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Does Eating Cashew's Lead to High Cholesterol?

Does Eating Cashew's Lead to High Cholesterol?

I don’t eat cashews, they have too much cholesterol?

I heard a client tell this to me recently and I was taken aback.

Well, technically cashews have zero cholesterol. Yes, they really do not have any cholesterol. In fact, cholesterol is made by animals, just like fiber is made by plants. So no whole plant sources are high in cholesterol. 

Cashews do have some saturated fats though and these saturated fats are converted to cholesterol in the body, sure, but the amount is really negligible. For example, a serving of two eggs gives you a whopping 6- 8 grams of saturated fats, but a serving of cashews (handful) will only give you about 2 grams. 

But besides the saturated fats, you will also consume fiber and minerals essential for your heart health when eating cashews. The same is not true for eggs. 

Cashews are not at all bad for your health. They have essential fatty acids which are really good for you. They have no relation with your dietary cholesterol. So, if you eat cashews, your cholesterol levels will not go shooting up.

However, of course, it has fats so it is high in calories but that is true with any nuts and seeds. That is, all nuts and seeds are high in calories. This is why I recommend my clients to eat no more than 1-2 tbsp of nuts/ seeds per meal. This way, you get the benefits without going overboard.

Nutrition Facts about cashews. 

Cashews or caju (Portuguese word), is a soft, sweet, and crunchy nuts packed with rich antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that are important nutrients for a healthy body. This nut is very common all over the world and is a very versatile ingredient.

Cashews originate from the amazon rainforest in Brazil and were popularised by colonists of Africa and India. Today these countries along with Brazil, Vietnam, and other African countries are the largest cultivators of cashews.

cashew tree

If you are a fan of Indian cooking specifically, you know that cashews are widely used for their creamy texture and robust flavour. 

Cashew nuts are dense in calories ( 100g = 553 cal ) and are rich in vitamins, minerals, dietary fibers, healthy phytochemicals, and other essential nutrients that protect against chronic diseases.

Most importantly, cashews contain monosaturated fats like - oleic and palmitoleic acids. These are heart-friendly fatty acids that reduce LDL cholesterol and triglycerides in the body while at the same time, might promote good HDL cholesterol in the blood. 

As per the study in the British Journal of Nutrition, the risk of coronary heart diseases, strokes, etc is 37% lower in patients who eat nuts four times a week (1.5 oz per day, as per U.S FDA).

This nut also contains pantothenic acid ( vitamin B5), which is essential to make chemical compounds used to build and break fatty acids and improve metabolic functions in the body. Other essential vitamin present in cashews are Vitamin B-6, riboflavin, Vitamin B-1, Niacin, etc.

cashew curry

Apart from being a sources of minerals like manganese, potassium, iron, zinc, magnesium, etc, cashews are concentrated with Selenium - one of the powerful antioxidants in the body.

Selenium acts as an immunity enhancer, it is anti-inflammatory, promotes the growth of hair and nails, supports a healthy thyroid, and reduces oxidative stress in the body. 

Cashews also contain a small proportion of Zeaxanthin, a pigmented flavonoid that is absorbed in the retinal macula lutea of the eyes. Its antioxidant properties protect the eyes from UV rays and also prevents age- related visual issues.

Copper, which is found in very limited food groups, but is present abundantly in cashews. The average intake of copper for an individual should be 900 mg/per day and one ounce of cashews have about 622 mg of copper. Copper is very important for bone health. A deficiency of copper can lead to severe osteoporosis and decreased bone density apart from joint.

Does cashew increase cholesterol?

Cashews and other nuts are filled with nutrition as well as calories, on the contrary, it does not contribute to weight gain. The only way to make you believe this is through several studies which analyzed the effects of the consumption of nuts on weight gain. 

One of them was an isoenergetic study, meaning the study groups were matched for energy expenditure and calorie intake.

The study was divided between two groups, one who was given a handful of nuts to consume daily along with a low-calorie diet, and the other group who consumed no nuts but had the same diet.

