Cashew nuts are technically not nuts. They are the seeds of the evergreen tree Anacardium occidentale that is native to Brazil.
Cashew nuts are popular as a snack (appetizer) and used to make gravies, baked goods, vegan milk, and nut butter.
Cashew nuts are nutrient-dense and rich in the healthy fats, proteins, essential vitamins, and minerals needed for healthy functioning of the body.
Having a few cashew nuts every day may help reduce blood pressure, aid weight loss, and prevent cardiac diseases.
Let us take a look at the nutritional profile of cashew nuts, their various purported health benefits, side effects, and necessary precautions.
Table Of Contents
Nutritional Profile Of Cashew Nuts
Cashew nuts are considered to be one of the most nutritious foods in the world despite being rich in calories and low in fiber as they are packed with healthy fats, vitamins, and antioxidants. They contain many essential fatty acids that are beneficial for the body (1).
One ounce (28.3 g) of cashew nuts contains 157 calories, 8.5 g of carbohydrates, 5.1g of protein, 12.4 g of fat, 0.3 mg of vitamin E, 9.5 mcg of vitamin K, 0.1 mg of vitamin B6, 10.4 g of calcium, 3.4 mg of sodium, 187 mg of potassium, 83 mg of magnesium, and 7 µg of folate.
Since cashew nuts contain so many amazing nutrients, they are purported to provide a host of health benefits. Check them out in the next section.
13 Health Benefits Of Cashew Nuts
1. Boosts Heart Health
Compared to other nuts such as walnuts and almonds, cashews are low in fat and cholesterol and high in nutrients (2).
In fact, they are rich in phytosterols, phenolic compounds, and oleic acid (1). Thus, it could be extremely beneficial for the heart. A study that was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition recommends taking nuts of all sorts – including cashew nuts – in low doses to your daily diet as it can prevent ischemic heart diseases and cardiovascular diseases (3).
Regular consumption of healthy unsaturated fats, such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids (MUFA and PUFA), can prevent cardiovascular disease even in people suffering from diabetes (4). These fatty acids are found in abundance in cashew nuts (1). The key is to consume them in moderation as cashews are rich in calories.
A meta-analysis of 14 studies has found that the risk of coronary heart disease is 37% lower in people who consume nuts more than four times per week compared to those who never or seldom consume nuts. However, this claim needs to be experimentally validated (5).
2. Lowers High Blood Pressure
Cashew nuts are rich in healthy unsaturated fats and minerals like magnesium, potassium, and L-arginine (1).
According to a 12-week study conducted on Asian Indians with type 2 diabetes, the consumption of cashew nut can reduce systolic blood pressure and increase HDL (good) cholesterol without having a negative effect on body weight, glycemia, or other lipid variables (7).
3. May Boost Your Immunity
Cashew nuts are rich in zinc (1). Zinc is an immune-boosting compound that is vital for basic cell processes such as cell division, transcription, and regulation. It also plays a role in certain immune processes such as cytokine production and phagocytosis (9). Regular intake of cashews can help in reaching the recommended daily allowance for zinc.
4. An Excellent Source Of Antioxidants
Cashew nuts are considered healthy nuts as they are rich in antioxidants such as tocopherols (1). Tocopherols help eliminate free radicals and protect our cells from cell damage caused by oxidative stress (2), (10).
Cashew milk contains plant sterols, which are natural antioxidants that help strengthen the immune system and prevent the onset of chronic diseases (11).
5. May Prevent Gallstones
Frequent nut consumption can reduce the risk of developing gallstones (2). Gallstones are hard deposits of cholesterol and other minerals. Since cashews have an ability to lower level cholesterol, they may also help in preventing the formation of gallstones (3). However, there is no scientific evidence to prove the same.
A study conducted by Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital found that women who eat 5 oz of nuts per week are at a reduced risk of cholecystectomy (a surgical procedure to remove your gallbladder) than women who consume less than 1 oz of nuts per week (12).
