By Dr Harold Gunatillake Health writer
We use the term 'Cadgu' a derived name not known, whilst in U.K, U.S, and other countries they call it 'Cashew'. The cashew, Anacardiumoccidentale L., belongs to the Anacardiaceae or cashew family. Two related plants in this family are the mango tree and pistachio tree.
The cashew 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 Northeastern Brazil, and Peru.
In the 16th century Portuguese explorers took cashew trees from the South American country and introduced them into other tropical regions such as India, Indonesia, some African countries, including Sri Lanka, where they are now grown. The cashew tree was popular due to its apple, hardly eaten in our country, a delicacy in some countries, which is eaten ripe, or mixed in fruit salads, or pickled.
The trunk of the tree is precious, and also used as firewood.
Cashews 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 is accidentally eaten whilst removing the shells from the fresh cashew nuts. 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 industry to make varnishes and insecticides. The shells are also burnt in rural homes to keep off the 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.
Cashew 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 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 monounsaturated fat, when added to a low-fat diet, can help to reduce high triglyceride levels
Increased 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 cause weight problems. Increased weight causes inflammatory diseases like atherosclerosis, heart disease, stroke, gall bladder disease, arthritis and many others. Enjoy eating plenty of 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 monounsaturated fat.
Good source of copper, magnesium, zinc and biotin
In addition to the high monounsaturated fats, the cashew nuts are a good source of copper, magnesium, zinc and biotin.
Copper is an essential component of many enzymes and are 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 to prevent 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.
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 help absorption of copper through the skin.
Eating adequate quantity of cashew on a daily basis, may contribute to reduce blood pressure, muscle tightness, fatigue, prevent heart attacks, promotes normal sleep patterns in women suffering from menopausal sleep disturbances, and reduce severity of asthma. Just a quarter cup of cashews provides 22.3% of the daily value for magnesium.
Help prevent Gallstones
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 gallstones.
Eating a handful of cashew nuts when hungry also diminishes once appetite to eat heavy meals, another way of controlling your body weight.
Nutrient copper 0.76 mg; magnesium 89.05mg; tryptophan 0.07g (also found in fresh cow's milk, help sleeping problems); phosphorus 167.83 mg.
Cashew provides essential fatty acids, B vitamins, fibre, protein, carbohydrates, potassium, iron, and zinc.
Sri Lanka is at an advantage to promote health benefits of cashew, as we have a government corporation, and a good site in Pasyala (Cadjupura) to promote the nut for our locals and tourists.
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