Each group was supposed to consume 2,400 calories per day, the nut group had an extra 100 calories coming from nuts. By the end of the study, the group consuming the nuts lost more weight!

In another cross-sectional study between nut intake and bodyweight, researchers saw that people who ate more vegetables and nuts were slimmer than those who consumed meat.

nuts and weight gain

To conclude this theory, research published in the New England Journal of medicine tells us that weight gain is mostly associated with junk and processed food.

Whereas per the latest review on nuts in 2012; Nuts make a positive difference in managing weight loss, obesity, chronic diseases, controlling cholesterol, and improving arterial function.

The reason why nuts can control cholesterol is because of phytosterols (a plant-based cholesterol look alike), which repeatedly come in the way of cholesterol absorption in the body, hence enabling your body to excrete out dietary and endogenous cholesterol. 

There are existing clinical trials to show that the consumption of nuts may help you live longer.

Researchers at Harvard who analysed the relation between the consumption of nuts and mortality concluded that people who ate nuts lived significantly longer lives.

With proper control of other lifestyle factors, those people who consumed nuts daily were not reported under deaths caused by cancer, heart/respiratory, or any chronic diseases.

Nuts need not be feared, but strategically added to your daily diet. 

Does cashew increase weight?

A lot of studies out there are testimony for the fact that consumption of nuts like cashews show no significant weight gain in the short or long run.

It becomes difficult to understand this. But despite being so calorie-dense, nuts show little signs of fat absorption in the body. Calories are only a problem when converted to body fat. In case of nuts, this does not always happen. 

nut platter

Several theories in place explain the reason behind why nuts do not lead to weight gain One such comes from Japan which suggested that maybe due to the hardness of the nuts, which makes it laborsome to eat and digest, the body burns some calories in the whole process of just eating nuts.

Others suggest that some nuts for example - almonds (fiber) remain intact in the digestive tract, the body cannot absorb its calories, and ultimately it is excreted out. 

Maybe the reason why most of the studies don’t show weight gain after the consumption of cashews, could be because nuts are so desirable and filling that it keeps your hunger suppressed for most of the day and you eventually end up eating lesser calories.

Like for example if you only ate a handful of cashews which provided you with 150 calories, you trigger your satiety hormone, and unintentionally skip your next snack, thereby eating 250 calories lesser and creating an energy balance in the body.

But all of this can only accounted for 70% of calories that disappeared, then what happened to the last 30%?

A study indicated that when we eat nuts; our body tends to burn its fat.

This study involved two groups, one with a controlled diet and the other group who ate the same amount of calories plus a handful of nuts added to it.

Those on the calorie controlled diet alone burnet about 20 grams of fat per day, but the nut group burnt more like 30 grams of fat per day!

Hence what we can conclude from all of these observations is that around 70% of the calories consumed because of nuts like cashews are lost because of dietary mechanisms, 10% are excreted out of the body and the remaining 20% is lost because nuts increase our metabolism causing a fat burn.

So eat more cashews because, at the end of it, is nutritionally necessary nutrition along with zero risk of chronic diseases and weight gain.

Will cashew nuts increase Uric Acid?

Oxalates are compounds that are present in many plant food groups but in adequate/harmless amounts. The risk develops when the oxalates present in the body start getting absorbed extensively, thereby inducing the chance of kidney complications.

kidney stones

But the risk of oxalate absorption is only serious if you are consuming nuts in very high amounts, as much as 20 cups per day! Further, taking megadoses of Vitamin C supplements can add fuel to the fire. Vitamin C is metabolised into oxalates in the body, thus, adding to oxalate levels. 

Those with a higher risk of kidney diseases or stones should avoid eating high-oxalate foods. But these oxalate compounds are very limited in nuts like cashews, although present; only eating more than a cup of cashews i.e around 25 gms can be harmful.

The key is to not overdo things even if it is including healthy alternatives to your diet. Excess water, even, can cause electrolyte deficiency. 

Can diabetics eat cashews?

