5 Health Benefits of Cashews & 5 Tips and Recipes
Despite their small size, cashews are nutritional powerhouses, as they pack a bunch of proteins, healthy fats, and minerals. Read on to learn more about the benefits and risks of cashews.
Eating a handful of cashews can have tremendous health advantages in the long run. These kidney-shaped seeds can help you lose weight, improve your heart health, and boost your brain function. However, cashews also have some potential downsides to be aware of.
Interesting Facts about Cashews
Cashews aren’t just a tasty snack. These nutty wonders have a fascinating backstory and some interesting facts about them. Here are some fascinating facts about cashews.
Origin and How Cashews Grow
Cashew trees are native to the Amazon rainforest region in Brazil. Europeans discovered them in around 1558 in Brazil.
Later, cashews were introduced to other parts of the world, including East Africa, India, and Southeast Asia, by Portuguese explorers.
Cashew trees are medium-sized evergreen trees that grow up to 46 feet tall with short, irregular trunks. They produce a fruit called the cashew apple. It’s an accessory fruit that doesn’t come from the plant’s ovary.
The cashew nut we consume grows from the bottom end of the cashew apple. The shell surrounding the seed isn’t edible as it contains a toxic chemical called urushiol, the same harmful substance found in poison ivy.
When the cashew seeds are fully ripened, they usually drop from the apple and can be easily harvested.
Are Cashews Nuts?
Most people refer to cashews as nuts. Surprisingly, cashews aren’t technically nuts in the botanical world. How so, you wonder?
As mentioned, the cashew tree yields a fleshy stalk called cashew apple on its branches, but this isn’t the plant’s actual fruit.
The true fruit of the cashew tree is a small kidney-shaped structure known as the drupe. The drupe usually grows under the cashew apple; inside it, you can find the edible cashew seed we consume.
Due to the unique structure of the cashew tree, the edible part is considered a drupe seed from a botanical point of view. Additionally, both the seed and its outer shell are considered the nut and the fruit.
But, since the shell contains toxic substances, you always see pre-shelled cashews at the supermarket.
On top of the fact that cashews aren’t technically nuts, there are other fun facts about cashews that you probably don’t know, such as:
- More than 90 percent of the world’s cashew crop is consumed in the USA.
- The informal name for cashews, “Caju,” comes from the Portuguese word for the nut.
- Cashews undergo boiling, steaming, or roasting before desheling to remove the poisonous shells.
Nutritional Facts, Calories, and Protein of Cashew Nuts
Full of heart-healthy fats and a bunch of minerals and vitamins, cashews are nutritional powerhouses. They’re not only a versatile ingredient that goes well into many recipes, but they also offer various nutritional benefits.
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) states that one ounce (28.35 grams) of raw cashews provides you with the following nutrients:
|One ounce of raw cashews (28 grams)
One ounce of cashews is around 18 whole cashews. It contains 5 grams of protein and 157 calories. This is a good amount of energy and calories for a quick, healthy snack.
Cashews can also be a decent source of healthy fats. As you can see, an ounce of cashews contains 12 g of fats. Most of the fat in cashews is monounsaturated fat, which can be beneficial in reducing bad cholesterol levels and promoting heart health when consumed in moderate amounts.
Moreover, an ounce of cashews provides you with around 9.7mcg of vitamin K, which is nearly 12 percent of your daily needs.
Cashews also pack a bunch of essential minerals, including copper, sodium, phosphorus, manganese, zinc, and iron. These are all important for your immunity, brain health, energy production, and bone health.
Health Benefits of Eating Cashews
Packed with vitality and brimming nutrients, cashews aren’t just a tasty crunch in your trail mix. These crescent-shaped wonders can be a real game changer to your diet.
Cashews can aid in weight control, promoting a healthy heart, supporting brain function, and managing diabetes. Let’s see how cashews can help improve your overall health.
Provides You With Healthy Fats
Cashews are rich in healthy fats, such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These fats are heart-healthy as they help reduce bad cholesterol (LDL) levels, minimizing the risk of heart disease.
