Cashew nuts grow on small evergreen trees in the tropical areas of the world. Although they contain high amounts of fat, the cashew nuts contain less than most other nuts. The fat that they contain are unsaturated fats, which have a cholesterol lowering effect and are good for the heart. Cashews also contain many other substances that work together to lower cholesterol levels naturally.
Cholesterol is good in moderate amounts because the body needs it to manufacture vitamin D, hormones, and carry out other important functions of the body. In excess amounts, however, cholesterol can have damaging effects and result in many degenerative diseases. Cashews have been shown to help put a healthy balance between the low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) to ensure a healthy total cholesterol level.
Unlike saturated fats from animal sources that cause the LDL (bad) cholesterol levels to rise, unsaturated fats can help to lower the LDL levels. This is due to the oleic and omega-3 fatty acids that help to naturally increase the production of the HDL. The HDL is the good cholesterol, which increases the removal rate of the LDL cholesterol. Its function is to travel into the body and gather up the excess LDL and bring it back to the liver in order to be expelled from the body.
Another benefit of the unsaturated fats is that they have been shown to reduce triglyceride levels as well. Triglycerides are another type of blood fat that is factored into the total cholesterol. It makes up the very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL), which can act as the precursor to LDL cholesterol. Therefore, high triglycerides can potentially increase the production of LDL cholesterol and also raise the total cholesterol.
Cashew nuts also contain significant amounts of fiber. The body is unable to absorb fiber, however, once in the digestive tract, the soluble fiber binds itself to the cholesterol molecules and expels them from the body via the stool. In other words, the fiber potentially stops the absorption of cholesterol.
Another important substance that hinders the absorption of cholesterol are the phytosterols, also known as plant sterols. These molecules behave similarly to the way cholesterol molecules do. However, when they are present in the small intestine, the body is unable to absorb as much cholesterol, which then reduces the risk of high cholesterol.
Substitute For Unhealthy Saturated Fats
Cashews are a good source for protein, which makes them a good substitute for animal proteins. Animal products, particularly red meat, dairy and eggs are high in unhealthy saturated fats that can cause the LDL cholesterol levels to skyrocket. Therefore, those foods should be reduced or avoided altogether for optimum health and longevity.
Cashews make for a great snack in between meals. They can also be used in salads, desserts, dressings, nut butters and many other food preparations. Although they can be toasted or used in baking, raw cashew nuts are of more value because they still contain all the nutrients as nature created them.