From the technical point of view cashews are seeds, and not nuts. They are light-colored, kidney-shaped and come from the fruit of the tropical tree called Anacardium occidentale that produces the bitter-tasting cashew apple.
They have high nutrient density and supply of many vital minerals, “cashew nuts” and other nuts are often recommended to improve heart health. They are rich in unsaturated fatty acids and many other beneficial compounds, including plant-based protein; dietary fiber ; minerals like copper , zinc and magnesium ; plus antioxidants in the form of phytosterols and phenolic compounds. The composition of the cashew kernel is about 21 percent protein, 46 percent fat and 25 percent carbohydrates (a portion of which is indigestible fiber), making it a filling, high-protein and high-fat food choice.
Cashew has healthy fat content as one of the key factors . Cashews are primarily made up of unsaturated fats in the form of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs that contain oleic acid), plus a smaller proportion of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAS mostly in the form of linoleic acid). According to the fao.org, about 62 percent of the cashew’s fats are monounsaturated fat , 18 percent polyunsaturated fats and the rest a mix of saturated fats.
Because of the positive effects of MUFAs and PUFAs on metabolism and other bioactive functions, many studies associate cashew consumption (and nut consumption in general) with a reduced risk for coronary heart disease , cancer , diabetes and obesity .
according to ndb.nal.usda.gov, One grain (about 28 grams) of raw cashews contains approximately:
- 155 calories
- 9.2 grams carbohydrates
- 5.1 grams protein
- 12.3 grams fat
- 0.9 gram fiber
- 0.6 milligram copper (31 percent daily value( DV)
- 0.5 milligram manganese (23 percent DV)
- 81.8 milligrams magnesium (20 percent DV)
- 166 milligrams phosphorus (17 percent DV)
- 9.5 micrograms vitamin K (12 percent DV)
- 1.6 milligrams zinc (11 percent DV)
- 1.9 milligrams iron (10 percent DV)
- 0.1 milligram thiamine (8 percent DV)
- 5.6 micrograms selenium (8 percent DV)
- 0.1 milligram vitamin B6 (6 percent DV)
- 185 milligrams potassium (5 percent DV)
Cashews nutrition also contains some vitamin E, niacin, folate, pantothenic acid and calcium.
The Science of Cashew Nut health benefits.
7 Incredible Cashew Nut Benefits: From Heart Health to Gorgeous ...
Support Cardiovascular disease.
A 2017 review published in the journal Nutrients states by Souza et al had this to say , “Although nuts are high calorie foods, several studies have reported beneficial effects after nut consumption, due to fatty acid profiles, vegetable proteins, fibers, vitamins, minerals, carotenoids, and phytosterols with potential antioxidant action.”
A similar study by Souza et al 2015 also posit that frequent nut and legume consumption can help lower your risk for many of the biggest risks associated with heart disease, including high cholesterol, high blood pressure and obesity. Ros E 2010 study also revealed that Cashews are believed to have beneficial effects on oxidative stress levels, inflammation , and vascular/arterial activity that promotes a healthy heart.
Jillian Levy, CHHC , also revealed in 2018 that Cashews can help lower LDL cholesterol (considered the dangerous kind) and improve HDL cholesterol (the “good” kind). The author had this to say: “They contain special phytosterol compounds, which play an important structural role in cell membranes. They stabilize cells and interfere with cholesterol absorption. This is responsible for their cholesterol-lowering abilities and the reason cashews may be able to help prevent the formation of plaque within artery walls. Cashews are also associated with lowered triglyceride levels and reduced levels of inflammation, all of which help protect you from heart disease, heart attacks or stroke”.
Shaffer 2006 study has found that eating nuts weekly, including cashews, can help lower the risk for gallstones . Gallstones are associated with healthy cholesterol levels. They’re caused by hardened cholesterol, a result of too much cholesterol present within the bile that circulates through the digestive tract.
Typically, the liver doesn’t secrete a high enough amount of cholesterol to harden and form stones. Nevertheless, when liver health is poor, cholesterol can essentially act like glue, hardening and binding together with other substances like calcium inside the gallbladder.
Support Weight Loss
Jackson and FB, 2014 research found that cashews may actually promote weight loss or help with weight management. Nuts have a high total fat content — cashews are made of approximately 46 percent fat — but they’re also very nutrient-dense and provide a lot of important minerals and fatty acids that support weight loss . Cashews can help you feel fuller after a meal, which is beneficial for curbing food cravings, overeating and unhealthy snacking. Fats in general make food more satisfying and increase nutrient absorption of fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin A and vitamin D.
Cashews are also a good source of plant-based protein (somewhere around 25 percent of the nut is made up of amino acids), partially in the form of beneficial amino acid L-arginine. L-arginine is a precursor of nitric oxide known to help improve vascular reactivity and circulation. The combination of fat and protein in cashews nutrition make cashews a filling food that can help control cravings according to Jilian Levy, 2018.
