Contrary to their name, cashew nuts are actually a kind of seed. They come from cashew apples and are known for their high nutritional value and health benefits. Most of the health benefits connected to them are down to the healthy antioxidants and fatty acids contained in them. They are rich in copper, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, and selenium.
Raw and unprocessed cashews can be poisonous, and they shouldn’t be eaten without processing and cleaning. However, they are nutritious and delicious once they have been processed, offering many potent health benefits. The consumption of cashews is linked to improving cardiovascular health, weight loss, and reducing cholesterol.
This article will look at all of the health benefits of cashews and their nutritional value.
Cashews come from cashew trees, which are native to Brazil but are cultivated in a number of countries around the world.
They aren’t nuts though, and are actually seeds that grow on the underside of cashew apples, also known as cashew fruits. Cashew nuts/seeds are encased in kidney-shaped shells that are themselves surrounded by a number of toxic layers.
Cashew nuts are primarily shelled by hand as they are often damaged when shelled mechanically. This manual processing is one reason that cashew nuts can be expensive to buy.
Cashew nuts are great for your overall health because they are rich in vitamin K, dietary fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, and a range of other healthy minerals. They are a great source of energy and 18 cashew nuts contain around 5 grams of protein – about 10% of the average daily intake requirements.
Cashews are different from peanuts as they contain minerals like copper, manganese, and magnesium. Some consider cashews to be a healthier alternative to peanuts as they have less omega-6 and more omega-3 fatty acids. Having a bad imbalance of these fatty acids is connected to inflammation and chronic diseases.(1)
Cashews themselves aren’t toxic, but they are surrounded by a shell that consists of the toxic oil urushiol.
The National Institute of Health warns that the urushiol in cashew nuts can cause contact dermatitis. Coming into contact with urushiol can cause itching, blisters, and skin rashes. The good news is that the toxins can be eliminated by roasting the cashews.(2)
Because raw cashews are processed in such a careful and meticulous way, it’s rare that someone will accidentally consume a contaminated nut and develop dermatitis.
Cashew nuts can make for healthy and nutritious treats for dogs. The antioxidants, fatty acids, and other nutrients that benefit humans can be great for dogs too.
Unlike the macadamia nut, which can be poisonous to dogs, cashews are safe for dogs. Given that they contain a lot of calories, you should still be careful about how many cashews you feed your dog. An ounce of cashews (28 grams) contains around 157 calories and 12 grams of fat.
You can consume fresh cashew apples, which are great sources of antioxidants. Their taste is described by some as being sweet and refreshing. Cashew apples can taste like similar tropical fruits like mango, complete with citrus overtones.
In the countries where cashew trees grow, people use the apples from them for cooking and making jam and chutney. Cashew apple juice is used for medicinal purposes.
The juice extracted from cashew apples is rich in antioxidants and has many health benefits.
The journal Experimental Biology and Medicine reported how cashew apple juice is known for being rich in antioxidants. The juice form cashew apples also has anti-inflammatory properties with the potential to speed up injury recovery. Cashew apples are packed full of minerals, vitamin C, and contains antibacterial properties.(3)
Cashew nuts have high nutritional value that make them good for you. Researchers with the Cleveland Clinic say an ounce/28 grams of cashew nuts contains around 18 cashew nuts.
The United States Department of Agriculture reports shows that one ounce of cashews contains 157 calories and 8.5 grams of carbs, meaning that each cashew nut has around 8 calories each.(4)
Cashew nuts are also great for digestion because 18 cashews has just under a gram (4% of your RDI) of dietary fiber.
What makes cashew nuts so healthy is their monounsaturated fatty acid content. These fatty acids offer a range of health benefits, and cashews have been shown to contain linoleic acid, oleic acid, and palmitoleic acid. Scientists suggest just an ounce of cashews a day can help to prevent heart disease.
Cashews also contain high levels of amino acids and proteins, which keep muscles and bones strong. 100 grams of cashews has 18 grams of protein, which is about a third of your overall RDI. Of course, given that 100 grams of cashews also contains 553 calories, consuming that much is inadvisable.
Cashews contains most of the minerals the body needs to be fit and healthy. An ounce of cashews contains 0.6mcg of copper (31% of RDI), 0.5mcg of manganese (23% of RDI), 82mg of magnesium (20% of RDI), and 166mg of phosphorous (17% RDI).
The iron in cashews keeps blood healthy and prevents iron deficiency amenia. An ounce of cashews contains 2 mg of iron, which is 10% of the RDI of iron.
Harvard study into cashews showed that they contain important minerals for blood health. As well as being great sources of iron, they also contain minerals such as magnesium, calcium, selenium, and zinc. These minerals have all been shown to have positive health benefits.(5)
Minerals such as zinc, selenium, and magnesium have been linked to preventing disease through strengthening the immune system. Most of the minerals found in cashew nuts also have potent anti-inflammatory properties.
Cashews don’t contain any sodium, however, so be careful when consuming salted cashews as too much salt can be hazardous to heart health.
Cashews are a great source of antioxidants and they can help protect the body against the effects of oxidative stress.
