nuts are good for you
By Dr. Harold Gunatillake
The cashew, Anacardium occidentale L., belongs to the Anacardiaceae
or cashew family. Two related plants in this family are the mango
tree and pistachio tree.
nuts are actually the kidney-shaped seeds that adhere to the bottom
of the cashew apple, the fruit of the cashew tree, which is native
to the coastal areas of North-Eastern Brazil, and Peru. In the 16th
century Portuguese explorers introduced cashew trees to other tropical
regions such as India, Indonesia, some African countries and Sri
Lanka, where they are now grown. The cashew tree was popular due
to its apple, hardly eaten in our country, but a delicacy in some
countries, which is eaten ripe, mixed in fruit salads or pickled.
The trunk of the tree is also used as firewood.
are sold with the shell removed, because the interior of the shell
contains a caustic resin known as cashew balm. In Sri Lanka we call
it the milk, and it is very important that this resin is removed
before the nuts are fit for consumption. The resin is actually a
poison, which is used in industries to make varnishes and insecticides.
The shells are also burnt in rural homes to keep off mosquitoes,
and breathing the smoke may damage the lungs in the long run.
All varieties of edible nuts contain oils that can be used for human
consumption. These are classified as saturated and unsaturated oils,
and the latter can be further divided into mono and poly unsaturated
oils. The polyunsaturated oils are further separated into Omega
3 and Omega 6 oils.
All animal oils used in the past for cooking, such as lard (pig
oil), and others like the goat, cattle (tallow), duck fat oils were
harmful. Being saturated these increased the cholesterol level in
the blood, and their accumulation caused weight problems, too. Butter
too manufactured from cow’s milk, in spite of the health benefits,
caused increased cholesterol levels in the blood. Coconut oil, though
saturated, containing medium chain fatty acids, does not increase
the cholesterol level and also does not accumulate in the body as
other saturated animal oils do.
oil contains a lower fat content than most other nuts; approximately
75% of their fat is unsaturated fatty acids, plus 75% of this unsaturated
fatty acid content is oleic acid, the same heart-healthy monounsaturated
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 monounsaturated fat, when added to
a low-fat diet, can help reduce high triglyceride levels. Fat is
carried in the blood stream as triglycerides, and settles in the
body, especially under the skin and surrounding organs as triglycerides.
invariably have high triglyceride levels in their blood, and “statin”
drugs may fail to bring them down. It stands to reason that they
eat plenty of cashew nuts in their food, provided the dishes are
with reduced fat. As mentioned in previous articles, diabetics should
eat plenty of big onions, crushed garlic and cinnamon to bring down
their sugar levels naturally in the blood. A diabetic person can
verify this by checking the glucometer reading before eating these
and two hours after. Daily exercise also brings down the sugar levels
in the blood.
triglyceride levels in the blood influences heart disease. It prevents
the good cholesterol (HDL), removing the bad cholesterol (LDL) from
the blood stream. It also settles down in the body and causes weight
problems. Increased weight causes inflammatory diseases like atherosclerosis,
heart disease, stroke, gall bladder disease, arthritis and many
others. Take cashew nuts in your diet to ensure you have plenty
of monounsaturated fats in your food. Cooked cashew nuts in a white
curry form do not destroy the nutrient values of the nuts. Just
a quarter-cup of these delicious nuts supplies 37.4% of the daily
value for mono unsaturated fat.
source of nutrients
In addition to the high mono unsaturated fats, cashew nuts are a
good source of copper, magnesium, zinc and biotin. Copper is an
essential component of many enzymes and beneficial for a wide range
of physiological processes, including iron absorption from the gut,
elimination of free radicals, development of bone, connective tissue,
production of skin and hair pigment called melanin, hence good to
prevent greying of hair. Copper is also a component of the enzyme
superoxide dismutase, important in energy production and antioxidant
defences. Copper also helps to make the ground substance to keep
the blood vessels elastic and flexible, an important function in
preventing high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. It also
helps to form the ground substance for bones and joints, to keep
them functionally active. In the colon, copper prevents the increase
of faecal free radical production responsible for colon cancer.
the copper intake is inadequate, one could develop iron deficiency
anaemia, spontaneous rupture of minute blood vessels, osteoporosis
in old age, joint problems like rheumatoid arthritis, brain damage,
elevation of (LDL) bad cholesterol, reduction of good cholesterol
(HDL), irregular heart beat, increased susceptibility to infections,
and accelerated greying of hair.
Daily consumption of a quarter-cup of cashew will supply you with
38.0% of the daily-recommended value for copper. Wearing copper
bracelets, and other copper ornaments also helps absorption of copper
through the skin.
Magnesium is essential in preventing bone damage. Two thirds of
the body magnesium in the human body is found in our bones. Magnesium
is stored on the surface of bones for the body to draw when required.
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 blood vessels and muscles they innervate)
relaxed. Calcium antagonists, given to control high blood pressure,
relax the heart muscles, too. In magnesium deficiency situations,
calcium tends to gain entry, and the nerve cell can become over
activated, sending too many messages and causing excessive contraction.
magnesium can contribute to high blood pressure, muscle spasms (including
spasms of the heart muscle or the spasms of the airways, leading
to asthma attacks. Magnesium deficiency may cause migraine headaches,
Eating an adequate quantity of cashew on a daily basis, may contribute
in reducing blood pressure, muscle tightness, fatigue, prevent heart
attacks, promote normal sleep patterns in women suffering from menopausal
sleep disturbances, and reduce the severity of asthma.
a quarter cup of cashews provides 22.3% of the daily value for magnesium.
Dietary data collected on 80,718 women from the Nurses’ Health
Study has shown that women who ate at least an ounce of cashew nuts,
peanuts or peanut butter each week had a 25% lower risk of developing
Eating a handful of cashew nuts when hungry also diminishes one’s
appetite in heavy meals; another way of controlling your body weight.
quarter cup of raw cashew nuts contain 196.60 calories, and nutrient
copper 0.76 mg; magnesium 89.05 mg; tryptophan 0.07 g (also found
in fresh cow’s milk – helps sleeping problems) and phosphorus
Cashew provides essential fatty acids, B vitamins, fibre, protein,
carbohydrates, potassium, iron and zinc.
Sri Lanka is at an advantage in promoting the health benefits of
cashew, as we have a government corporation and a good site in Pasyala
(Cadju pura) to promote it for both locals and tourists. A massive
billboard by the road side, at this site, before entering Pasyala
will remind motorists to stop and purchase some nuts to enjoy on
the way to the hills.
good toilet facilities provided by the local Mirigama Council will
encourage drivers to take a break at this spot, which will invariably
promote cadju sales.
Charles Weber, MS writes that chemicals in cashew nuts, cashew apples
and cashew shell oil kill gram-positive bacteria, which cause tooth
decay, acne, tuberculosis, and leprosy. He states that he made raw
cashew nuts the main part of his diet for 24 hours on five occasions
and eliminated an abscessed tooth all five times.
active chemicals are anacardic acids with a 15 carbon unsaturated
side chain. The side chain with three unsaturated bonds was the
most active against Streptococcus mutans, states Dr. Weber. Much
research is required to find out further antibiotic effects of cashew.
I have promoted eating “pol sambol” daily for health
reasons, supplementing it with crushed cadju nuts is a good idea
as a delicacy, for health reasons. The combined taste is unbelievable.