The American Heart Association states that adding unsaturated fats to your diet reduces the risk of developing heart disease. Unsaturated fats also provide your body with essential nutrients that your body can’t produce on its own.
Reduces the Risk of Gallstones
An American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study has found that people who consumed more nuts like cashews had a lower risk of cholecystectomy.
Many experts believe that fibers, minerals, and unsaturated fatty acids are why cashews can prevent gallstones. However, more research is needed to determine how nuts reduce the risk of developing gallstones.
Improves Bone Health
Cashews are rich in two of the most essential minerals for bone health: copper and magnesium.
One ounce of cashews includes approximately 622 micrograms of copper, and the recommended daily intake for copper is 900 micrograms for adults.
You might not know this, but around two-thirds of the copper in your body is located in your muscles and bones.
That’s why there’s a strong link between copper deficiency and bone problems such as osteoporosis and lower bone mineral density. That’s why consuming cashews can help maintain healthy bones.
Helps Control Weight Control
If you’re on the quest to shed some extra pounds, you must be looking for nutritious allies on your journey.
Well, cashews and nuts are your best friends. Recently, some studies have shown that people tend to lose more weight by sticking to a nut-rich diet instead of a nut-free one.
But aren’t cashews calorie-dense? Yes, they are. But we don’t necessarily consume all the calories in a cashew nut.
For example, some fats stay entrapped within the cashew’s wall, reducing the amount of calories absorbed by your body. Research has shown that the human body only absorbs around 84 percent of the 157 calories in a single ounce of cashews.
On top of that, cashews are loaded with proteins. As per the USDA, 18 raw cashews contain 5 g of protein, which is 9 percent of the recommended daily amount for men and 11 percent for women.
That’s why cashews can be an excellent snack option if you’re watching your weight. You get a decent amount of protein, fiber, and healthy fat, and feel fuller for longer.
May Help in Diabetes Management
Research has shown that people with type 2 diabetes often have better insulin levels, lower blood pressure, and improved cholesterol levels when they eat cashews and nuts.
Moreover, cashews have a low glycemic index of around 25, so they’re safe for people with diabetes. According to MedicalNewsToday, cashews are among the best five nuts for diabetic patients.
That’s mainly because diabetic patients often have lower blood pressure levels and higher levels of HDL while consuming cashews. Cashews also don’t contribute to high glucose levels or weight gain. This makes cashews an ideal snack choice for diabetic patients.
Other health benefits of cashews include the following:
- Cashews are a good source of tryptophan, an amino acid that increases serotonin levels in your brain. This helps in improving mood, managing stress, and regulating sleep.
- Cashews contain a modest amount of prebiotics, which increases the number of beneficial gut bacteria and enhances immune function.
- Magnesium in cashews is crucial for more than 300 enzymatic reactions in your body.
- Zeaxanthin is an antioxidant found in cashews, and it’s believed to protect our eyes from external damage.
Potential Risks of Cashews
Now that you understand the tremendous health benefits of cashews, you must be tempted to incorporate them into your diet.
But before you add cashews to every recipe in your kitchen, you must understand that they have potential drawbacks, especially when you overconsume them.
Generally speaking, you can enjoy all the benefits of cashews by consuming them in moderate amounts.
This can be a problem, as these kidney-shaped nuts are way too versatile and delicious. So, let’s take a closer look at the potential risks of cashews.
Cashews are one of the most common nuts that can cause allergies. These reactions range from mild skin, mouth, and throat irritations to life-threatening anaphylaxis.
If you or any of your family members have experienced an allergy to nut trees before, there’s a high chance you’re allergic to cashews.
Some of its most common and immediate symptoms include itchy ears and mouth and swellings of the mouth, tongue, and lips. In that case, avoiding cashews altogether or consulting your doctor before eating them is best.
High Oxalate Content
Cashews, alongside other nuts, are known for their high oxalate content. When you consume high amounts of oxalate-rich foods, you risk developing kidney stones.
