The Effect of Cashews on Blood Glucose

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Cashews contain more carbohydrates than other nuts. As a result, they can affect your blood glucose, but their impact is minimal. If you’re healthy, the calories in cashews -- 157 per 1-ounce serving -- have more potential to affect your weight than spike your blood sugar. But if you’re diabetic, or you have any questions about your blood glucose, talk to your health care provider before making changes to your diet.

A bowl of cashew nuts.
(Elecstasy/iStock/Getty Images)

Blood glucose rises after you eat carbohydrates, which triggers the pancreas to release insulin. Insulin restores blood sugar back to normal by transporting glucose into cells that need it for energy or by sending it off to be stored.

If you have diabetes, your blood levels of glucose stay higher than normal because your body doesn’t produce enough insulin or it can’t use insulin properly. Over time, high blood sugar can cause heart disease, blindness, kidney failure and nerve damage.

A treatment plan for diabetes includes eating foods that don’t spike blood sugar. Even if you don’t have diabetes, following a diet that keeps blood sugar balanced can help you maintain a healthy weight and provide steady energy.

Cashews contain more total carbohydrate and less fiber than most other nuts. You'll get nearly 9 grams of carbs and 1 gram of fiber in a 1-ounce serving of cashews. By comparison, walnuts and pecans have roughly half the carbs and at least double the fiber.

Carbs and fiber together determine the overall impact on levels of blood glucose. Blood sugar rises in proportion to the amount of carbs you eat. On the other hand, fiber slows down the rate at which carbs are digested and absorbed, which helps lower blood glucose.

Due to their carb content, cashews affect blood sugar more than other nuts, but their glycemic index score shows they only have a small impact.

The glycemic index rates carbohydrate-containing foods according to how quickly blood sugar spikes and how high it goes after they’re consumed. The scale goes from zero to 100, with a score of 100 representing the extreme spike caused by pure glucose.

A glycemic rating of zero represents foods with no impact on blood sugar, but any food with a score below 55 is considered low-glycemic. Cashews fall in the middle with a score of 22.

The risk of developing Type 2 diabetes was lower in women who ate an ounce of nuts, including cashews, at least five times weekly, reported a review published in Nutrients in July 2010.

Cashews are good sources of healthy monounsaturated fats, which contributed to better-balanced blood glucose in people with Type 2 diabetes, according to a study in the August 2011 issue of Diabetes Care. Compared to other nuts, cashews are also one of the best sources of magnesium, which is vital for insulin to work properly, reports Michigan State University Extension.

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