6. May Be Good For Skin And Hair Health
Cashew nuts are high in antioxidants, copper, magnesium, iron, and selenium (1), (2). Antioxidants scavenge harmful chemicals and repair the tissues. Thus, they help improve the health and appearance of your skin.
Copper improves the production of elastin and collagen (13). Collagen is an integral structural protein that is responsible for the elasticity of your skin and hair. Including collagen-boosting foods such as cashews in your daily diet can help keep your skin glowing and hair healthy.
7. May Help Strengthen Bones
Cashew nuts are rich in proteins and minerals such as magnesium and copper (1). Copper helps in keeping your joints flexible by synthesizing collagen. It also helps in the formation of bones along with magnesium (14). Therefore, eating a few cashew nuts every day may help strengthen your bones.
8. May Prevent Macular Degeneration
Cashews contain zeaxanthin and lutein, which are important antioxidants (1). Xanthophylls such as zeaxanthin and lutein significantly increase macular pigment, chromatic contrast, and photo stress recovery time (15). Thus, consuming cashews regularly may help in keeping your eyes healthy.
9. May Help In Managing Weight Loss
Cashew nuts, though rich in calories, do not increase weight when consumed in moderation. Studies done on 51,188 women during a period of 8 years have shown that including nuts in the diet can reduce the risk of gaining weight (16). There are various hypotheses behind this claim though no experimental evidence is available.
One theory suggests that since cashew nuts are rich in nutrients and healthy fats that reduce cholesterol, blood pressure, and the risk of heart disease (factors connected to obesity), they may be helpful in weight management by association
Cashew nuts also curb hunger pangs and fill you up for a longer time, thus preventing you from binge eating (17).
10. May Prevent Cancer
In general, studies have shown that regular nut consumption reduces the risk of cancer (18). Cashew nuts are rich in antioxidants compounds such as anacardic acid, cardanols, and cardols that may help reduce the risk of cancer (19).
A study conducted by Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School found that adolescent girls who eat nuts regularly are a lower risk of developing breast cancer (20).
The inositol and anacardic acid in cashew nuts may help fight cancer and increase the chances of survival by inducing cell cycle arrest and apoptosis and inhibiting cell proliferation and metastasis (21).
11. May Help Manage And Prevent Diabetes
Interestingly, though cashew nuts are high in calories, they have been reported to benefit people with diabetes. A study has shown that the long-term consumption of cashew nuts may lower the risk of type 2 diabetes by enhancing glycolysis and increase glucose uptake (22). However, it is recommended to consume only 4-5 cashews per day in such cases.
Cashews are cholesterol-free and have been reported to lower blood pressure and cholesterol in people with diabetes (7).
Cashew nuts are also rich in polyphenols that can help improve the gut microbiome and reducing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes (23).
12. May Promote Nerve Health
Fatty acids help in the formation and functioning of the myelin sheaths of neurons (24). The fatty acids present in cashews may help with the same.
13. Reduces The Risk of Anemia
Cashew nuts are rich in both iron and copper (1). These minerals are essential for the proper functioning of the circulatory system. Iron deficiency is a common cause for anemia, and incorporating cashew nuts in your daily diet can help prevent it.
Isn’t it fascinating how great cashew nuts are for your health? So, let’s check out how you can add it to your diet.
How To Eat Cashew Nuts The Healthy Way
Cashew milk is a healthy and nutrient-rich alternative to cow/buffalo milk. It is popular among vegans and people suffering from lactose intolerance. Since cashews contain many essential fatty acids, minerals, vitamins, and plant sterols, you can reap their nutritional benefits by consuming cashew milk or cashew cream.
Cashew milk, cashew cream, and cashew butter are interesting ways to enjoy the potential health benefits of cashews. Cashew products are dairy-free substitutes that can be used in smoothies and gravies to improve their texture.
Cashews can be eaten raw or roasted, but make sure to eat processed nuts as
they do not contain harmful toxins.
Now, let’s check out how to make cashew milk and cashew butter.
I. Cashew Milk
You Will Need
- 2 cups cashews
- 1 cup water
- A fine muslin cloth
- Blend the cashews in a food processor and add water for desired consistency.
- Filter the milk using a clean muslin cloth.