The chance is much higher in people who are already susceptible to the formation of kidney stones. Hence, limiting your cashew consumption is crucial if you have or are at risk of developing kidney stones.
Toxic Raw Cashews
As we mentioned earlier, raw cashew shells contain a toxic chemical called urushiol, which can easily seep into the cashew seed we ingest. That’s why raw cashews are never safe to eat, and you should always roast them to destroy the urushiol content and ensure they’re safe.
While cashews can be healthy snacks, especially for people watching their weight, they can still cause weight gain. Cashews are calorie-dense nuts, mainly because of their fat content.
So, consuming excessive amounts of cashews can increase your overall caloric intake, causing weight gain.
You must consume cashews and other nuts in moderate amounts and as a part of a well-balanced diet. #Additionally, if you’re watching your weight, it’s best to avoid salted and fried cashews. Instead, opt for roasted plain ones as they contain fewer calories.
Are Cashews in Pregnancy Good For You?
It’s not uncommon for women to crave nuts and other food items during pregnancy. However, expectant mothers are always in a dilemma about what’s safe to eat during pregnancy and what’s not.
Luckily, cashews can be a valuable and nutritious addition to anyone’s diet, including pregnant women. These tasty nuts are packed with health benefits for the mother and the developing baby, such as:
Prevent Birth Defects
Cashews are a primary source of folate, an essential element in pregnancy for several reasons. First, it’s vital for fetal development and the formation of the heart and the circulatory system of the fetus.
Second, folate aids in the development of the neural tubes of the fetus. As such, getting enough folate during pregnancy is a must to prevent birth defects.
Promote Cell Repair
Mothers always suffer from muscular tissue and cell damage during pregnancy. To recover, they need to eat adequate portions of proteins, as amino acids are essential in cell repair.
That said, cashews contain a lot of proteins, so they can be a reliable source of protein for pregnant women to promote cell repair.
Good Source of Vitamin K
Cashews are a good source of vitamin K, which is crucial for pregnancy. This essential vitamin helps with blood clotting and maintaining adequate blood pressure levels throughout pregnancy.
Moreover, getting enough vitamin K during pregnancy is vital for mothers to minimize the chances of vitamin K deficiency in the fetus, which is a serious bleeding disorder that affects newborns.
Other benefits of eating cashews during pregnancy include the following:
- Cashews contribute to the development of bones and teeth in the fetus due to their high calcium content.
- The magnesium and fibers in cashews aid in improving irregular bowel movements, which is a common problem among pregnant women.
- Ingesting cashews during pregnancy can reduce the risk of developing anemia and fatigue as they’re rich in iron.
- Cashews include a good amount of copper, which is essential for the formation of blood vessels, the heart, and the nervous system of the fetus.
- Consuming cashews during pregnancy can aid in controlling glucose levels in the blood.
- Eating cashews during pregnancy decreases the risk of nut allergies in the fetus.
Can Dogs and Cats Eat Cashews?
We can’t forget our canine and feline friends while talking about tasty treats like cashews, right? Our pets are always eager to try out new foods, but is it safe for them to eat nuts like cashews? Let’s start with dogs and their reaction:
In general, unlike other nuts such as macadamia nuts, cashews aren’t toxic to dogs. However, there are some risks associated with feeding cashews to your furry friend.
Cashews are loaded with fats and proteins, so feeding your dog cashews in huge amounts can lead to serious problems.
For example, pancreatitis is a serious life-threatening condition affecting dogs who are on a high-fat diet. On top of that, the high-fat content in cashews can easily cause obesity for your dog if you’re regularly feeding him cashews.
Things can worsen because obesity often leads to other problems, such as joint issues and diabetes.
Cashews are also usually salted, and excess salt is bad for dogs as it leads to vomiting, weakness, diarrhea, seizures, and muscle tremors. To cut a long story short, the potential risks of feeding your dog cashews far outweigh the benefits.
Your pup can get away with eating one or two cashews now and then, but you should never make cashews a part of his daily diet. Opt for commercial dog treats instead; they’re safe and contain valuable micro-nutrients that should help your pup stay healthy.
