By Dr Harold Gunatillake Health Writer
Almonds are heart shaped nuts while cashew which grows at the end of a fruit, is kidney shaped, and they both have similar health benefits for the heart, kidneys and rest of the body.
Both almonds and cashew nuts are highly nutritious and concentrated forms of foods providing a substantial amount of energy. They are a great source of Vitamin E, with 25g of each providing 70 percent of the recommended daily allowance.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant which prevents the LDL cholesterol becoming bad. In situations where antioxidants like Vitamin E and others are deficient in the blood the LDL cholesterol becomes oxidised and unstable, gets bad and is suppose to participate in the building up of plaque.
Both have about a similar amount of micronutrients like magnesium, potassium, zinc, iron, fibre and are a good source of monounsaturated fats.
Magnesium in both types of nuts is much more than in spinach or oatmeal which is considered to contain high levels of magnesium. Both nuts contain 25 percent of the daily magnesium requirement and significant amounts of potassium.
Magnesium is important for improving the flow of blood, oxygen and nutrients throughout the body while potassium is an electrolyte that is involved in nerve transmission and muscle contraction. It is also important for blood pressure and heart function.
They contain more calcium than most other nuts which makes them great for vegetarians who do not eat any diary products. One small handful of almonds contains as much calcium as a quarter cup of milk; and almonds also contain phosphorus which is necessary for bones and teeth. A handful of almonds contains 12 percent of your daily allowance of proteins.
Monounsaturated fats generally lower bad cholesterol (LDL), and both kinds of nuts are considered to lower bad cholesterol levels in the blood.
They are heart-healthy due to the high content of monounsaturated fats, lowering the bad cholesterol.
According to controlled studies by many research institutes including Harvard School of Public Health have shown that people who added nuts like cashews and almonds etc., to their diet had their LDL levels reduced by 12 percent.
People with high LDL, especially the oxidised bad fellow are more prone to coronary heart disease. Eat a handful of either nut daily and you may not need to take large doses of statins for high cholesterol in your blood, causing many side effects. Most Mediterranean diets have high monounsaturated fat content as in olive oil and are considered to lower the risk of heart disease and cancer, and also increase longevity.
Both almonds and cashew nuts are low in saturated fats and less fattening than what you would believe. They are excellent foods, if you are on a calories reduction diet as they do suppress appetite.
As both kinds of nuts are nutrient dense they make you feel nourished, and therefore less likely to have cravings and over eat. Being plant foods they contain absolutely no cholesterol.
They also elevate the good cholesterol HDL, as well as help block the body's absorption of fat and carbohydrates, which may prove to be significant in the areas of obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
Fibre seems to help the blocking effect which also reduces calories available which reduces the rise of blood sugar. Almonds and cashew nuts contain phenylalanine, a brain boosting chemical that aids healthy development of our cognitive functions.
Cashew nut milk is a substitute for cow's milk for vegans. Mix about 20 cashews in water in the blender and it turns into milk and is a great substitute for milk. The Magnesium content in cashew nuts is beneficial for promoting bone growth. Those who suffer from muscle cramps in the night should take magnesium tablets or plenty of cashew nuts or almonds.
Copper helps to keep bones and joints and blood vessels flexible. Flexible blood vessels help to reduce blood pressure. Almonds and cashew are rich in manganese, riboflavin (vitamin B2) and copper, all of which aid in energy production.
Take them with you when you expend energy in sports activities. Almonds and cashew have high levels of potassium and are low in sodium and both factors regulate blood pressure. Fibre in both almonds and cashew has detoxifying effects, preventing cancer of the large intestines.
The National Cancer Institute recently released a study linking high fibre diets to lower risk of colon cancer. Both nuts have a stabilising effect on sugar and insulin levels after meals, offering protection from diabetes.
Being high fibre they ease constipation and help you to stay regular. In traditional Chinese Medicine, almonds are considered anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic, emollient and also used as a tonic; they are also known as brain and bone food probably due to their high calcium content.
Finally, almonds also contain folic acid, zinc, phytochemicals, selenium, copper, biotin, riboflavin, niacin and iron, making them a true nutritional powerhouse.
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