- Store the cashew milk in the refrigerator for a week.
- Shake it well before using it.
II. Cashew Butter
You Will Need
- 2 cups cashews
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil (melted and cooled slightly)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Roast the cashews for about 10 minutes.
- Let nuts cool down completely.
- Blend them smoothly into a fine butter-like consistency.
You can add honey or vanilla or other flavors to the cashew butter according to your preference.
Though cashew nuts are delicious and offer some great health benefits, you must also be aware of their side effects. Check them out below.
Side Effects Of Cashews
People prone to allergies should consult a doctor before having cashews. Cashews are known to cause severe immune responses in such cases (26).
Unprocessed cashews should be consumed only after removing the outer shell as it contains urushiol oil, which is toxic (26).
The side effects of cashew nuts are listed below:
- People With Kidney Stones: People with a history of kidney stones should be cautious when consuming cashews as they contain oxalates. Excess consumption of oxalates may prevent calcium absorption and accelerate kidney stone formation.
- Cashew Allergy: Nut allergies cause reactions such as nausea, abdominal pain, swelling of the mouth, and difficulty swallowing (27).
- Anaphylaxis: Research has found that an extreme reaction to cashews can lead to a fatal condition called anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency where the person develops symptoms such as swelling of tongue, difficulty breathing and swallowing, and loss of consciousness (28), (29).
- Contact Dermatitis: Extreme skin allergy manifested by itchy skin, swelling, and hives due to contact with cashew nut shell oil has been reported (30).
- Gastrointestinal Discomfort: People allergic to cashews can show symptoms such as coughing, vomiting, and diarrhea.
- Breathing Difficulties: If consumption of cashews triggers a running nose or breathing problems, seek medical help immediately.
Cashew nuts are full of healthy fats and antioxidants and have no cholesterol. They promote heart health and regulate various functions of the body.
Research has reported that including nuts, especially cashew nuts, in your diet can have many health benefits, including weight loss and managing diabetes.
Cashew nuts do have a few side effects when consumed in excess. If you experience any of the side effects listed above, consult a doctor before changing your diet.
Most research on cashew nuts has been done in conjunction with other tree nuts. Research focused only on the health benefits of cashew nuts is needed.
Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions
Q. How many cashews can I eat in a day?
A. An average of 25-30 of cashews (30 g) is recommended per day. Eating more than this amount can cause side effects such as headaches and bloating.
Q. What do cashews do for your body?
A. Cashews are rich in many compounds that benefit the heart and circulatory system. Overall, including nuts in your diet makes you healthy.
Q. What happens when you eat too many cashews?
A. Eating too many cashews can cause headache and stomach problems such as vomiting, diarrhea, and bloating.
Q. Do cashew nuts increase weight?
A. Despite being calorie-dense, consuming limited amounts of cashew nuts every day has been reported to help weight management. The key is to consume only a few nuts regularly to reap its nutritional benefits.
Q. Do cashews help you sleep?
A. Cashews are rich in unsaturated fats, which may boost serotonin. Serotonin is important for helping you sleep.
Q. What is the best time to eat cashew nuts?
A. Cashews can be consumed any time of the day. They curb hunger pangs and make an excellent snack.
Q. Are cashews good for kidneys?
A. Cashews have many essential minerals and vitamins that help in the proper functioning of our body, including kidneys. Specific research regarding this seems to be limited.
Q. Can I eat cashews every day?
A. Eating a few cashews every day is recommended because of its rich nutritional profile and health benefits. However, make sure to consume them in moderation. Don’t have more than a handful per day as they are high in calories and can lead to some unwanted side effects.
Q. Do cashews make you gassy?
A. Consuming cashews in excess can make you feel bloated and gassy.
Q. Do cashews cause headaches?
A. Generally, cashews are safe, but some people allergic to them. In such cases, cashews may cause headaches.
Q. Where do cashew nuts come from?
A. Cashew nuts are the seeds of the cashew plant. They are attached to the cashew apple, which is also consumed by some people. They are native to Brazil but also cultivated in Asia and Africa.
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