Dogs and cats are different in many aspects, but when it comes to eating cashews and nuts, there are similar potential risks.
Cashews aren’t particularly toxic to cats, and your kitten can get away with eating some. However, the high calories and fat in cashews can lead to severe issues in cats, such as obesity, pancreatitis, and other digestive problems.
Remember that cats have a limited ability to digest plant-based foods compared to humans and other animals. That means your cat won’t even reap the full benefits of cashews when eating them.
That said, you should avoid giving your kitten cashews altogether. Instead, opt for food options specifically formulated for cats.
Delicious Recipe Ideas with Cashews
We don’t cherish cashews only because they’re delicious. They’re also incredibly versatile and can be incorporated in various sweet and savory dishes. Here are some mouthwatering ways to implement cashews in your cooking:
Noodles With Vegetables and Cashews
One of the most delicious meals with cashews is noodles with vegetables. It’s easy to make. Here are the ingredients you’ll need:
- One packet of noodles
- Two tbsp of vegetable oil
- 150g of cashews
- Two tbsp of soy sauce
- One chopped red onion
- Two tbsp of sesame oil
- Three chopped-colored peppers
- Three tbsp of sweet chili sauce
- Three tbsp of hoisin sauce
Preparation steps to follow:
- Heat a frying pan over medium-high heat.
- Add the vegetable oil to the pan and stir-fry the onions until soft.
- Add the cashews and chopped colored peppers and continue to stir-fry for five minutes.
- While the vegetables are cooking, start cooking the noodles according to the package instructions.
- Drain the noodles and toss them with sesame oil.
- Add the noodles to the frying pan and stir fry until they’re done.
Honey Roasted Cashews
Roasted cashews with honey are particularly popular as a snack or in winter. Here are the main ingredients:
- Sea salt
- Smoked paprika
Follow these easy steps once you have everything ready:
- Preheat your oven to 300°F.
- Put the honey and butter in a bowl and microwave them for around 30 seconds.
- Add the smoked paprika and stir well.
- Pour the honey mixture over the cashews and stir until entirely covered.
- Spread the cashews as a single layer on your baking sheet
- Bake the cashews for 30 minutes.
- Remove the cashews from the oven, sprinkle with salt, then serve after they cool down.
A delicious snack for chocolate lovers: chocolate-covered cashews. Very easy to make with our recipe. For this recipe, you’ll only need the following four ingredients:
- Roasted cashews
- Chopped chocolate
- Sea salt
- Butter or coconut oil
The main preparation steps:
- Line your baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Place the chocolate and butter in a heavy-duty pot over medium heat.
- Stir continuously until melted and smooth.
- Add the sea salt to the mixture and continue stirring.
- Add the cashews to the chocolate mix and stir until they’re completely covered.
- Scoop your chocolate-covered cashews onto the baking sheet, then refrigerate for at least one hour.
Tips for Cashews Nuts
You’re probably used to eating cashews from gourmet nut samplers and gift boxes. But there are endless ways to incorporate cashews into your recipes. Below, you’ll find some great tips to help you get the most out of those delicious kidney-shaped nuts.
How to Roast Cashews
Roasting cashews is an essential procedure to enhance their flavor, crispiness, and texture. Here’s how to do it:
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Spread cashews in a single layer.
- Roast the cashews for 10-15 minutes and stir until they’re light brown.
- Remove the cashews from the oven and store them in air-tight containers.
How to Store Cashews
Like any other type of nuts, cashews can go rancid if they’re not stored properly. The life span of your cashews highly depends on how you store them.
If you’re storing cashews at room temperature, ensure to place them in air-tight containers in a cool, dim area. That way, they can last up to six months.
In case you want to extend the shelf-life of your cashews, storing them in the refrigerator is an ideal option. Just put them in air-tight containers and place the containers at the back of the fridge.
Using this storage method, your cashews should be good for up to one year.
Finally, if you’re storing your cashews for more than one year, you should keep them in the freezer. Use freezer-safe bags to store your cashews, and make sure the bags are completely air-free.