When You Eat Cashews Every Day, This Is What Happens To Your Arteries

Eating cashews could help your arteries by reducing "bad" cholesterol, among other heart-health benefits, according to research. Your arteries serve to pump oxygen-rich blood from your heart to all areas of your body, and they need to be strong and flexible to sustain the force of blood pumped from the heart. They also constrict or loosen based on signals from your nervous system to regulate blood flow. Depending on diet, family history, and lifestyle, arteries can stiffen as they get clogged with fat and cholesterol. This makes it harder for blood and those necessary nutrients to flow well as they should, causing high blood pressure or artery blockage.

Eating foods high in saturated fat or trans fat can increase the cholesterol in your blood, leading to plaque buildup in your arteries. Unsaturated fat from nuts like cashews, however, can help lower the LDL cholesterol in your arteries and raise the HDL cholesterol that pulls bad cholesterol from your bloodstream. Rather than reach for a processed snack that's high in saturated fat, try eating more cashews to improve the health of your arteries.

Nutrients in cashews and cardiovascular health

The 13 grams of fat in 1 ounce of dry roasted cashews might put you off, but only 2.6 grams are saturated fat. That same handful of cashews will provide you with 6.8 grams of monounsaturated fat and 2.2 grams of polyunsaturated fat. On that note, a 2017 systematic review published in Nutrition, Metabolism, and Cardiovascular Diseases on the effect of dietary saturated and polyunsaturated fat on heart disease found that replacing saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease by 19%. This compared to the 11% from monounsaturated fats. Cashews are a source for oleic acid (monounsaturated fat) and linoleic acid (polyunsaturated fat) both.

Aside from healthy fat, cashews have other nutrients to reduce the oxidative stress that can lead to progressive arterial stiffness and degeneration. According to a 2020 study in Nutrients, cashews and other nuts are rich in phytochemicals that have antioxidant properties to protect arteries. Selenium, zinc, and tocopherols also work as antioxidants, and 1 ounce of cashews offer 15% of your daily recommended zinc and 10% of selenium.

Other foods that may improve the health of your arteries

Cashews and other nuts aren't the only foods that can improve your cardiovascular health, says a 2022 review in Cardiovascular Research. It's probably no surprise that lowering your sodium intake and reducing how much food you eat from animal sources can also help bring down your risk of atherosclerosis, or the fatty buildup in your arteries. Per the research, eating two servings of 200 grams each of fruits and vegetables will also help to maintain a healthier circulatory system.

This said, not all animal foods are bad for cardiovascular health. Evidence suggests that eggs and milk don't significantly affect your cardiovascular risk while yogurt and cheese might reduce your risk. Unprocessed chicken and turkey, meanwhile, tend to be lower in saturated fat and heme iron, which are both linked to atherosclerosis.

As for your carbs, another study in PLOS One took a look at the effects of carbohydrates on heart health, and found that high levels of carbohydrates tend to be associated with hypertension, coronary heart disease, and obesity. To counter this, ditch refined cereals and/or foods high on the glycemic index. Opt for whole grains that not only improve satiety and gut health but also can cut your risk of coronary heart disease by up to 34% (here are 14 whole grains you should be eating). Enjoy these whole grains twice a day, but you can also add a serving of low-glycemic pasta, rice, or barley, of course to go along with your cashews.