic resin is apropos used in industry to make varnishes and insecticides. The Cashewnut is a powerhouse of health benefits too! Read on:
Crazy about Your Heart? Go Nuts!-Cashews not only have a lower fat content than most other nuts, approximately 75% of their fat is unsaturated fatty acids, and 75% of this is oleic acid, the selfsame heart-healthy mono-unsaturated fat found in olive oil. Studies show that oleic acid promotes good cardiovascular health even in individuals with diabetes.
Studies of diabetic patients show that mono-unsaturated fat when added to a low-fat diet can help in reducing high triglyceride levels. Triglycerides are a form in which fats are carried in the blood, and high triglyceride levels are associated with an increased risk of heart disease, so ensuring you have some mono-unsaturated fats in your diet by enjoying cashews is a very very good idea, especially for people with diabetes.
Research on nuts out of Britan that identified several nuts among plant foods with the highest total antioxidant content, suggests their high antioxidant content may be a key to their cardio-protective benefits. This high antioxidant content helps explain results seen in an Iowa Women’s Health Study as well, in which risk of death from cardiovascular and coronary heart diseases showed strong and consistent reductions with increasing nut/peanut butter consumption. Total death rates decreased 11% and 19% for nut/peanut butter intake once per week and 1-4 times per week, respectively. Even more impressive were the results of a review study of the evidence linking nuts and lower risk of coronary heart disease, also published in the British Journal of Nutrition. In this study, researchers looked at four large prospective epidemiological studies — the Adventist Health Study, the Iowa Women’s Study, the Nurses’ Health Study, and the Physician’s Health Study. When evidence from all the four studies was combined and correlated, subjects consuming nuts at least 4 times a week showed a 37% reduced risk of coronary heart disease compared to those who never or seldom ate nuts. Each additional serving of nuts per week was associated with an average 8.3% reduced risk of coronary heart disease.
Practical Tip: To lower your risk of cardiovascular and coronary heart disease, eat a handful of cashews or a tablespoon of nut-butter, at least 4 times a week.
Bone Up and Relax with Cashews
An essential component of many enzymes, copper plays an important role in a wide range of physiological processes including iron-utilization, elimination of free radicals, development of bone and connective tissue, and production of the skin and hair pigment called melanin. For example, copper is an essential component of the enzyme superoxide dismutase, which is important in energy production and antioxidant defenses. Copper is also necessary for the activity of lysyl oxidase, an enzyme involved in cross-linking collagen and elastin, both of which provide the ground substance and flexibility in blood vessels, bones and joints. Low dietary intake of copper may also be associated with increased fecal free radical production and fecal water alkaline phosphatase activity, which are risk factors for colon cancer. Numerous health problems can surface in an individual if copper intake is inadequate, including iron deficiency anemia, ruptured blood vessels, osteoporosis, joint problems such as rheumatoid arthritis, brain disturbances, elevated LDL (bad) cholesterol and reduced HDL (good) cholesterol levels, irregular heartbeat, and increased susceptibility to infections.
Topping your morning cereal with a quarter-cup of cashews can supply you with 38.0% of the daily value for copper.Everyone knows that calcium is necessary for strong bones, but magnesium is also vital for healthy bones. About two-thirds of the magnesium in the human body is found in our bones. Some magnesium gives bones their physical structure, while the rest is found on the surface of the bone where it is cached as a reserve for the body to draw upon as needed.Magnesium, by balancing calcium, helps regulate nerve and muscle tone. In many nerve cells, magnesium serves as Nature’s own calcium channel blocker, preventing calcium from rushing into the nerve cell and activating the nerve. By blocking calcium’s entry, magnesium keeps our nerves (and the blood vessels and muscles they ennervate) relaxed. But if our diet provides us with too little magnesium, the calcium gains free entry, and the nerve cells get overactivated, sending too many messages and causing excessive contraction. Insufficient magnesium can thus contribute to high blood pressure, muscular spasms (including spasms of the heart muscle or the spasms of the airways, symptomatic of asthma), and migraine headaches, as well as muscle cramps, tension, soreness and fatigue.
Given these effects, it is not surprising that studies have shown magnesium to help reduce the frequency of migraine attacks, lower blood pressure, help prevent heart attacks, promote normal sleep patterns in women suffering from menopausal sleep disturbances, and reduce the severity of asthma. Just a quarter-cup of cashews provides 25% of the daily value for magnesium.
Help Prevent Gallstones
Twenty years of dietary data collected on 80,000 women from the Nurses’ Health Study show that women who eat least 1 ounce of nuts, peanuts or peanut-butter every week have a 25% lower risk of developing gallstones. Since 1 ounce is only 28.6 nuts or about 2 tablespoons of nut butter, preventing gall bladder disease may be as easy as packing one cashew butter and jelly sandwich (be sure to use whole wheat bread for its fiber, vitamins and minerals) for lunch each week, having a handful of cashews as an afternoon pick-me-up, or tossing some cashews on your oatmeal or salad.
Eating Nuts Lowers Risk of Weight Gain
Although nuts are known to provide a variety of cardio-protective benefits, many avoid them for fear of weight gain. A prospective study published in the journal ‘Obesity’ shows such fears are groundless. In fact, people who eat cashewnuts at least twice a week are much less likely to gain weight than those who almost never eat them. The 28-month study involving 8,865 adult men and women in Spain found that participants who ate nuts at least two times per week were 31% less likely to gain weight than were participants who never or almost never ate nuts. And, among the study participants who gained weight, those who never or almost never ate nuts gained more (an average of 424 g more) than those who ate nuts at least twice weekly. The study authors concluded, “Frequent nut consumption was associated with a reduced risk of weight gain (5 kg or more). These results support the recommendation of nut consumption as an important component of a cardioprotective diet and also allay fears of possible weight gain.”
a. Don’t let concerns about gaining weight prevent you from enjoying the delicious taste and many health benefits of nuts!
b. Spread some nut-butter on your morning toast or bagel.
c. Remember how many great childhood lunches involved a peanut-butter and jelly sandwich? Upgrade that lunchbox favorite by spreading organic peanut butter and concord grape jelly on that whole wheat bread.
d. Fill a celery stick with nut butter for an afternoon pick-me-up.
e. Sprinkle a handful of nuts over your morning cereal, lunchtime salad, dinner’s steamed vegetables.
f. Or just enjoy a handful of lightly roasted nuts as a healthy snack.