Maintain Bone Health
The calcium, magnesium and potassium, together with a low sodium intake content in Cashews benefits include bone health improvement. These are associated with protection against bone demineralization. According to Prince et al 2012 study, Cashews’ bone-building benefits also come from their supply of vitamin K.
Cashews provide over 12 percent of the daily vitamin K needs in just a grain serving — working as a great source to prevent vitamin K deficiency . Vitamin K works with other essential minerals like calcium to support bone mineralization and maintain bone mineral density. This can help protect you from bone fractures and osteoporosis .
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May Avert Colon, Prostate and Liver Cancers
According to studies, habitually eating nuts, including cashews, is associated with a lower risk for certain common cancers. This is especially true for cancers that occur in the digestive tract, including liver and colon cancers. For instance, a 2016 study by Aune et al review found that “higher nut intake is associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, total cancer and all-cause mortality.”
Nuts are another good sources of antioxidant vitamins (for example, tocopherols which is found in palm nut and certain phenolic compounds, which are mostly stored in the shells of cashews and nuts). These are needed to protect the body from high levels of free radical damage that causes oxidative stress, potentially contributing to DNA damage, cell mutation and cancerous tumor formation.
Support Healthy Brain Function
The brain is made up of generally fat and relies on a steady supply of healthy fatty acids within the diet. Nuts are one of the natural plant foods richest in fat. They support cognitive function, healthy aging and mood regulation.
Several dietary components of cashews can help support cognitive abilities and multiple brain processes by regulating neurotransmitter pathways, synaptic transmission and membrane fluidity. The healthy fats in cashews in particular are responsible for this, along with trace minerals like zinc, iron and copper. According to Gómez-Pinilla, 2008 dietary deficiency of healthy MUFA and PUFA fatty acids has even been associated with increased risk of several mental disorders, such as ADHD , anxiety, depression, dyslexia and dementia.
Decreases the Risk for Diabetes
Cashews are a great source of MUFA fats, which slow the rate at which blood is released into the bloodstream. In one study by Tedong et al 2010, the anti-diabetic properties of cashews nutrition are partially due to the active ingredient called hydroethanolic extract in the form of anacardic acid, which stimulates glucose transport and control. Hydro-ethanolic extract of cashew tree (Anacardium occidentale) nut and its principal compound, anacardic acid, stimulate glucose uptake.
Also a study by Viguiliouk et al 2014 proved that tree nuts improve glycemic control in individuals with type 2 diabetes. Cashews also help lower levels of inflammation. Studies show that a diet higher in nuts results in lower circulation of inflammatory biomarkers that can contribute to insulin resistance and diabetes formation. Additionally, cashew nutrition benefits include the ability to prevent or treat other complications of diabetes, including arterial hypertension, obesity and cardiovascular risk.
Avert Migraine Headaches
Cashews help support healthy brain function and improve blood circulation while lowering blood pressure, which may be beneficial for fighting headaches. Leira et al 1996, study revealed that cashews fight rapid changes in blood sugar and hypoglycemia, other well-recognized triggers for migraines .
Maintain Healthy Skin
Cashews nutrition supports healthy skin due to the presence of healthy essential fatty acids. Healthy sources of fat are needed to keep skin hydrated and free from irritation, flaking and premature aging. In a study by Borkow G. (2014), Cashews are also a high source of copper. Copper helps with the production of the skin and hair pigment called melanin, as well as the formation of collagen and maintenance of connective tissue, which supports skin’s elasticity and defends against signs of aging.
Cashews usage in Traditional Medicine
Traditionally, Cashews have been used in African traditional medicine systems for centuries to heal various ailments, including poor heart health and diabetes by our ancestors and still being used by modern day holistic doctors. They’re native to coastal Brazil and today are popular across the globe, especially in Asian cuisine. According to Ayurvedic medicine , nuts plays an integral part of a vegetarian diet since they supply fiber, protein, fat, minerals and vitamins. With the ketosis diet, commonly called the keto diet , they’re a food to limit. Despite the health benefits, all nuts should be eaten in moderation, ideally after being blanched and soaked to help improve digestion according to Cashews have been used in traditional medicine systems for centuries to heal various ailments, including poor heart health and diabetes . They’re native to coastal Brazil and today are popular across the globe, especially in Asian cuisine.
According to Ayurvedic medicine , nuts are an important part of a vegetarian diet since they supply fiber, protein, fat, minerals and vitamins. With the ketosis diet, commonly called the keto diet , they’re a food to limit. That being said, all nuts should be eaten in moderation, ideally after being blanched and soaked to help improve digestion. Nut milks and nut butters are also advocated, especially for “pacifying Vata” — in other words for providing grounding, warm energy. In addition to eating cashews and other nuts, nuts are used to make nourishing oils in traditional medicine that keep skin hydrated and healthy.
