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Can Cashews Reduce Bad Cholesterol?

by Dr. Jamesh Meschino on

December 18, 2023 in

Source: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (May 2017)
Nutrition / Natural Medicine Update (January 25, 2018)

In prior Lifestyle Medicine Updates, I explained that almonds have been shown to lower the bad cholesterol (LDL-cholesterol) and raise the good cholesterol (HDL-cholesterol) and that walnut consumption is linked to reduced risk of heart disease and cancer. 

Today, I am citing a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in May of 2017 that showed that substituting 1-2 oz of cashews per day for potato chips lowered the bad cholesterol and total cholesterol in patients who had been diagnosed with high cholesterol. 

Cashews are the third most-consumed tree nut in the United States and are rich in health-promoting monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats, which are associated with reduced cardiovascular disease risk. Although cashews contain some saturated fat, about one-third of it is stearic acid, which does not raise cholesterol levels.

What does the study reveal?

In this study, researchers recruited 51 men and women (ages 21-73 years old) who had high bad cholesterol readings (average LDL- 4.1 mmol/L or 159 mg/dL). This is a very high reading. 

Any value above 2.5 mmol/L (96 mg/dL) is considered high risk for heart attack or stroke. In fact, an ideal reading is and LDL-cholesterol level under 2.0 mmol/L (77 mg/dL). 

So, these individuals were in a very high-risk category to start out with.  In this study, the patients followed their typical American dietary patterns, but one group was instructed to eat some potato chips each day and the other group was instructed to eat 1-2 oz of cashews per day for 28 days.

Then following a 2-week washout period the groups switched. The ones previously eating potato chips consumed the cashews instead and vice-versa. 

The results showed that after 28 days of consuming cashews their total cholesterol blood level dropped by 4%, and their LDL-cholesterol by 5%. There was no change in the HDL-cholesterol (the good cholesterol) or triglyceride levels. 

By contrast, after 28 days of potato chip consumption, the average total cholesterol increased by almost 1% and the LDL-cholesterol by 1.2%. The researchers concluded the following, “in comparison with a control diet, the incorporation of cashews into typical American diets decreases total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. 

Are cashews effective?

Results from this study provide support that the daily consumption of cashews, when substituted for a high-carbohydrate snack, may be a simple dietary strategy to help manage total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol”.

So, I think the bottom line is that a handful of nuts a day continues to be a good substitute for potato chips and other high carbohydrate and deep-fried snacks. 

Almonds and cashews have been shown to help lower cholesterol, walnuts have shown impressive anti-cancer and heart disease properties, and the regular consumption of nuts, in general, is linked to decreased heart disease and reduced mortality from all causes.

I’ve included a link to all this nutty research in the text below.


1. Cashews Research – Cashew consumption reduces total and LDL cholesterol: a randomized, crossover, controlled-feeding trial

2. HDL Research: Berryman CE, Fleming JA, Kriss-Etherton PM – Inclusion of Almonds in a Cholesterol-Lowering Diet Improves Plasma HDL Subspecies and Cholesterol Efflux to Serum in Normal-Weight Individuals with Elevated LDL Cholesterol

3. All Nuts- Nut consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease, total cancer, all-cause and cause-specific mortality: a systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies – BMC Medicine

Eat Smart, Live Well, Look Great,

Dr. Meschino

Dr. James Meschino

Dr. James Meschino