If you are interesting in diabetes management, I insist you watch this video first and subsequently read the blogs mentioned int he video:

Cashews are a good source of fiber which is beneficial to maintain sugar spikes in the blood. Apart from fiber; cashews contain nutrients necessary for cell repair.

Some studies indicate that Type 2 diabetes patients who got 10% of their daily calories from cashews, were observed to have lower insulin levels than those patients who did not consume cashews altogether.

Consuming nuts like cashews can actually help in lowering cholesterol levels, oxidation, and blood sugar levels and improve arterial functions thereby increasing longevity.

Consuming nuts is not only associated with subsequent mortality but is also tied to lowering weight gain. Eating a handful of nuts every day can pose various health benefits to the body, including weight loss. 

The proper way of acquiring these benefits is to be consistent in terms of consumption at the same time not overdo it. Following this, we can say that diabetics can safely eat cashews.

What benefits of adding cashew to your diet?

Adding cashews to your diet can pose a lot of health benefits, namely 

  • Versatile - Cahswe is a simple and versatile ingredient that you can easily add to your diet. They are readily available everywhere in the form of raw, roasted salted, butter, and even spiced. You can eat them as a healthy snack or make them a part of your cooking. Salted and flavored cashews however contain more sodium and fat so keeping in mind your health goals, you can include any form of cashews in your diet.

  • Improves blood sugar- Although they taste sweet, cashews are rich in fiber but very low in sugar content. These two important factors when combined can help an individual reduce their blood sugar levels thereby, preventing the development of Type-2 diabetes. However, there still needs to be extensive scientific evidence in place to establish the strong correlation between cashews and diabetes.

  • Improves heart health - A low LDL and a high HDL level in the blood are markers of a healthy heart. Studies that are associated with cashews mostly show results that link with a lower risk of heart disease. Cashews are seen to have greater benefits to the body in terms of blood pressure, triglycerides, and cholesterol.

  • Help in the reduction of excessive weight - Cashews are rich in calories but studies indicate that it aids in the overall loss of weight in the body. As per the USA Food Data Central Database, cashews give 157 calories approximately over 28 grams per serving, this research shows that the human body can only absorb 84% of these calories. The reason is; that a part of the fat in the cashews remains intact in its fibrous wall which becomes difficult in terms of absorption.

    Further nuts like cashews suppress hunger because they are rich in fiber and protein, hence all the factors combine; cashew can help you reduce excessive weight.

  • Rich in antioxidants - Antioxidants are vital to reduce inflammation in the body and protect it from chronic diseases. It is safe to say that cashews are packed with antioxidants like carotenoids, phytosterols and polyphenols.

  • Helps in the reduction of cholesterol - Cashews by default contain lower amounts of unsaturated fats, which means that they are a low-cholesterol food type and can be a part of a balanced diet without the risk of increasing blood cholesterol. 

So how many cashews can I eat per day?

Cashew cream used in curries or on salads is actually really tasty and amazingly filling.

Now, even though most of the nut is fat, a healthy fat, it's still a lot of calories. That's why you should eat nuts like cashews in moderation.

Therefore, 10-30 grams of cashews per day are good to consume, considering you also consume other nuts/ seeds.

20 to 25% of your overall calories coming in from whole fats like seeds, nuts, olives and avocados are essential.

Cashews are nutrient-dense foods filed with numerous health benefits. 

Therefore, forget about the baseless myths and incorporate cashews into your regular nutrition plan.

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About Roshni Sanghvi

Roshni Sanghvi is an Indian plant-based sports nutritionist and body transformation specialist. She is the first Indian to represent on a national bodybuilding stage being on a 100% plant-based diet. Roshni is a holistic nutritionist, graduated from the prestigious NutraPhoria college of nutrition in Canada.

She is also an ACE-certified personal trainer, certified PlantFed gut coach, certified Bodyshred, and Animal flow instructor with a specialisation in disease reversal through food and lifestyle modification.

Her approach is more focused on helping you in adopting a healthy lifestyle. With her result-oriented holistic methods, she has managed to transform and reverse lifestyle diseases such as PCOS, Thyroid, Diabetes etc for 12k+ clients worldwide.