Comparing to other nuts, cashews essentially contain a fair amount of starch. This is one reason they make a great thickening agency in “milks” or creamy sauces, especially when they’ve been soaked beforehand. This allows them to blend more easily. It’s one reason why they’re popular across the globe for thickening soups, curries, meat stews and to make desserts. In Southeast Asia and India, for example, they’re used in this way to make the type of curry dish called korma or to make the sweet treat called kaju barfi. Cashew nuts also have a long history of use in Thailand, the Philippines, Chinese and South African cuisine.
Comparing Cashews Nutrition vs. Almonds vs. Other Nuts
- In comparison, cashews are one of the best sources of copper, iron and zinc. They are also a bit higher in carbs than other nuts according to research.
- Compared to cashews, almonds nutrition is higher in protein, fiber, calcium, vitamin E, riboflavin and niacin. You can see why almonds are considered a superfood by many. Almonds contain a good amount of monounsaturated fat and less polyunsaturated fat, including less omega-3s than nuts like walnuts according to thesprucceeats.com. They are the best source of calcium among all nuts. Both cashews and almonds are among the lowest-calorie nuts.
- When we compare cashews to walnuts nutrition, we find that walnuts are a better source of heart-healthy alpha linoleic acid (ALA), a type of omega-3 fatty acid found in plants.
- Macadamia nutsare one of the nuts with the most fat and highest amount of calories, more than cashews. However, they are still a healthy food because they contain lots of monounsaturated fat, just like olive oil. Both cashew butter and macadamia nut butter make great alternatives to peanut butter.
- Compared to cashews and other nuts, Brazil nuts are an excellent source of selenium (just one nut contains more than a day’s worth!) and contain a good mix of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat.
- Pecans are a high-calorie nut with a high fat content, mostly monounsaturated fat. They contain oleic acid along with phenolic antioxidants. Pecans and macadamia nuts overall have the lowest amounts of protein and the highest amounts of fats (but these are still healthy fats).
- Pistachios and cashews are both lower in calories than many other nuts. They have similar amounts of protein and fat per ounce. Pistachios are exceptionally high in vitamin B6 and potassium.
- Peanuts are one of the highest protein and fiber nuts, containing more than cashews. They are also one of the lowest nuts in calories. However, peanuts can contain mold and are a common allergen, so take precaution when eating them.
So in a nutshell according to Jillian levy, 2018, eating a variety of nuts gives you the most benefits. Nuts and seeds benefit your hair, skin, nails, brain and heart because they all contain healthy fats and slightly different types of fats, antioxidants and minerals.
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Cashew Nut Side Effects and warnings
According to Jillian Levy, CHHC, for some people, cashews and other tree nuts can potentially cause complications or allergic reactions. Allergic reactions to nuts can sometimes even be life-threatening, although the majority of people with no known nut allergies experience no negative reactions to eating cashews. In case, you have a known nut allergy, it is advisable to avoid cashews and other tree nuts until you’re tested for reactions to all types of nuts, since an allergy to one type usually means reactions can occur when eating other types, too. For those with condition of kidney stones might also need to avoid cashews or carefully monitor their nut consumption in general because cashews naturally contain gastric and intestinal soluble oxalates that can make kidney problems worse.
Take home on Cashews Nutrition
Jillian Levy, CHHC, 2018 provided the following summary:
- Cashew nuts are actually seeds. They come from the cashew plant called Anacardium occidentale that produces the bitter-tasting cashew apple.
- Cashews nutrition data tells us that these “nuts” are a good source of nutrients like copper, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc and more. Cashews nutrition also provides healthy fats, protein, polysterols and some starch/fiber.
- Benefits of cashew nutrition include fighting heart disease, preventing gallstones, helping with weight loss, maintaining bone health, reducing risk for certain types of cancer, supporting cognitive function, fighting headaches and maintaining skin health.
- Both raw cashews and cooked/roasted cashews are available. Cashews actually contain a fair amount of starch, which is one reason they make a great thickening agency in “milks” or creamy sauces, especially when they’ve been soaked beforehand.
DISCLAIMER This post is for enlightenment purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for professional diagnosis and treatments. Remember to always consult your healthcare provider before making any health-related decisions or for counselling, guidance and treatment about a specific medical condition.
Dr. Raphael Nyarkotey Obu is a renowned holistic doctor and Vinnytsia State Pedagogical University, Ukraine, honorary professor of holistic and Naturopathic Medicine and currently pursuing, LLB law/MBA concurrently. President of Nyarkotey College of Holistic Medicine & RNG Medicine Research Lab, Tema community 18. He is the formulator of FDA approved Nyarkotey Hibiscus Tea for Cardiovascular Support and wellness, Men’s Formula for Prostate Health and Women’s Formula for wellness. Contact: 0241083423/0541234556