The Food Science and Nutrition journal reported cashews contain fatty acids and vitamin E, which have been shown to have antioxidant properties. Researchers believe that the antioxidant potential of vitamin E helps to reduce the risk of degenerative brain conditions, cancer, and cardiovascular disease.(6)
Researchers have also found that adding cashews to your diet increases the overall levels of antioxidants in your body.
Roasting the kernels of cashews is a great way to increase their antioxidant levels. One study showed that roasting cashews over a high heat increased the flavonoid and phenolic content. These are essential antioxidants for maintaining a healthy body.
Now we know more about cashew nuts, let’s look at the health benefits of adding them to your diet.
Cashews are rich in antioxidants, which are great for heart health.
Researchers have discovered that nuts such as cashews are rich in phytosterols and phenolic compounds, which are beneficial for heart health. As is the case with many nuts, cashew nuts have unsaturated fatty acids and low levels of saturated fatty acids. These have anti-inflammatory effects for your body that keep the heart healthy.(7)
Scientists believe that nuts such as cashews reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. Evidence suggests that consuming five servings of nuts a week can help to reduce the mortality risk of heart disease.
Even though cashews do have a lot of calories, there’s not much risk of them increasing your weight. One study showed consuming more nuts doesn’t mean that your waist gets bigger or BMI gets higher. It seems that the dietary benefits of consuming nuts outweigh the increased calorie intake, essentially offsetting it.
One reason that cashew nuts are so good for you is that regular consumption of cashews helps to reduce levels of “bad” cholesterol.
One trial from 2017 found that having high levels of monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids reduced the levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. LDL cholesterol is the bad cholesterol that you don’t want. Scientists also discovered that the saturated fat content of cashews doesn’t impact blood fat levels.(8)
Researchers concluded that swapping out high-carb snacks with cashews helps to manage cholesterol levels.
The minerals in cashew nuts- such as magnesium and potassium – help regulate blood pressure and can be beneficial for those with hypertension.
A randomised controlled study from 2018 showed that increased cashew nut consumption helped to reduce systolic blood pressure without causing extra weight gain. The trial looked at 300 adults with type 2 diabetes. These 300 participants were split into two groups and given a diabetic diet to follow for 12 weeks. One of the groups also consumed 30 grams of cashews a day. When the trial was over, the group who consumed cashew nuts presented reduced blood pressure and higher levels of HDL cholesterol – the “good” kind of cholesterol.
Cashews are among the healthy nuts that help control blood glucose levels, leading to better control of type 2 diabetes symptoms.
The journal Nutrients reported that consumption of nuts, including cashews, hazelnuts, almonds, and Brazil nuts helped to reduce the effects of type 2 diabetes. Nuts have been shown to have a small beneficial effect on controlling blood sugar and reducing the glycemic response after eating a meal.(9)
Other studies have been done on the subject that show cashew nut extract increases glucose uptake and that it has the potential to be an alternative natural treatment for diabetes.
Cashew nuts contain vitamins and minerals that have been shown to promote good bone health and possibly prevent conditions such as osteoporosis.
A report published in 2016 said that nuts such as cashew nuts are a great dietary source of magnesium that help to keep bones healthy.(10) 2 ounces of cashew nuts contains around 160 mg of magnesium, around 40% of the RDI.
Cashews are also rich in vitamin K, which is necessary for healthy bones. Some research suggests the majority of people don’t get enough vitamin K. A vitamin K deficiency affects bone mass density and increases the risk of bone fractures. Two ounces of cashew nuts contains around 19 mg of vitamin K, or 25% of the recommended intake.
It’s a common misconception that nuts cause you to gain weight. The reality is that they can help you to lose weight, when they are combined with a proper weight-loss program.
Most people avoid nuts when dieting and losing weight because they have so many calories and so much fat in them. A cup of cashews contains around 700 calories and 57 grams of fat.
However, researchers with the Harvard Medical School report that cashew nuts, and other nuts, are packed with protein and fats. They contain healthy fats and lots of other important minerals. Some studies have suggested that two servings of nuts a week on average helps to prevent obesity and further weigh gain.(11)
An ounce of cashew nuts contains 9 grams of garbs and has a glycemic index of 3, making them great for diabetics and diabetes prevention.
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports there is no evidence to suggest that eating more nuts is linked to gaining weight and having a higher body mass index (BMI).(12)
Cashews make for a tasty snack that can eliminate hunger pangs and stay full for longer.
Cashew milk is another way to enjoy the potent health benefits of cashews. Cashew milk has all the nutritional goodness of cashews, but can be used for making smoothies or as a dairy-free substitute for cow’s milk.
Health journal Nutrients published research in 2018 that shows cashew milk is a potent source of plant sterols.(13) Plant sterols are a natural antioxidant that helps strengthen the immune system and prevents the onset of chronic diseases.
Most people enjoy nuts such as cashews as part of their healthy, balanced diet. However, some people have nut allergies that cause potentially life-threatening allergic reactions.
The International Archives of Allergy and Immunology filed a report in 2018 that suggested cashews do cause severe allergic reactions for some people. Some of the symptoms of a nut allergy include abdominal pain, nausea, itching, and difficulty swallowing. The most severe cases of nut allergies can trigger anaphylaxis; a life-threatening allergic reaction that requires immediate medical attention.(14)
Some people also suffer from bloating and gas when consuming cashew nuts, particularly when they consume a lot of them.